Friday, March 07, 2008

India Everywhere

We are like this only!

By Harish Bijoor

The last nail is just about being hammered onto the coffin of the year 2007, even as I furiously hammer this year-end piece onto my laptop. 2007 is a year done with. Wrapped up for posterity to savor. Wrapped up for the historian of the future to possibly pore through the pages of an exciting year that was.

How did this year go then? What were the seminal trend lines that defined 2007? Anything special? Anything new?

Lot’s really. Let me peek into the year just gone by and look at the big defining trends in the realm of everything that caught our collective imagination. There isn’t space for everything, but here are the some bigger ones. Ten of them!

  1. India Everywhere: Intel was only inside, but India was everywhere. The year saw a renewed focus on India from every country there was. The biggest journals of the world carried big stories on the country that was touted to be a key player of the tri-polar world of the future. India had arrived. At least in terms of all the focus the business of this country evoked.

Corporate raiders from India continued a streak of acquisitions that looked at just about every industry vertical there was to tap. Tea, coffee, steel and the automotive sector saw big inroads. Ownership patterns of companies that were hitherto “developed world” oriented, shifted in many ways to incorporate a more inclusive “developing” world ownership.

India became a fashionable buzz-country to focus upon. MNC corporation’s world-wide encouraged their top managements to travel into the country and get a handle of what was happening. Authors such as Thomas L Friedman added grist to the flaming buzz that was India.

  1. Incredible India:

With India being everywhere, the tourism industry went berserk. Travel was big. Tourist inflows into the country were big. Tourists of the business variety just kept coming. Tourists of the holiday variety were still not as big as must be, but the interest on India is bringing in the 'moolah'.

India at 60 was a fun place to be.

  1. Services Boomed:

India has morphed from a pure products oriented economy to a services-skewed one. There is big demand for every kind of service there is to use. The realms of telecom in particular boomed. India boasts a total of 266 million mobile connections as the calendar year closes. The market remains on a fast growth path, clocking in 7.2 million new phone connections every month.

What a far cry then from the years of yore when one had to wait 12 years to get a landline at home!

  1. Bollywood boomed on:

Bollywood remained the big harbinger of everything that was exciting in India. India continued producing the largest number of feature films in the world.

The big blockbusters had a nation craving for more. Controversial efforts such as “Kabhi Alvida Na kehna” were followed up by true blue interesting formats such as the Diwali release of “Om Shanti Om” and “Saawariya”. Smaller format films such as “Jab We Met” did a delightful amount of business as well. Small remained beautiful.

The universal favorite remained the love story format. Somehow this format seems to always be a big hit with man, woman and child.

  1. The stock-market as category killer:

The market for money was never as good as this. The stock market defied every surge of a much-restrained bear. The bulls were all around. Some wore the colors of Japan, and many wore the colors of funds that were out here from every nation of funds there was. Source of funds was a matter of worry for a while, but a very responsible SEBI walked the tight-rope rather well.

The year end looks hot with the Sensex breaching well nigh the 20K mark time and again. The Sensex is a big brand in itself today.

  1. Instant cricket:

Cricket is dead. Long live cricket.

The old format of 5-day cricket is today a fuddy-duddy format. The new generation of young, working and empowered Indians are looking for quick-fix sporting encounters. India is moving towards a 90-minute soccer game kind of fixation as well.

Cricket however remains the nation’s game. The 1-day format is getting tiresome even. Just as this happens, in came the T20 version. Cricket as instant and quick as it can get.

The 5-day game variant is now a family game that is watched by all those who have the time for it. The others watch the highlights.

A lot more have rushed in to partake of the 20-over variant. This T20 game is now the game of the young. Parents are however just about waking up in the country, asking their young ones to stay away from the snazzy new variant even, as T20 is seen as adult cricket, what with the skimpily clad cheer-leaders leading the way in every break there is.

  1. Food and drinks morph:

The Cola controversy has been forgotten. More and more of the non-staple drinks are invading the market. Big forays are being made with water as well. Probiotic curd, live cultures, Probiotic Ice cream and healthy drinks of the natural variety are hitting our shelves in a big way.

  1. Tele-marketing dies:

There is a small death that has occurred. Even thought there are only 6 million Indians who have registered for the Do not disturb register, marketers have re-oriented their early strategies of pestering the consumer with the Tele-marketing call.

  1. Retail booms:

Big retail booms. Small retail is just about getting onto an aggressive stance of attack. The year witnessed the opening up of many a retail format that was organized retail that ate into the turf of hitherto small retail.

The fresh fruit and vegetable sector, grocery, apparel, footwear, electronics , auto, jewellery, and literally every other high-value category has seen inroads by organized retail.

The year end saw the biggest planned retailer of the country, Reliance Retail, redefining its approach to the Indian market, particularly in the sensitive terrain of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Simultaneously then, politically correct retail that focused on the rural sector of the country emerged. IOC’s ‘Kisan Seva kendras’, the DCM ‘Hariyali’ effort, ITC’s ‘Chaupal Sagar’ and efforts from the Murugappa group, Godrej and the Future group saw test markets.

