Posts tagged ‘anecdote’
Read this article about the English Dost app via a friend’s Facebook feed and was reminded of a few incidents that I’ve witnessed during the last year.
On the day a friend left Mumbai for Singapore, among those who visited her house to say goodbye was her maid. The maid had brought her adolescent children along too, and I was amazed at the difference between the maid and her children. Had the mother not introduced me to her daughter, I’d never have guessed how closely they were related; the maid seemed like someone one step away from the ancestral village, while the daughter seemed a native of a big city.
While the mother wears a sari, cannot speak much English and is rather diffident, her daughter prefers jeans and a shirt, speaks good English and is much more confident. While the mother is uneducated, she’s ensured that her daughter got a school education and learnt English, and encourages her to attend college; even though the young girl has to hold down a part-time job in order to meet her education expenses at college ,she’s determined to obtain a college degree that will get her a better job than her mother’s and a brighter future.
A few months later, I was at Bodh Gaya for the sales and marketing module of a Cream training program. The participants comprised micro-entrepreneurs from villages in Gaya and Muzzaffarpur district of Bihar. They could speak some English, but not much ; hence classroom sessions were conducted in both English and Hindi, with constant translation of any English sentence by an interpreter. All our training material (slides , hand-outs, question papers) had also been translated into Hindi for the benefit of the participants. Yet we witnessed an amazing zeal to learn new English words that pertained to their businesses, as if they saw these words as currency for garnering status in the eyes of their peers (remember that these were all rural micro-entrep[reneurs). There were participants who’d stop us mid-sentence and ask us to spell out ‘negotiation’, ‘consumer’ etc. and earnestly write down the English word in their notebooks.
No wonder there’s such a huge market for English learning apps and so many of them available now. There’re generic apps like Busuu through which anyone can learn English ( or another of a set of languages) by having conversations with native speakers of that language. There’re English Dost and enguru, both of which use a game with real-life situations to help users learn English, these seem to target those joining the corporate sector in junior management roles. English Seekho by IMImobile and IL&FS Education & Technology Services limited target a very different audience – junior level clerks, traders, unskilled laborers, frontline staff, taxi drivers, restaurant waiters etc. There’s also the British Council site that has several English learning apps, podcasts etc., and even an app to help Taxi drivers learn English to communicate better with their customers ! Clearly there’s a ton of demand from a large number of segments.
- Zenobia Driver
My five year old nephew was chatting with me during a journey once, bubbling over with curiosity and a million questions about everything. Instead of entertaining myself by warping his mind with made-up answers the way Calvin’s dad does (for examples, see this link), I tried to answer his questions as simply and logically as possible. However, reality is often stranger than fiction, and some answers related to geography and astronomy sounded far-fetched to him. So the young man turned his gimlet eyed gaze on me and warned me, “Are you really sure ? Don’t lie, ok. We can go home, open the laptop and check on googil too.” Once kids relied on older and wiser ones for information, now we’re redundant since there’s good ol’ googil.
Another young 3 year old – a friend’s son, gave me the next anecdote for this blogpost. He gets confused reading books because once he’s done reading the page he swipes his finger across to get to the next page – the way he’s used to doing with pics on the iphone; needless to say, that doesn’t work at all with a book and it leaves him confused, frustrated and cranky.
While on the topic of young ones and technology, there’s an interesting anecdote in this blogpost – as an aside, you should follow the link and read the whole post, interesting example of communication going awry due to incorrect assumptions. The comments on that post are also worth reading.
But I digress, the anecdote follows :
Setting, San Francisco, where some friends recently told me how their five year old went up to a framed picture in their living room and started pinching at it with his fingers, the exact same gestures one would use on an iPhone to zoom in and out of a picture. “Broken, broken” is all the five year old said after that disappointing experience.
How much and in how little time technology is changing the reading and viewing habits of this generation of toddlers ! Paraphrasing the headline of this Forbes article, does this change herald just the death of print or will it also eventually lead to the death of reading too ? I fear that it may be the latter. What’s your point of view ?
- Zenobia Driver
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.
On a recent trip to Kolkata, my mom and I walked into a fabric store. While we were browsing through thaans and thaans of very interesting fabric, we gloated in our discovery of this treasure chest of fabrics – there are fabric stores and then there was this. Very differently treated fabrics, lovely embroidered fabrics, fabrics with intricate cut-work, fabrics in very en vogue colors – something not so common to find.
As my mom and I discussed what we’d do with a lovely shaded peach georgette appliqued fabric – the store owner approached us with a potential design. I was surprised, taken-aback, impressed and saddened – all together. I was surprised because he came up to us with a beautiful image of an outfit made from the same (or similar-looking) fabric. I was taken-aback, because the design he showed us was an original Gaurav Gupta outfit from one of the recent fashion weeks, I recognized it from the distinct style of buttons he uses. What impressed me was – he showed us this set of images on his i-Pad! On further exploring, I realized he had pictures of entire collections from the last 4-5 years of fashion shows of all leading Indian designers – he had everyone from Sabyasachi to Tarun Tahiliani to Manish Arora. Just ask for the collection, browse the images, point out the one you like and voila! – He has the exact fabric to be able to replicate the outfit, all in a few thousand rupees. And if he doesn’t have it – he offers to create that fabric for you within 30 days!
