Posts filed under ‘Consumer behavior’
Product managers and brand managers from FMCG businesses will sigh wistfully when they read of the response rates to ads and promotions in the Foods and Hospitality business!
Unlike FMCG categories, where conversion rates for promotional events, ads in newspapers with discount coupons, etc. are typically in the single digits, and PR also has low conversions in the short term, for restaurants the conversion rate is much higher and the results show almost immediately.
Consider the example of Café Terra, a small eatery in Koramangala in Bangalore that specializes in continental breakfasts, especially waffles. Soon after they had opened, they were visited by a reviewer from TOI, both the food and the ambience made a positive impression on him. The review was due to run on a Sunday morning and expecting an increased number of customers, they decided to order extra provisions. Their optimistic best-case forecast was to expect 50% more customers than usual on Sunday morning, and they ordered provisions to cater for the same.
Come Sunday morning, there was a crowd at the door, business more than doubled and they ran out of food by lunch-time; their estimate is that they could have done more than triple the regular Sunday business had they had sufficient stock.
That’s how quickly and how strongly PR impacts sales in the Foods sector.
Don’t you wish there were separate detergent and skincare review sections in the newspaper that you could avail of! And that detergents and skincare products were as much of an impulse purchase as foods are.
- Zenobia Driver
(Disclaimer : The author is a friend of the owners of Café Terra and likes to eat there whenever she visits Bangalore)
Although direct selling isn’t a very commonly discussed business model in India, it is a force to be reckoned with. It is now a Rs.4200 crore industry and about 3 million Indians are engaged in direct selling; of this, 2.1 million are women, mainly because it offers an additional income and flexible hours. Several brands sold through this model are now at par or beginning to overtake the more mainstream FMCG and OTC brands which are backed with aggressive marketing and extensive distribution networks.
Take for example Amway’s Nutrilite protein powder – It is now a Rs. 250 crore brand far ahead of its competitors like Wockhardt’s ProtineX. Amway’s supplement pill Nutrilite Daily is close on the heels of Ranbaxy’s heavily advertised Revital having grown 34% last year. Glister toothpaste from Amway is also a over Rs.100 crore brand now, and is fast closing in on Dabur Red Toothpaste which has been around in the market since decades.
As a company too, Amway has outgrown multinationals like L’Oreal, Nivea and Kellogg’s in India by reporting Rs.2130 crore in sales for calendar year 2010-11. The US-based company, which started operations in India 14 years ago, attributes its success to 5.5 lakh active distributors, aggressive pricing and advertising. It has ambitious plans for this year too – it plans to double its advertising spends this year from Rs.30 crore in 2011 to Rs.58 crore, as it targets double-digit growth to follow 19% rise in sales last year.
Tupperware India Pvt. Ltd., which sells food storage, preparation and serving dishes, is expanding its distribution by appointing more consultants in the 50 cities and towns it operates in. The company is also developing new product offerings to suit the need of Indians. Asha Gupta, MD-Tupperware India, points out that non-metros are seeing brisk member addition and sales, revenue contribution of non-tier I cities stood at 38% in 2009-10, against 14% in 2008-09.
Oriflame has now been in India for over 15 years and has been registering a CAGR of 40% over the past five years. Its key markets include East and North-East region – which contributes around 40% to its total sales in India. That said, they have been growing the fastest in the southern four states and plan to focus expansion efforts here. They already have a product basket of 650 products and plan to introduce 300-350 new ones this year to keep up with the latest trends. The company is targeting to appoint 1.25 lakh new sales consultants to take the figure to 3 lakh by the end of this year, and have 500 service points from the current 350.
Modicare, the first India-based direct selling company, which sells cosmetics, foods and beverages, health and wellness and agriculture, personal, home, fabric and automobile care products, has grown significantly in the last 4 years. It has a network of over 1 lakh consultants with 40 centers serving 2700 cities across India and targeting sales of Rs.200 crore this year.
