Posts filed under ‘Readers’ Contributions’

The exodus from farming

“On average, close to 2,000 people a day abandon farming in the country.”

Says P. Sainath in a recent article based on his analysis of recently released 2001 Census numbers.

This article reminded me of a very simplistic calculation I had done during a debate with a NGO friend who was insisting that migration is bad.

Let’s imagine a village with 100 families. Let’s assume that the village is doing “well” economically and that all 100 families earn enough for their needs from their farming activities.

Since rural Indian families have an average of 3.4 children, assuming no male-child selection in an ideal world, they will still have 1.7 boys on average.  So the next generation will have 1.7*100 = 170 families to be supported.  However the village farmland is large enough to only support 100 families, so the remaining 70 must find employment in non-agri professions either within the village or outside it.

So unless we figure out a way to either create manufacturing or service sector jobs in the village, these families must migrate elsewhere for employment or accept a reduced standard of living (by dividing the farm-land into smaller plots for each son).

The above simplistic calculation leads us to the quite believable conclusion that we can’t just label migration as “bad” without doing something to increase the ability of the rural economy to create jobs and income for every new generation.

So what options do these migrants have?


“For instance, take those from the Bolangir or Nuapada districts [in Orissa]. Typically, they might spend a month or two in Raipur pulling rickshaws. Then work two or three months at brick kilns in Andhra Pradesh. Then serve as construction labourers shuttling around Mumbai or Thane for a few weeks each (where they are often used on the higher floors in risky scaffolding; local labour would demand more for that).”

What happens to these migrants?

“The migrations of these past 15-20 years are overwhelmingly distress-driven, footloose and often disruptive of the lifestyle, roots and family bonds of the migrant,” says economist Dr K Nagaraj, professor at the Asian College of Journalism, Chennai. “Very few of them gain in terms of acquiring skill and capital unlike those from the middle and upper classes. When the latter migrate, they usually make big gains in skill, capital and mobility in the jobs ladder.”

“And yet, this great outflow of human beings from their homes in the villages is not spontaneous. A massive chain has sprung up of middlemen and labour contractors who gain heavily from this exodus and thus seek to organise it to their benefit. They supply labour at cheap rates to a variety of patrons — from town and city contractors and builders to corporations, including multinational companies. This not only helps depress the local wage, but also offers the patrons a pool of cheap labour that is desperate, unorganised, and thus relatively docile.”

With the prevalence of such exploitation, it is inevitable that some NGOs see migration as “bad”. But unless the rural economy is able to support natural population increase, the migration will only strengthen in numbers which is what the 2011 Census is most likely to show.

  • Richa Govil

(Richa shares her thoughts on rural businesses at ‘Stirring the Pyramid’)

Advertisements

June 27, 2012 at 11:36 am 4 comments

Turning Medical Services Upside Down

When I buy a book on Amazon or Flipkart, I can see the ratings and comments by hundreds of customers. But when I need to choose a doctor, I have to rely on the inefficient and inadequate method of asking friends, with whom I may or may not want to share my ailments. This is true whether I am trying to find a GP or a surgeon. And, after seeing the doctor, there is no way for me to rate him or her even for mundane things like whether or not he shows up on time to the clinic, let alone more important comments regarding his or her approach to medical care!  In contrast, I can easily find gigabytes of information about whether the keypad of a particular laptop model becomes sticky after use.

Another point to consider: Different people look for different things from a doctor: some may want the reassurance of the (imagined) old time family doctor, while others may prefer a “just give me the facts, I’ve brought my own sugar coating” approach. Why assume that we have the same expectations from doctors while we have entirely difference preferences for the texture of our cookies or the settings on our Facebook accounts?

Much of the discussion about modernization of medicine gets stuck in technology discussion (digital versus human interface).  However, what we need is a thorough modernization of medicine inside out, seriously thinking through which aspects of medical care would benefit from more information (including customer feedback) and which aspects would benefit from more customization and personal preference being taken into account.

