Challenges of Consumerism
The competitive advantage of
By Harish Bijoor
At the end of a rather long working millennium, one has the luxury of putting up one’s legs on a soft stool, sinking into a soft beanbag and thinking soft thoughts of a soft millennium gone by.
I call it soft, particularly from the Indian perspective of things. The hundred marketing years behind us were distinctly soft years. Soft issues faced and soft options exercised. Soft covenants arrived at softly.
The years ahead look different indeed. Hard years indeed! Troublesome marketing times. Troublesome times for the marketing of the country that is
Let’s then explore what is ahead of us. Visit and re-visit the strengths that exist. Strengths that will re-define the competitive advantage of
Let’s do this scenario painting exercise of the key competitive advantage of
The British left
The one big strength that less than one other nation in the world can stake its claim to, is the size of the population that rests within the boundaries of our country. A huge weakness of gigantic proportions when viewed from the many development-oriented periscopes of the past. Not so when you view it with the future in mind. A future that is energized by these very large masses of people who have been the biggest liability for the nation of a billion plus!
The past viewed people as a liability. Not enough physical work to go round, not enough food to eat and of course not enough education to ventilate around. Every bit of progress that development achieved was sacrificed very, very quickly (possibly even before the economist was able to record and publish the feat), at the altar of population and its rather robust pace of growth.
While every sector of the economy did reasonably well in bits and patches over the last hundred years, so did the sector of population growth. Stretched food resources, stressed out finances, a pathetic situation on the physical infrastructure front and a complete lack of positive momentum represented the development of the last hundred years in
Not so anymore. Not in the hundred years ahead of us. One of the biggest assets of marketing-based
Think of a product. Think of a service. Think of a want. Think of a need. The biggest and the best of them will linger in the land that is
But then, people are not the only need of a consumer market. Consumption is certainly not the only key to unlock the riches of a marketing man’s Pandora’s box. Money somehow seems to be the real key. More money in these many hands, more the consumption. But then, is the money around?
While the pessimists answer to the question will say that men without money or men without the means to make the money, are of no use to marketing and its future, the fact remains that there is a value in the market that has a huge potential. A potential that can well nigh break open huge values in the times to come.
Let’s just remember one thing.
There is therefore a pyramid of consumption that lies all over the slopes of Maslowe’s hierarchy of needs. But then, everybody, rich or poor, has fallen within the confines of this pyramid. And just as long as they do, there is indeed potential for a robust market for commodities, quasi-brands, brands, super-brands and of course at the ultimate level of the self-actualizing folk, no brands at all!
Every one of these segments has a value though. And in value rests the potential for the marketer. The one big true-blue competitive advantage for
Time to change the paradigm of
The competitive advantage of
This potential needs many Godfathers to unlock though. The name
No point then to negate the mystique and charm of the brand there is in the minds of peoples outside the shores of
The competitive advantage of an image versus that of a functional reality has seen the winning potential in the image and the brand. As the future evolves into one that is besotted more with imagery than with the functional trait, piggybacking on the
The one big missing element in the marketing of the
Preserving a whole host of things that are distinctly Indian and distinctly ethnic will be the biggest task for those in the game of maintaining the key differentiators, which will bet eh key USPs of the
Natural health remedies, natural cooking, the Organic nation, the realm of alternate medicine and health are but only some of the areas that will distinguish
The many, many competitive advantages of
Avoiding these realms, one can only look at the basics that
The effort that has to be made in order to establish and capitalize on the basics just outlined as key competitive advantage of the country, require an investment in the realms of positive development of the network economy, its infrastructure base, its communication ability and of course the key factor of brand-led thinking.
As everything in the marketing lives of the Indian gets redefined in the near and medium-term future, there is but no other option than to depend heavily on the key strengths we have taken for granted in the past. Even considered a liability in the recent past.
Awakening the Indian economy and its competitiveness lies in the realm of the high quality product that will roll out of our ancient manufacturing facilities. These products need to talk of a quality that will battle the best that will come in from every direction there is. And that too at low cost. Our ‘desi’ chickens will need to compete with American chicken legs that will walk into the kitchens of our country.