The latest addition to the list of companies working on the direct selling method is Qi – but it does so on with a difference. One, it operates only on an e-commerce platform and two, in addition to products in the nutrition, health, home and personal care space, it sells a range of luxury products and services too – such as branded watches, gold and silver jewelry, holiday packages, e-learning packages. It has over 40 lakh members operating globally and has now made its entry into India.
While some companies like Amway, Tupperware and Eureka Forbes have been advertising on TV; Tupperware also has its products on display at several supermarkets for a touch and feel experience; others like Oriflame and Avon are targeting a higher sales consultant base before advertising or exploring alternate/ complimentary distribution channels. Modicare is also slowly and steadily expanding its sales consultant base along with product portfolio to attract the Tier-III and smaller town customers.
Whatever the approach may be, each one has set its growth goals and is striving to achieve them. Perhaps, it is the traditional FMCG and OTC companies that need to take notice and be prepared.
Sources: News articles, Company websites.
Lately, I have noticed a sudden burst of organic stores on the scene. So far, I had been seeing small sections dedicated to organic products in supermarkets and other shops, offering a limited range of products. Earlier, buying organic vegetable and fruits was restricted to weekly Farmer’s Market in Bandra or smaller outfits and individual sellers which supplied fresh produce direct to home. Stores like FabIndia, Westside carried a range of packaged organics staples, spices and condiments while several large supermarkets as well specialty stores like Vinita Mathur’s Health Shop – had a small section stocking organic foods from Conscious Foods, 24 Letter Mantra and a few other certified brands.
But suddenly, there are entire stores dedicated to organic products mushrooming around Mumbai. I’d always thought of the category as being niche – premium and metro-centric – given the higher price of all products produced organically as well as the low awareness about its advantages over conventionally produced products. These dedicated organic stores got me very curious in terms of why this sudden spurt – whether the prices had gone down, whether the product offering had changed and whether the cost of a standalone store was really justified for such products. So, I paid a few of them a visit.
Organic Garden (located in Breach Candy and Prabhadevi, Mumbai) has a whole range of vegetables and fruits grown organically, certified by ECOCERT. It’s a small store, stocking only fresh and small quantities of different fruits and vegetables grown in the region. Despite being higher priced than the regular vegetable seller, the price differential is no longer the 25-50% that it used to be, it was only about 10-15% higher.
Organic Haus (at Kemps Corner, Mumbai) is a premium shopping experience, stocking a whole range of organic products which are imported from Germany and Austria. Their range of products includes foods and beverages, nutritional supplements, cosmetics, baby and home care products. The store is supported by well trained and informed sales personnel who explain not only the advantages of going organic, but also the product ingredients, method of usage, etc. (especially critical since most of the packaging is in German), provide information and explain unfamiliar terms like “gluten-free”, etc. and recommend products according to consumer health conditions and dietary requirements. Such is the confidence in the success of the store and its products that during the launch of its flagship store in Ahmedabad (yes Ahmedabad! not Mumbai or Delhi as one would expect), Organic Haus Chairman Dilip Doshi said, “We are planning to open 8-10 company-owned stores and 10-20 on franchise route across the country. We are in talks with some retail stores for shop-in-shop segment”. Currently plans are underway for a store in New Delhi and Bangalore as well as an online store. The products in the store are definitely much higher priced, but the variety of products is huge as well as the type of products stocked are quite different from the regular organic fare (such as an organic slimming kit which is a rage in Germany, nutrition supplements, beauty cosmetics, etc.). Also, Organic Haus has been heavily marketing – with billboards all along Marine Drive as well as creating a buzz through Facebook.
Navdanya-The Organic Shop (in Andheri, Mumbai) has been started by Navdanya Organization, a network of seed keepers and organic producers spread across 16 states in India, which started out as a research initiative, led by renowned scientist and environmentalist Dr. Vandana Shiva. They sell a wide range of products ranging from fruits and vegetables, staples, spices, condiments, jams and spreads, dry fruits, tea and coffee to seeds for cultivation.