Industry experts focus on customer segments and behavior for FMCG consumer products, but what about customer segments for the ultimate consumer product – medical care — the one that determines our life and health?  Isn’t it about time that the medical services industry starts thinking beyond the simplistic considerations of digitization of patient records, or focus on specialized clinics versus primary care, rural versus urban customers?

 

By,

Richa Govil

(Richa shares her thoughts on rural businesses at ‘Stirring the Pyramid’)

June 4, 2012 at 9:59 am Leave a comment

Male grooming – Influenced by Bollywood

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.

By,

RJ

[Editor’s Note : If you do not recognise the alternative sub-cultures mentioned by RJ, fear not, the descriptions below will help.

Emo :

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 )

 

Goth :

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 :

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]

April 4, 2012 at 8:45 am 4 comments

Advertising with a Social Message

I recently saw the new Mumbai Mirror ad – “I am Mumbai”. It is quite riveting. It has a feel similar to the “Jaago Re” series of ads by Tata Tea – socially and politically relevant ads which speak to everyone. Empowering and moving, perhaps borderline overdramatic too sometimes.

It reminded me of “The Truth” anti-smoking campaign in the US – a hard-hitting, dramatic series of ads often featuring youth confronting the tobacco industry with smoking-related death statistics

By,

RJ

January 20, 2012 at 10:56 am Leave a comment

Reader feedback on Changing Sweet Tooth Preferences

In response to our last 2 posts (click here and here), readers sent in their views on this topic, often as comments on Facebook. We thought of sharing them here, so all our blog readers can go through them.

Whether chocolates/ modern sweetmeats have replaced mithai:

  • Healthy food items replacing modern sweetmeats? Potentially yes. But am not too sure the modern sweetmeat is replacing traditional mithai. To me it appears though a segment preference was identified and is being catered to, rather than the whole market being pulled away from its existing preference. Unless there is market-wide evidence that the traditional mithai is finding lesser acceptance, the advent of newer sweetmeats would not necessarily mean a shift. I believe there is place for all in the Indian market, whichever palate/segment one chooses to target.
  • Yes…definitely changing in favour of chocolates…specially with so many options of them in market. You dont know what is getting mixed in mithai – all colors, chemicals, etc.

 

Reasons:

  • Packaging plays a part in this change too. Traditional peda and barfi packaging is just not cool enough to make a baby announcement or take to your brother’s for Rakhi. Foreign- looking fancy packaging is way cooler.
  • Apart from people’s tastes influencing their choices – these items are also easier to transport, have a longer shelf life, and are easy to re-gift. Those things might also play an important role in changing consumer behavior. Also, ‘seemingly healthier’ foods are all the rage since people have become more conscious about the correlation between their eating habits and potential health problems.
  • Long shelf life, attractive packaging, hygiene, ease of storage, association of chocolates with gifting, western influence, experience brought in by the the Krafts and the Nestles from other markets are some reasons I can think of, for the ‘chocolate gifting’ segment to evolve. The market for healthy packaged food (for gifting) is only a sub-segment of this segment, in my opinion.

 

Interesting questions raised:

  • Whether this is a result of a genuine change in tastes or whether it’s just aspirational (some might say “wannabe”). Is mithai uncool? Is it commoditized? Does good quality traditional western patisserie have a novelty factor that mithai now lacks? Can mithai ever be completely replaced?

 

Thanks Sonal, Rahul, Sagar and Sanjib for your contribution…

 

Compiled By,

Escape Velocity Team

September 23, 2011 at 8:36 am Leave a comment

The Shopping Experience: Travails at Health and Glow

This post is by a guest contributor, Anita B.

When Health and Glow (H&G) first made an appearance, I used to be a loyal customer. There was usually one in the neighbourhood, making access easy. The products were also displayed nicely in aisles, making it a vastly different experience from the grocery stores where I used to normally stock up on toiletries and cosmetics.

