he Great Indian Market has drawn the attention of the best marketing wizards from around the world, as it is the fastest growing market in the world, and has the potential of still growing, at least for a decade or even longer, in most market segments, products, services and what have you.

However, the Indian market is very unique and a deep understanding of its many manifestations is just in order.  This is because the clearly distinguishing features are very much Indian, and a huge number of buying behavior is uniquely Indian.

The huge heterogeneous market 

The Indian market is truly heterogeneous.  It is possible to find cheaper substitutes for every single product, and hence there is a huge amount of diversity and complexity in every single product, the market it serves, the buying behavior and so on.

Let us take some common examples to understand the dynamics involved.

Some years ago, the two multinational giants -- PepsiCo and Coca Cola -- hammered the Indian market like never before, and made life miserable for the smaller players.

So, the shelves in every nook and corner of the country stock products of these two multinationals and every other single player is lost.  So is the common understanding of the soft drinks market.

Most importantly, this is the most common perception.  This is totally wrong.

There are competitors galore in this market, and each of these are local players whose marketing costs are much lower, have a huge customer base that keeps on expanding through word of the mouth. and the common perception among a huge number of customers -- running into hundreds of thousands -- is that it is "our product".

For example, in Tamil Nadu, a company called Kali Mark, is a small regional player, and is focused in selling one hugely popular brand called "Bovonto", which is essentially made out of grapes.  The unique favor is so good that lakhs of people get addicted to it, and do not even experiment the products of the MNCs.

In Tiruchi and Salem, the two bigger towns of Tamil Nadu, the product sells like hot cakes and the retailers happily stock the product.  It is not that the Pepsi and Coke range of products do not sell at all.  However, they are left far behind this product.

Bovonto has now cracked the huge Chennai market as well, though the sales is not as good as what it is in Salem and Tiruchi.

The same company also has a product called Panner soda, which is basically made of essence from rose petals.  This is a huge market in itself.

The prices?  Well, the prices are almost equal to that of the MNC products. 

Now, the culture part during summer in particular.  Thanks to a huge amount of high decibel advertisement and awareness about the soft drinks in particular, people in each of the four Southern States prefer to literally feast on the natural coconut water that is sold at every nook and corner.  Not only this, the word of mouth advise leads the North Indians and even those from abroad to try out the natural alternative, and our MNCs have fresh competition on hand.

There are hundreds of other substitutes like fresh juices sold in fairly high quality hotels, that are sold at huge prices, but people still buy them and happily drink them.

So, the culture of the particular place has a huge influence on buying habits.

The same trends and a huge amount of differentiation can be seen in different products, but one product stands out for its uniqueness.  This is a product only for women -- bangles.

The bangle market in India, is estimated at three thousand crore rupees, and this is still growing.  The way women buy the same product differs from place to place.

In the metro cities for instance, the women mostly prefer only the plain glass bangles, and the stone ones, and even those made of wood.  However, in the smaller towns and in the rural areas, there is a complexity involved.

Women go in for bangles with some decoration in each bangle.  These are slightly ticker than the plain ones, and do tend to make more sound.  But this hardly matters, and the buyer behavior is something so solid.

Similarly, take the sari market.  In spite of the fact that saris are sold throughout India, the sari market is huge in South India, where women in rural areas are wedded only to saris.  However, the saris that are sold in such areas are not sold for over Rs.400 apiece, as the people do not have huge marketing power.

The small packet revolution

Some years ago, a small time manufacturer of shampoos in Tamil Nadu, hit upon a very unique idea -- market his brand of Velvette shampoo in the smallest Sacket pack, priced at Re.1/.  Today, there are millions of products like pickles, talcum powders and even shaving creams sold in such small packets, with prices ranging from Re 1 to around Rs.20/-.  The logic is simple.  The poorest of the poor get to buy even branded products like chocolates at such cheap prices, and get to buy bigger packs when their purchasing power becomes bigger.

This small pack revolution is totally Indian, it is pan-India, and it is growing with each single day. So, in India, the price is one unique factor indeed.

The market for the poor 

One really does not know what is going on in other developing countries, but what is going on in India is something so unique and can be easily observed.  It is the market for the poor.

Outside each big textile showrooms in the big cities, one can find hundreds of smaller shops that sell substitute products ranging from saris to ready made shirts and inner garments at prices that are at least forty per cent cheaper than the branded items.  This goes on happily, and no one complains.

The poor know that they need to make several compromises in their lives.  They adjust accordingly.  For example, it is very common to find second hand mobiles sold for as low as Rs.300/- in the rural areas.  At any point in time, at least ten thousand such mobiles would be sold.  The poor know that this mobile will last for a maximum of six months.  So, they just use it to receive and make calls.  After six months, they buy the second mobile, once again, a second hand one.

Shared autos take care of transport costs and small eateries take care of breakfast lunch and dinner, all of which will cost Rs.100/-, even at 2016 prices.  Yes, the standard of hygiene is not good, but the poor adjust to every single problem admirably.

Religion and culture have huge influence

Though the joint family is gone, the getting together of relatives is still unique in thousands of villages throughout India.  The elders teach the younger generation the value of hard work, and a simple life too.  This has a big bearing on buying behavior. 

For instance, costly curtains and very costly interior decoration is a big no, in smaller towns, where the house will be very simple and functional, but without the trappings that one finds in the metro cities.

So, heterogeneous markets, the presence of a huge market for the poor, and the influence of religion and culture are major lessons of marketing in India.  Of course, there are other lessons, but only these have been discussed in the aforesaid paragraphs in this article.


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