Not only stores, but dedicated restaurants and cafes are also spurring up. Lumiere is a chain of restaurants in Bangalore and Cochin using only organically grown products from their own farms. Navdanya restaurant at Dilli Haat in New Delhi serves delicious meals prepared with organic ingredients. Deli.in is a chain of organic salad and juice bar with outlets in Bangalore and Pune.
A few years ago, this market was marred by inadequate retail presence, little to no certified branded produce, an incomplete range, uncompetitive price points, and government policies that were skewed towards exports. That said, this space has definitely seen a lot of activity in the past few years – not only in terms of more outlets, higher awareness, higher acceptance despite higher prices, but also in terms of regulations and certification of organic foods by government bodies. The organic food market is still a very niche market – under 5% of the total food market – and has huge scope for growth, some estimates pinning the growth numbers at 40% annually.
This sure has become a space to look out for.
I’m sure many of us in India have been reading articles in newspapers and magazines recently about India trading up.
During a recent trip to Chennai for some consumer research, I could not help but notice this phenomenon; especially with this one particular respondent – a 25 year old woman belonging to a SEC C/D household – showing clear signs of trading up, both in household products as well as personal use products.
To give a little background on the Socio-Economic Classification (SEC) commonly used in India – this system classifies the Indian consumer on the basis of two parameters: Occupation and Education of the chief wage earner of the household. SEC C & D are the mid-to-low socio-economic classes in urban India – typically comprise of skilled workers, petty traders, shop owners and salaried employees and majority are educated upto middle-to-high school. A majority of this segment (almost 80%) earns less than Rs.3 lakh annually. (Source: Indicus Analytics)
Let’s call our respondent Rehana. Rehana’s house was located in a typical low-income neighborhood – a cluster of 6-8 buildings, 2-3 storeys each, each floor had 2 small flats on either side of a very narrow and often broken staircase. As often observed in such areas, the landing and passage space are used by residents, quite a few of their belongings were kept outside their doors - like buckets and water drums, folded beds and mattresses, clothes lines running along the stairs, etc.
I visited her house in the afternoon and middle aged women from the building were all hanging out in a group right at the foot of the stairs on the ground floor, since there was a power cut. This is their situation everyday – from 12-3 there is no electricity, so they finish their work accordingly. So while they all hung out – they combed their own or each other’s hair, some chopped vegetables while some just fanned themselves and rested.
Rehana’s home was about 200-250 sq. ft. in area and had three rooms – 1 kitchen, one living-cum-bed room and one dedicated bedroom – with a bathroom in the house. And there came the first surprise, right outside the bathroom, there it was – a washing machine!
We were seated in the bedroom, which in terms of furniture had a proper double bed, a 3 seater sofa, a Godrej almirah and the TV unit (of course!). She was most conscious that I should not sit on the floor, instead insisted that I sit on the sofa. There was a large Sansui television connected to a Videocon DVD player. The young lady was using the newly launched Samsung Hero mobile phone and was most excited to tell us that this is the same phone that Aamir Khan endorses. (Link to ad here) There was also a water purifier in the bedroom. The water purifier seemed to be their latest purchase (looked brand new) and a proud one, as it held a very specially cleared corner in the bedroom, right next to their Godrej almirah. It was evident in the pride with which she offered us water and looked towards the water purifier suggesting that she was offering not just any water, but water from the purifier!
Such a clear example of what we’ve all been reading about lately – about households having more disposable income and trading up. While not everyone has improved their living conditions as much as Rehana’s family has, a lot of families are spending more on low value consumer goods on a regular basis. It is of little wonder now why these lower SEC segments are fast gaining increasing importance with marketers.
p.s. – We’d earlier written about the limitations of the SEC classification and how only income and education aren’t a good measure of consumer classification. (Click here to read the post) Asset ownership can be a good judge of aspirations, affordability and therefore purchase intent and potential of customers.
Last week’s post (link here) described the influence of Bollywood on men’s fashion and grooming trends. This post from last Sunday’s issue of ‘Brunch’ from the Hindustan Times mentions some trends that were started Bollywood heroines.