I still use the store, but only occasionally and only because I am used to shopping at H&G, but the experience is nowhere near as nice as I remember it. For one, the novelty of having products displayed neatly is now gone. Everybody does that. Also, I invariably don’t find at least one item on my shopping list in H&G.

The biggest problem though, is the service provided in H&G. This is what I have observed:

  1. There are too many salespeople in each store. The aisles are quite narrow in the stores and when they are filled up with so many salespeople, it is difficult to move around.
  2. The salespeople just stand around gossiping the whole time. Possibly because there are usually fewer customers than salespeople and most of them have nothing to keep them occupied.
  3. I can never expect anyone to actually help me purchase a product. For instance, when I asked for a sunscreen for combination skin, SPF 20 and above, waterproof and to be used in a pool, the salespeople were stumped. The only times when I have actually been helped are when I’ve asked for a specific brand. Alternately I browse the aisles myself.
  4. Sometimes even that does not work. I was once told that a specific brand I was looking for was out of stock, only to find it myself on the shelves when I did a little digging around.
  5. The only people eager to assist a customer are the brand-specific salespeople such as the persons handling Olay or Neutrogena products. That said, these people are eager to the point of being aggressive. Without being asked, I have been subjected to a loud and embarrassing analysis of my skin’s pigmentation levels in an effort to get me to buy a night cream.

I shop at H&G not because of its sales force, but in spite of it.

[This post was written 3 months ago but we recently heard from Anita that she had a much better experience when she recently visited the store. The sales service has improved considerably at H&G; perhaps branded retail outlets are realizing the need for better sales staff and service and investing more towards it. – Editor]

By,

Anita B.

Here are the links to our previous posts on the theme of this month: experience of shopping for premium branded goods in India, for high-street apparel and accessories and for premium cosmetics & skincare products.

>> Coming up next: Jewelry

August 19, 2011 at 4:57 am 2 comments

The experience of shopping for premium branded goods in India

A question for you, dear reader: Have you ever shopped at a top-line apparel or accessories store in India and felt that the exclusive store experience was far from satisfactory?

Our loyal reader, Nafisa, definitely thinks so. She feels that salespersons at these stores often fail to carry through on the expectations from the brand. The manner in which they fell short of her expectations:

  • At the very basic level, lack of adequate knowledge of the product. Unaware or unable to explain the USP, don’t know of competition or how their product is different / better
  • Lack of interest in the overall category which could be  crucial to the brand experience
  • At a service level – lots of aggravation for customer and rarely do they respect customer’s time. No different from cheap brands and stand-alone store
  • A level of disinterest relating to customer concerns
  • Laze / lack of earnestness– no follow up with potential or existing customers. No follow – up or feedback loop when the brand has a website with the requisite options especially for the purpose

Why we think this is important:

In all interactions and transactions in a store, the organisation is presenting itself – or part of itself – to people with whom it either has a relationship or is trying to build one. If it is to be successful, it has to be consistent and clear in what it says and does in all these relationships; in addition, the impression transmitted from all touch points with the consumer must be consistent too, i.e. in-store interactions must match what the brand promises through other media such as TV and print ads, PR etc. In-store experience is a significant component of how people sense the brand and contributes to their perception of it, especially in the premium segment, where part of the reason for the purchase is the image that is being sold, the identity or idea which the consumer buys for himself / herself through the purchase.

Nafisa’s rant on this significant issue prompted us to run this as a theme for a series of blog posts. We’ve been doing some ground-work for this series – visiting retail outlets and making observations, speaking to a few people from the industry to get their opinion on the topic etc. We haven’t restricted our work to apparel and accessories either; we’ve looked at premium brands in a few other categories too. So do keep visiting our blog regularly to know more. Also, we’d love to hear from you about your point of view on the topic, so do write in with your comments, the more detailed, the better.

By,

Nafisa De Figueiredo and the Escape Velocity Team

August 9, 2011 at 5:52 am 23 comments

Older Posts Newer Posts


Recent Posts

Categories

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 5 other followers