As many an industry faces an impending closure, the best will indeed survive. The fittest will survive and the rest will vanish into the limbo of the have-beens. As all this happens and as social turmoil seizes the 'have-beens' by the jugular, there is ahead of us a moment that will truly bet the defining moment when the entire bureaucracy that run the competitive model of Indian industry and enterprise will wake up all of a sudden, with a jolt. A nightmare that is bound to seize the policy-maker, the implementer and indeed the key participant of the economy, the man in industry, all together by the short hair.
And this defining moment is the one that will turn the paradigm of Indian competitiveness we have followed so very vigorously for all these years, upside down. This will be the moment of re-think. A point of time when the truly important will replace the truly insignificant. A pursuit of which, our model of industrialization thrust upon the nation during the Nehruvian era, glorified in the past.
The WTO regime is the catalyst of this process. And the first of the bombshells will be fired in the dominant sector of agriculture in the Indian economy. And its almost here!
We are, I suspect, very close to that defining moment. Let’s witness and let’s participate in that process of turmoil. We have no choice, in any case!
The competitive advantage of
If I am to look around the nations of the world and correlate models in current use, there are four distinct patterns that emerge. Four clusters that have whole sets of nations congregating in models those seem to work for each of them differently and with different levels of efficacy. Needless to say, the peculiarities of each nation in question dictate the distinct choice they have made for themselves. Let’s visit the clusters. And let’s call them all kinds of animal names.
1.The Earthworm Model:
The passive model of competitive reaction. The invitation theory that is best practiced by the earthworm. A rich worm really. It knows the basics best. It is in constant touch with the earth that it seeks nourishment from and nourishes back simultaneously. A fundamentally strong being.
Several problems in this model though. It is passive for one. Non-reactionary. A model in the self-fulfilling prophecy mode. The best example of the fatalistic theory in practice. When faced with danger, all it can do is continue its humble journey in the earth. Competition kills this model with ease. There is no reaction. The fatalistic model of competition at its best!
2.The Snail model:
The common competitive model in practice by a whole host of nations. This model is reactively proactive. A clear cocoon orientation. When faced with competition and danger, there is a regression into the shell. The withdrawn marketer at play. The philosopher marketer even! The marketer who revels in the safety-static nexus. Waiting for the competition to just go away, so that normal life may resume again!
3.The Porcupine Model:
This model tells the competitor clearly of the array of weapons that are available for retributive action. There is a clear emphasis on the display of the arsenal. It believes in the overt display. A clear détente model of competition. Avoids a lot of speculative action and is ready for the real battle
4.The Everyone Else Model:
This is the model of the real-time player in competitive markets of the present and certainly the future. This is the real-time marketer. Reactive when necessary. Proactive when necessary. Guerilla in tactics when necessary as well!
This is a constant-change oriented model that believes in watching the scenario carefully and reacting accordingly. Making forays into proactive territory on a speculative basis. Never mind if even only one of those sixteen forays actually click! Life in the fast track of competitive marketing is pretty un-predictable and speculative. Change here is absolutely discontinuous. Making a decision on a point of competitive strategy based on happenings of the past and the present could be disastrous. The future never ever happens the way the past decided.
Change here is so discontinuous that it is aptly illustrated by the example of the baby-arrival process in the house. The first child in this baby-boomers house is born out of a Caesarian section, gone in for by an over-zealous gynecologist. The second baby of the house is therefore predictably to be one out of a similar process. Caesarian section! No! It isn’t. Change is discontinuous. The second baby is a natural birth! The third child is due to happen then. This time round, it’s Caesarian section as well! Oops!
The fourth child of this baby-happy home is due. Change is indeed discontinuous. There is no predictability here. Guess what! This time round, the baby is actually conceived, carried and delivered by the father of the baby! Oops! Again! Change is indeed that discontinuous!
Harish Bijoor is a brand-domain specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.
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