Those that enjoyed reading the post on men’s grooming (link here) and growth in various categories of products and services, will also enjoy these articles (to read the articles, click here and here).
And to end this update, the latest metrosexual trend from the West, though we aren’t sure whether to believe this article or not – check it out for yourself by clicking on this link.
Escape Velocity Team
Even though metrosexuality has been popular for over a decade the world over, it is only recently that men in India have taken to it in hordes. This might be because it is only recently that Bollywood male actors have embraced this phenomenon and started to shave their chest, flaunt wash-board abs and style (or over-style) their hair.
The majority of men aged 18-35 in India look to Bollywood film stars for styling and grooming trends – at times even subconsciously. It is astonishing how much influence films have on men in India. Films like ‘Bobby’ which made every young man in India start wearing bell-bottoms, ‘Dil Chahta Hai’ which made men grow soul-patches and drive down to Goa every chance they got, or more recently ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’ which has made every young man in India itch to make a trip to Spain with their guy friends.
Like you pointed out, companies realize this and have started to have young film stars endorse their beauty products. Alternative sub-cultures like emo, grunge and goth have also been around for over a decade but have started to come into mainstream India through films – like Prateik Babbar’s small yet memorable role in ‘Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na’. I am sure that the focus of the youth will slowly move towards these sub-cultures and away from metrosexuality, more so as movies start embracing them.
[Editor’s Note : If you do not recognise the alternative sub-cultures mentioned by RJ, fear not, the descriptions below will help.
Emo is a style of rock music characterized by melodic musicianship and expressive, often confessional lyrics. It originated in the mid-1980s hardcore punk movement of Washington, D.C., where it was known as "emotional hardcore" or "emocore" and pioneered by bands such as 'Rites of Spring' and 'Embrace'.
Today emo is commonly tied to both music and fashion as well as the emo subculture. Usually among teens, the term "emo" is stereotyped with wearing slim-fit jeans, sometimes in bright colors, and tight T-shirts (usually short-sleeved) which often bear the names of emo bands. Studded belts and black wristbands are common accessories in emo fashion. Some males also wear thick, black horn-rimmed glasses.
The emo fashion is also recognized for its hairstyles. Popular looks include long side-swept bangs, sometimes covering one or both eyes. Also popular is hair that is straightened and dyed black. Bright colors, such as blue, pink, red, or bleached blond, are also typical as highlights in emo hairstyles. Short, choppy layers of hair are also common. In the early 2000s, emo fashion was associated with a clean cut look, but as the style spread to younger teenagers, the style has become darker, with long bangs and emphasis on the color black replacing sweater vests.
Emo has been associated with a stereotype that includes being particularly emotional, sensitive, shy, introverted, or angst-ridden. It has also been associated with depression, self-injury, and suicide.
(Source - Wikipedia )
Gothic fashion is a clothing style worn by members of the Goth subculture; a dark, sometimes morbid, eroticized fashion and style of dress. Typical Gothic fashion includes dyed black hair, black lips and black clothes. Both male and female goths wear dark eyeliner and dark fingernails. Styles are often borrowed from the Punks, Victorians, and Elizabethans. BDSM imagery and paraphernalia are also common.
The style initially emerged alongside the early 1980s Gothic rock scene.
Researcher Maxim W. Furek noted, “Goth is a revolt against the slick fashions of the 1970’s disco era and a protest against the colorful pastels and extravagance of the 1980’s. Black hair, dark clothing and pale complexions provide the basic look of the Goth Dresser. One can paradoxically argue that the Goth look is one of deliberate overstatement as just a casual look at the heavy emphasis on dark flowing capes, ruffled cuffs, pale makeup and dyed hair demonstrate a modern-day version of late Victorian excess.”
