Saturday, October 06, 2007

Its happening in India

Finished reading “It happened in India’ by Kishore Biyani. Although the book does not offer any paradigms I completely enjoyed it for the following reasons

a) It is written in a very honest and simple manner with Biyani’s unmistakable down to earth stamp all over it
b) It gives a very Indian perspective to the decisions and actions by an entrepreneur who has defied significant odds to be a category leader
c) It talks of a period of Indian business history that you can closely identify both as an observer and consumer

Of course I might be biased since I am a big fan of his Food Bazaar Stores. The social transformation that food retailing had on the Indian middle class family is so wonderful that doing a business analysis of it is like missing the wood for the trees. In a sort of family picnic on weekends, Indian households go berserk on the multiple options, discount offers and invigorating ambience that Biyani had laid out. Even a casual reading of the book would show that Biyani had his heart at the right place, but executed with good business brains to allow Indian household let loose their purse strings (and hence capture large share of the consumer wallet in business terms)

The other reason I liked the book was that it verbalizes some thoughts I have always felt about Indian marketers. Thank God that Biyani said it, rather than a MBA with five years of experience.

The best quote from the book I completely identified was: “Most marketing and advertising professionals are educated in convent schools in large metros, listen to western music, watch foreign movies and speak and think in English.”

And at a broader level, I think the same fraternity frowns upon Indian insights and makes some really big blunders.

Why did it take 7 years for Indian marketers to come up with the 200 ml cola bottle for Rs. 5? Any casual observation would have shown that most Indians did not consume an entire 300 ml bottle and shared that bottle thus reducing both average price realized and per capita consumption. Instead they kept hanging out with one superstar after another in the fervent hope of boosting consumption.

Similarly most of these marketing professionals would frown on everything that masses lap up like Govinda, Himessh Reshamiyya, saas bahu serials. There are radio stations who snootily started with playing only Angrezi music and had to quickly change their strategy to playing jhankar beats. Channels like Star World need the Koffee with Karan and dubbed versions of English movies. My question is simple , where the earlier mistakes necessary in the first place? Weren’t the answers blindingly obvious to someone who has spent sometime on the street?

Then there are some marketers who think the slip between where they see Indian should be(as some % of a global trend) and where Indians are actually are ( the on-ground feel) is just the lack of a marketing budget. So Blow money to bow many was the mantra. But why eat soggy Kelloggs when there is kanda poha, why make kadak chapattis with Pillsbury when there is chakki fresh atta , blah blah.

Ok before readers comment that this is a regressive rant, the common caveats apply. The Indian consumer is changing. The youth are surprising us sometimes. People are paying Rs.50 for coffee and spending over Rs.1000 a month on personal care products. And I am sure many marketers are thinking, segmenting, fermenting and implementing new ideas. But now we have many Indias to cater to instead of the one India that loved Amitabh Bacchan bash up 20 goondas.

The question that could have given an answer would have been how many youngsters in India have grown their hair due to Mahendra Singh Dhoni and how many have done it due to John Abraham. Well if you know the answer, you know where your market is. But John has cut his locks, so the answer just got tougher. Amen.


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