Niti Bhan who writes Perspective 2.0 shares a snapshot of three mega trends in the Indian marketplace, the key words according to her being: “aspirational, ambitious, entrepreneurial, forward looking and pragmatic”
Multiplying Media: “The urbanized consumer has become as demanding and sophisticated as any in the world and the aspirations of the rest are influencing their purchasing decisions even more. Information sources have proliferated across the nation, creating a state of flux as aspirational levels across all segments have gone through the roof influenced by the stories of success spread virally by word of mouth, the reach of the mobile phone coupled with the social networks of communication that have always existed.”
Consumer Royalty: “This has directly influenced the demands and expectations of the local consumer – they want the best, but their heritage and experience with scarcity adds a bottomline value to their evaluation of products, services and brands. They will not pay a premium price with blinkers on, even if they can afford it. It must provide value for money remains a steadfast value across all income segments – but the definitions of value are certainly changing and in flux – it could be status, exclusivity, luxury or any other – but the goods purchased cannot be shoddy or barely localized versions of stale products.”
Flat & Spiky: “The psyche of the Indian shopper has not changed – the marketplace has always been a bazaar to look for the best bargain, a social activity where one haggles over goods, touches and feels them for quality and value, plays out the eons old drama of the price negotiations.”
Which makes me wonder whether the new malls proliferating all over India are really offering up entertainment rather than actual purchase opportunities – participants in my qualitative research studies rarely talk of actually shopping at malls – they are great for family outings on weekends, for entertaining kids, to go for a meal to, to browse what’s new. The Hindu states that “currently, the Indian retail industry is valued at $330 billion of which organised retail is about two to three per cent (about $7.5-8 billion).”
My own observation is that there is a much much higher number of footfalls generated by these malls, as opposed to real customer purchases, especially in the luxury goods and specialty stores. They provide us with the opportunity to see-touch-feel-experience products in a comfortable air-conditioned environment, however this doesn’t always transfer into sales! When I bought all my household goods for this new place, I did visit malls to look around – but finally purchased the stuff from my local vendor. When I was looking for a treadmill, again I checked some out at malls – but again found myself buying it from a small specialty fitness store in Bandra. It was not just about price – when you are buying expensive things, there is a whole expectation of service based on relationship and trust – the malls don’t really inspire my confidence as much!
And value-for-money in India means a whole different thing – I have heard many visitors to the country say that they have been told that they should bargain everywhere for everything – that is so not true! There are nuances and subtleties in understanding what’s ‘bargainable’, what’s value-for-money, and what’s simply over-the-top and should be ignored.
It is the bazaar style of operation …. and not the cathedral-building described so well by Eric Raymond in his seminal essay, in another context:
“the Linux community seemed to resemble a great babbling bazaar of differing agendas and approaches (aptly symbolized by the Linux archive sites, who’d take submissions from anyone) out of which a coherent and stable system could seemingly emerge only by a succession of miracles.”
This is the Indian marketplace in my opinion!