10. And Narendra Modi won:

Even as the last few nails are being knocked into the year, the final political nail to be hammered onto the coffin of the year is the verdict of the Gujarat polls. Narendra Modi has won. Mind it!( As Quick Gun Murugan would say ), this is all about Narendra Modi and not the BJP. The man has won. Possibly the party has lost. Please read a lot of meaning in this sentence.

Politics remains a game of the impossible. Exit polls of every variety have gone awry once again. Never mind. The people’s verdict is clear in Gujarat. Modi will rule another five years!

The author is a business-strategy specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Marketing 2010

The Marketing Year Ahead

By Harish Bijoor

Marketers do not normally remember the past. The past is history. Very simply because consumer’s do not remember the past as well. Consumers are essentially concerned about what’s now and what’s in the future. The consumer today is a “power of now” entity. So is the marketer.

The year 2007 is done with. Time to wrap it up in cellophane, put in the moth-balls and stack it in the attic of our imagination. Time to plan for the year ahead. The year 2008 and all the years that will follow it.

Trend-tracking the year that has gone by is an exercise on its own. Trend-spotting the marketing years ahead is a tougher exercise still. I am attempting it in this piece. Let me look at three big marketing trends that will define the years ahead of us and break every paradigm oriented behavior the marketer has painted himself into in the past..

Trend One: The Consumer as seller!

Let me explain this. Marketing as we know it is about to change in the future. The savvy marketer of the future (if you want to be one), needs to decimate the concept of the ‘consumer as consumer’ and ‘marketer as marketer’.

The consumer has for far too many decades been just a consumer. The consumer is changing. There is a big opportunity out here to harvest and capitalize upon, particularly so in India.

In the old days, the consumer was a pure consumer. Take urban India for instance. The user of a packet of tea is essentially a consumer, just as the buyer of a detergent is. The urban consumer of today is 100% consumer. She buys to use everything she buys completely on herself or her family.

Take a peek at a new trend. The urban consumer is of two types today. One buys to consume herself. The 100% consumer, and the other is quite like Bru coffee, 70% consumer and 30% re-seller! Take the examples we have in our modern urban life from an Amway, a Tupperware and a Herbalife.

Peek deeper still into the rural markets that are just about waking up to consumerism in a big way, prompted by the medium of television that does not distinguish urban from rural in its reach, messaging and advertising creatives alike. Television creates hunger for products and services in urban and rural markets alike.

In these rural markets, we will have a new profile of the emerging consumer. A consumer who is possibly 50% consumer (for self-use of product and service alike) and the balance 50% re-seller. This is the guy who is the Insurance agent, the intermediary for a financial product, and equally is the person who acts as an intermediary distributor of a detergent or a cake of soap alike. This channel, uniquely, is not restricted to the efforts of the multi-level channel marketer like an Amway, but is equally involved in selling products and services as a distributor on a direct mode of distribution.

Peek deeper still. You will see the emergence of the 10% consumer and 90% re-seller. This is the rural consumer who buys very little of the product for herself and the rest that she buys, she sells at a profit. She is part of an NGO at times, and at times part of a self-help group that is linked to the big marketers of the day. We see some signs of this emerging with the “Shakti-amma” of HUL and certainly in the case of a whole host of SHGs re-selling shampoo and Shikakai alike.

Watch out then for the consumer as seller. Part consumer and part seller. Capitalize on this and open up those dormant markets.

Trend Two: CSR is dead! ISR emerges!

Corporate Social Responsibility is unsustainable activity. CSR that harvests only the money of corporates and not necessarily the passion of the people who work in corporate organizations is a self-fulfilling prophesy of doom.

What will emerge in its place is ISR. Individual Social Responsibility commitments. Corporate organsiaitons will harvest the time and passion of its people and channelize it in as contributions to the social sector. When done in this manner, the passion of the people involved will emerge as movements on their own. Very long-term sustainable movements, unlike CSR, which at best is the fashion statement of Corporate Boards. Puffed up further by positive PR.

Trend Three: Harvesting consumer passion with a time-expiry date!

Consumer passion, something taken for granted in India, is vanishing fast.

Passion is essentially a lowest common denominator item. When a people are deprived of the basics, and when a people are hungry, they are the most passionate about the issues that plague society.

As India gets more and more prosperous, people climb the hierarchy of need higher and higher. As this happens, people become more and more besotted with the material things that make their lives good. This movement is contra to the movement that builds the passion of a people. Therefore, expect more and more consumers getting cynical about the issues that plague us day in and day out. Expect less of the economically empowered to vote. Expect less of them to contribute to the terrain of consumer passion.

Consumer passion today comes with a date-expiry tag to it. It will last another 15 years for sure. But lesser and lesser numbers with every passing year of consumer prosperity ahead of us.

Touché! And welcome 2008!

The author is a brand-domain specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.