(Source - Wikipedia)
Grunge (sometimes referred to as the Seattle sound) is a subgenre of alternative rock that emerged as a fusion of punk, alternative, and heavy metal during the mid-1980s in the American state of Wahington, particularly in the Seattle area. Inspired by hardcore punk, metal, and indie rock, grunge is generally characterized by heavily distorted electric guitars, contrasting song dynamics, and apathetic or angst-filled lyrics. The grunge aesthetic is stripped-down compared to other forms of rock music, and many grunge musicians were noted for their unkempt appearances and rejection of theatrics.
Grunge concerts were known for being straightforward, high-energy performances. Grunge bands rejected the complex and high budget presentations of many musical genres, including the use of complex light arrays, pyrotechnics, and other visual effects unrelated to playing the music. Stage acting was generally avoided. Instead the bands presented themselves as no different from minor local bands. Jack Endino said in the 1996 documentary Hype! that Seattle bands were inconsistent live performers, since their primary objective was not to be entertainers, but simply to "rock out".
Clothing commonly worn by grunge musicians in Washington consisted of thrift store items and the typical outdoor clothing (most notably flannel shirts) of the region, as well as a generally unkempt appearance. The style did not evolve out of a conscious attempt to create an appealing fashion; music journalist Charles R. Cross said, "[Nirvana frontman] Kurt Cobain was just too lazy to shampoo,” and Sub Pop’s Jonathan Poneman said, “This [clothing] is cheap, it’s durable, and it’s kind of timeless. It also runs against the grain of the whole flashy aesthetic that existed in the 80s.”
(Source – Wikipedia )
End of Editor’s note]
In 2005, Emami launched ‘Fair and Handsome’ cream for men – remember the ‘chhup chhup ke’ ads that were based on the insight that many Indian men who wanted to become fairer surreptitiously used their sister or mother’s fairness cream (watch a more recent version of the ad here). At the time, I recall meeting an elderly gentleman who confessed to feeling bewildered with what he saw on TV; “When I was young, men were meant to be MEN; tall, hatte-katte, strong; a hairy chest, biceps and a stubble were something to be proud of; nowadays a hero is not ashamed to wax his chest and lie in a tub full of rose-petals (SRK in a Lux ad), or appear in a fairness ad. Why aren’t men proud to be MANLY and MACHO anymore ?”
I wonder how the elderly gentleman would react on seeing the plethora of grooming products for men on store shelves today. With the men’s skincare market growing at a little more than twice the rate of that for women’s skin-care products (47% vs. 22% respectively in top cities in 2010), there’s a host of erstwhile women-centric brands vying for their share of the pie; watch John Abraham pitch Garnier products, Shahid with Vaseline, Dhoni batting for NIVEA, or Hrithik with Cinthol. Then there’s Fiama di Wills, Everyuth, Fair and Lovely, Dettol, Parachute, Axe, Wildstone etc., you name the brand and you find it vying for a share of the expanding pie. Put together these brands offer hair gels and creams, hair colorants, face-washes and scrubs, fairness creams, talcum powders, deodorants, soaps and body washes, and even bleach and waxing strips for men! No wonder some supermarkets now have a separate aisle for men’s grooming products.
Not just in products, the market for men’s grooming services is also growing rapidly. Not only are men visiting beauty salons in greater numbers, but the number of cosmetic surgeries for men is also growing rapidly. The female to male patient ratio for cosmetic treatments such as botox and fillers, face lifts, chemical peels, chin tucks, tummy tucks, hair transplant, etc. has now become 75:25 (or 70:30, depending on which source you believe), and this ratio is estimated to reach 60:40 in a few years.
Of course, this person spending so much on grooming wants to be well attired too, and looks for high-quality western wear. As Indian women, by contrast, tend to be traditionally dressed on formal occasions, the market for premium western-wear brands is dominated by the male consumer; compared to more developed markets, in India the men’s apparel market constitutes as much as 60% of the total merchandise. For instance, for Italian luxury brand Versace, 80% of the purchases come from men and 20% from women. Premium lifestyle stores that house various luxury brands also report that over 80% of sales come from men. In sectors such as fragrances too, Indian men spend far more than their female counterparts, in contrast to the trend globally.
Metrosexual is Manly indeed!
