Why India needs David and not a Goliath approach

Indiaa..Incredible India

Indiaa..Incredible India

What is India? Why is it Incredible?

“We were all so sad when you ran away from home. Your parents were disappointed and worried when you ran away to Bangalore, but they are happy to see you fine now. “

“I had to aunty. Or else I would have been like my brother and couldn’t have escaped from there. There was so much of trouble at home and they wouldn’t allow me to go to Bangalore for sure. So I had to run. But now that I have got my salary I am sure they are relieved. Please order whatever you want. Waiter! Bring a cup of coffee and two teas.” Said a family of three next to my table when I was having my tea.

This has been the story of India pretty much. The story of India that is eager to earn and consume. That does not want to be tied to boring chores but wants to explore the world that he/she sees. This is not the story of two India’s- India and Bharat, but that of layers of several India’s. Not a monolith but a multi- layered cake according to Rama Bijapurkar. It is a country that has made multi-national corporations kneel according to their whims. It is a country that has embarrassed the foreign companies thought process. A country deserving a different treatment altogether. “A treatment where it won’t be the best policy but the next policy that will succeed”, according to C.K Prahlad.

Indian markets need a David not Goliath

Indian markets need a David not Goliath

A place where the Goliaths of the world’s largest selling shampoo (Sunsilk)were left wondering how to compete against a David (Chik)who was selling shampoos in one time packs (probably used twice or thrice). A place where the lever brothers found that they couldn’t sell Surf against a small time Gujarati player whose name they couldn’t spell nor pronounce. A place where the worlds cult brand Coca cola, has sweetened its drink a little bit to suit Indian taste who generally prefer sweet but finds hard to replace a local brand Thums up, which is anything but sweet, whom they ended up buying and is still the most consumed aerated beverage in India. The irrational exuberance of a global brand flattening the world just hit a big wall when it came to the mother of all diversities.

It has forced globals to reckon that it is a different world altogether. It is a country where the world’s largest toothpaste brand Crest is taking a step forward and three steps back to even think about launching. A country that stops not because of a terrorist attack but of 22 people on the cricket field.

We are like that only

We are like that only

A country where drops certainly form an ocean. Where the bottom percentage of people (Strivers), around 106 million households, have just 2% of the higher household incomes (Prosperous, 2.2 million) but just due to its sheer size of being 48 times bigger, its consumption almost equals that of the prosperous.(Source: IRS Consumption pyramid, IRS 2008). A country where you can’t ignore ‘this’ (prosperous) nor ‘that’ (strivers) but a country of “this as well as that” (Read ‘We are like that only’ by Rama Bijapurkar).

Where it is not the needs and wants that are important as Kotler puts, but hopes and aspirations that dictate consumer behavior. A place which has made Theodore Levitt’s prophecy of a global brand that serves the customers with standard products worldwide, has fallen flat on its face. Where the consumer instead of being dumbstruck by western cults and emulating it, is watching and mixing it with his/her own culture and demanding something that the marketer could not fathom about. A country where the tastes and preferences are so distinct that you cannot predict the sales pattern of two adjacent districts separated by a few miles let alone a state. A place where technology penetration is as high as 63% in one state (Kerala) and just 14% in another state (Bihar). A country where the rural areas are almost ten years behind urban but still demand firms to make a tailored “right-value-right-benefit” product. Those who do that succeed in ways that shifts their economic centres. Ask Nokia. A country that has contributed to a lot of red ink in the firm’s balance sheet but still can’t be ignored for obvious reasons.

A country where consumers don’t upgrade according to your plan but you downgrade to their wishes. A country where focus is hard to maintain (Wonder what Jack trout and the Ries have to tell about this). This is India …Incredible India.. A country that might even see “marketing tourism” like medical tourism.. Where the West can learn about the emerging centre of gravity and how to woo the nasty unsparing consumer.



Filed under Marketing

4 responses to “Why India needs David and not a Goliath approach

  1. sudhir

    sare jaha se acha hindosita hamara (in hindi)

  2. Ujjawal Bagaria

    Hi Arun,

    Once gain a great post. I like the word “marketing tourism” which u mentioned in the end. It will be great to see Indians teachign Marketing gimmicks to people around the world especially when everybody recognises US as the master of it.

    Coming to ur title of needing David and not Goliath…what do u say about Tata, Reliance, Murrugappa Group etc., the goliaths of Indian economy. Even the Indian govt. makes their laws and regulations after consulting with them which are many times in their favour. Your take on it???

  3. Hey there. Thanks for your comment.
    Yeah it would be great to see marketing tourism blossom.
    And about the Tata’s & the Reliance’s. I would like to draw your attention to the fact that the post was not about the Goliath’s but the approach that any organisation takes. The contention was towards the point that it is necessary for organisations to deal at a micro level as far as Indian consumers are concerned and not treat them as a monolithic mass that have similar wants. There are several examples of these goliaths excelling and being bust in the Indian market because of the way they treated the mass.
    It is simply the case of one size not fitting all. what worked in outside countries are not a guarantee for an indian success.
    Let me give you some other examples.
    Pizza Hut -Within three years of its 1996 launch, Pizza Hut opened its first vegetarian restaurant
    in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, a state with a large Jain population. Not only did the outlet serve no meat, it also offered a selection of Jain toppings. (The Jain religion proscribes all meat and root vegetables, including ginger, garlic, onion and potato). The only such outlet in the whole world.
    Nokia 1100 is not just the world’s best-selling cellular phone model, but also the best-selling consumer electronics device, having sold some 200 million units since 2003.
    The Korean giant has only darker shades for its cooking appliances in Punjab just because of the fact that it is an area that uses garlic and chillies extensively and hence it is easier to maintain a dark colored appliance.
    Tupperware was always a neat square box with neatly arranged columns. but they bombed in the Indian market. However when they learnt that Indians traditionally have round utensils they incorporated the change in their product and the products became a hit.
    However I would like to add that, yeah, it might not be feasible to go for a certain level of customization and that the market size should always justify investing in product localization.

  4. megha

    a very interesting post..simply liked it.

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