If you’d like to know more about the sociocultural changes and the attitudes driving this phenomenon, and which categories / brands are more likely to benefit from it, call us or leave a comment and we’ll get back to you.
(Note : Sources referred to for this post include ACNielsen reports, Euromonitor reports, news reports and other secondary data sources)
…who fervently wishes that all these appearance conscious guys would teach their uncultured brethren to stop spitting, belching and relieving themselves in public; I’d even pay for their salon treatments then!
The consumer may not always be logical, but understanding his/her thought process is critical to success. Consider an example.
Real Junior juices were launched in 2004 and were targeted at children under six. The juices came in a smaller size (125 ml; the school packs were 200 ml), 2 flavors – Mango and Apple, enriched with calcium, and promised low acidity. The vibrant packs with animated fruit characters were intended to appeal to children by highlighting the taste and nutrition of Real Junior. Despite the different marketing efforts and clear benefits for the children, the brand did not contribute much to the business and was pulled back from the market in 2006.
The reasons :
We think, back in 2004, the market was just not ripe for health foods. It is only recently that this health and wellness foods and beverages market has opened up so much because now people have gotten more aware of health problems and perhaps now would be the right time to launch such a product.
Also, during our research on the connection of health and wellness benefits from various products and formats, when asked about the connections they make of nutrients with their source, the consumers said, “Juice with calcium makes no sense, if a milk-based product made a calcium claim, it would be easier to believe”, “If this product had bananas or milk mentioned in it, it would be easier to associate with the calcium claim, juices are associated with vitamins.” In fact, it was after hearing this that we scoured the market landscape for examples of various products that claimed a health benefit from calcium fortification and found the Dabur Junior Juice example.
Lo and behold! Turned out that the nuance we picked up during the research was something that the brand team figured out in hindsight. Basis Sanjay Sharma, General Manager, Sales and Marketing, Dabur Foods, “The problem with Real Junior at the time of launch was more than one. First, it was promoted as a fruit juice rich in calcium, which did not sell. A fruit juice, is after all, a fruit juice, and branding it calcium-rich did not gel well.” (Source: interview given to Business Standard, in 2007)
There were other reasons for the failure too. Basis Sanjay Sharma, “Moreover, it was made available in tetra packs of 125 ml for Rs.10, because that was the quantity Dabur conceived children would be able to finish in one go. So, although the pack size was smaller, packaging costs did not come down and therefore a lower pricing did not bring in revenues. Moreover, other fruit-juices were also available for the same price and pack size, so people did not find much of a reason to switch to Real Junior.”
But the question to ask is whether Indian households are ready to buy separate products for different members of the household or would much rather prefer a common product that meets everyone’s needs.
In a recent study conducted about health foods and beverages, this is what we heard – “Unless there is something really specific in a product that is critical for the children only, we’d much rather buy a product that all the members in the family can consume”, “a common product helps us control our household expenses as well.”
If you look closely at the recent of Dabur Real ads – the key target are the children in the first and the entire family (child, mumma and dadoo) in the second – but the hook/ the first adopter of the product is the child.
So does Dabur really need to segment the market basis age groups or should it stick to its more successful strategy of segmenting basis benefits (Real Juice vs. Real Active)? What do you think?
I am an ardent fan of the show Masterchef Australia and was most upset when the last season ended. I had been seeing promos of the India and US series of Masterchef which were slotted to start right after the Australia series ended. Although these promos didn’t look as promising as the Australia one – I couldn’t keep myself from watching a few episodes … and I soon realized that each of these shows was a reflection of the social, cultural and economic environments prevalent in each of these countries.
The original version was the British Masterchef. When Masterchef Australia was first launched it was criticized as a huge departure from the original British version due to the change in format and “making it over- the-top by adding more drama and storytelling and a sense of theatre.” If this is what the critics thought of the Australia one, wait till they see the India and USA versions !
Since the first version of the show to be aired in India was the Australia series – for me that show is the benchmark. Perhaps I have been over-exposed to the zoom-in-zoom-out dha dha dha dhan music of the Indian soaps and reality shows and due to that I found Masterchef Australia to be a refreshing, non- spiteful and constructive competitive show.
The show is a reflection of the cultural diversity in Australia – this is mirrored not only in the ethnic diversity of the participants but also in their cooking styles as well as the challenges and ingredients presented to the contestants. During the course of the show, we saw them using curry powder and preparing “naan-bread”, cooking Greek-Cypriotic dishes, recreating the classic French Duck à l’orange and competing in Spanish-themed invention tests and a Korea-inspired mystery box challenge.
They were also exposed to a much more diverse pantry – and the contestants were well aware of these exotic ingredients and how to use them. The fact that they were aware of such exquisite, exotic and expensive ingredients and had some experience of either having tried them at a restaurant or used them in a recipe at home also echoed their relatively higher standard of living and economic stature.
No doubt that there is drama in the show – but it is all focused around cooking disasters or running low on time or cutting fingers at critical moments or forgetting an ingredient and at most about missing their families and how they need them for inspiration to cook and perform better. But all contestants live cordially, like-a-family and there’s a real bond that comes across. They help each other through tough times, through recipes, sharing ingredients. This is perhaps a reflection of the general social environment of the country – cordial, helpful, friendly and not fiercely competitive.
The first thing that jumps out is the differences in the economic and social backgrounds of participants in the Indian series vis-à-vis the Australian. There are challenges each week where the winner takes home Rs.1 lakh – and most often they plan to use this prize money to pay off a loan, to pay for education of their children, to buy a house, for medical needs, etc. In contrast, the prize money won in Australia was always spoken of to be used in pursuit of their culinary dreams – start their café, go to culinary school, etc. It seemed like the primary objective in India was to take home the moolah; making a career in the culinary world seemed secondary.
The contestants’ exposure to various kitchen apparatus and ingredients was also much lower. For one of the challenges, the contestants were taken to Hong Kong and exposed to south-east Asian produce and they each had to be walked through what these were, what it would taste like, what it would add to a recipe in terms of flavor and texture and how it could be cooked. These same ingredients seemed very basic and common in the Australian or USA version, but not so in the Indian one. Similarly they were each given a different cooking apparatus or tools but each one needed to be explained and demonstrated.
Although, compared to the first season the drama was a lot more toned down this time, yet if you compare it to the Australian version, it was overly dramatic. The emotional ranting was almost nauseating. This one episode particularly stood out where not only the contestants got emotional but also the judges touched the feet of the eliminated contestant! Here’s the link if you want to view it.
The first thing one notices is the excessive and casual use of profanity on the show. Every other sentence has a “beep” in it! Not only amongst contestants but also the judges! It seemed totally reflective of language used during social interactions by a significant (or a certain) section of the population, the kind of drama and language used in other shows, the acceptability of such loose use of obscenities on television. Just watch the first 60 seconds of this clip – there are 4 beeps and 4 other beep-worthy words – all in just one minute !
Also, the competition amongst contestants was fierce. No one was friends with each other, no one helped each other, there was a constant blame game of copying ideas, menus, recipes, etc. Team challenges were highly tense and frosty. There were glacial looks exchanged, people didn’t communicate, some people didn’t speak to each another and no one even claimed responsibility for their faults, they always blamed each other for their failures. The current economic environment, the lack of job security, cut-throat competition in the society was all reflected here.
There was a sort-of lack of respect for the judges even ! In the Indian and Australian version, the judges were looked upon for guidance, advice, mentoring, counseling, etc., whereas in the US version the judges were addressed and treated very casually and callously by the participants and there didn’t seem to be a mentor-mentee or expert-amateur kind of relationship.
Such stark differences in the three shows, in their participants, in the judges, in the formats – and these all seem reflective of their primary audiences and their attitudes and preferences.
Having said all this, it also leads me to wonder what thoughts run through foreigners’ minds about us as a society when they watch saas-bahu weepies on TV. Or ‘Dabangg’ !