This got me very curious – and I started observing the people shopping there. I soon realized that it was not just this store that was thriving on the knock-offs, he was just the provider of the raw-material. There were housewife-turned-“boutique owners” who seemed to have been sitting in the store for a few hours now, with thaans of fabric strewn around them – picking and choosing to assemble an outfit “inspired” from the greats!
I always knew this was happening – but experiencing this store and the shoppers made me realize how this undercover parallel industry is thriving on the glamorous, controversial, larger than-life, fashion industry.
Observed another example of the same nonchalant attitude towards ‘inspiration’ while we were researching sales experiences at jewelry stores a few months ago. We walked into a small independent jewelry store in Mumbai and started chatting with the owner about a pair of earrings we’d liked – he proudly claimed “this is a copy of Chopard design… that’s why it’s so unique”. Sounds to me like an oxymoron – sure it was meant to be unique when the team at Chopard made it, but now that several jewelers like himself must have copied it – it neither remains special for the original owner neither does it remain unique.
A similar thing is happening in the slums of Dharavi in Mumbai. A drive along the slow-moving, traffic-packed road along the leather shops in Dharavi – I have had sightings of the entire gamut of luxury handbags and belts ranging from Marc Jacobs, Prada, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Chanel and even the iconic Hermes Birkin! These people have caught on to the identifying elements of each of these brands and improvised. For example: they have identified the rectangular gold Marc Jacobs plaque, the triangular Prada tag, the Gucci stripe, the Louis Vuitton checks, the classic Chanel padded criss-cross pattern and the leather and metal chain strap; and created knock-off leather accessories using these distinct elements. The irony of the situation is that most people shopping here are so far removed from the original brands, that they wouldn’t even know that what they are buying are knock-offs.
This brought home to me the growing demand for all-things “designer” – even amongst people that cannot afford true designer merchandise and the cottage industry that has risen to satisfy this demand. Seems like the growth in the luxury goods market has been accompanied by growth in the industry of counterfeiting, right in its shadows.
The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak – part 3
These were the questions we’d posed at the end of our first post in this series :
Why do most people fall short of their intentions? Do they try and then give up, or not even try? What do they do in order to stay healthy?
This post explores the answers to these questions.
Most people fall short of their intentions for one key reason – ‘the man~ana factor’. ‘Man~ana’ is Spanish for an indefinite time in the future, tomorrow or sometime later; ‘the man~ana factor’ is our term for procrastination, an attitude described with a lot of wit and a fair bit of accuracy in a popular song from decades ago with the refrain ‘man~ana is soon enough for me’.
While they are aware of long-term health problems and maintaining good health is important to them, most people don’t see it as a key problem for themselves; a previous post titled ‘everybody says I’m fine’ had described this attitude. Hence, while they intend to do something about it, it isn’t critical except when they are feeling unwell. As a respondent pithily expressed the fact that practising healthy habits is limited to when one feels unwell,“takleef gayi tho buri aadatein shuru”. Now add to this the fact that time is a commodity in short supply in everyone’s lives, and you know why intent doesn’t translate into action very often.
The people that do exercise regularly are of two types. One, those that are extremely health conscious or appearance conscious – this is the sliver of the population we’ve referred to in multiple posts (here and here). In addition, a chunk of this regularly exercising group is those that already have some health problem and need to manage it, for instance, those that have back pain and do yoga regularly, or those that have diabetes and walk every morning. Often, the shock of having and suffering from the ailment is the wake-up call that jolts them from a state of intent to one of action.
Women often exercise even less than men do; one, the belief that housework itself constitutes sufficient exercise and two, a tendency to put anything related to themselves right at the bottom of their list of priorities. Even women that do take care of their health sometimes feel the need to rationalise it as necessary in order to ensure that they can take care of the rest of the family; as one woman expressed it, ‘agar tire hi achhi nahin hai, tho gaadi kaise chalegi?’ (‘if the tyres aren’t in good shape, how will the vehicle run?’). Yoga and walking are the preferred modes of exercise amongst women that do exercise regularly; one wonders whether the reason for the popularity of these two is that neither requires special equipment or surroundings, both of which would mean spending on themselves.
Women either wake up early to do yoga (we’ve actually met women that got up at 4 a.m. in order to do an hour of yoga before their daily chores begin!) or do it in the afternoon. Yes, the spurt in the number of yoga channels such as Baba Ramdev’s has added to the popularity of this mode of exercise. Walking is another popular method, though they often cheat their conscience by accepting hot weather / rainy weather / cold weather, in fact, anything less than perfect weather as an excuse for not stepping out. One exceptional lady we met in Bombay though, solved this problem by deciding not to travel via vehicle to any place that was within 2 hours of home – so she walked to the grocer, walked to work, walked to her children’s school, etc. and this kept her fit as a fiddle.
Given the lack of time to exercise, most people rely more on controlling their diet – or trying to – than on regular exercise. Most people, both men and women, believe that eating fresh home-cooked food is one of the best things to maintain good health; hence being on a healthy diet is something that is not too difficult, except for those that have a job that involves travel. Within this broad framework, housewives also recognise the need for some amount of control, so they try to moderate the amount of rice, sugar, oil, etc. they consume and use for cooking, and to increase the amount of green leafy vegetables and cereals consumed. Sometimes leading to frustrating results; as one lady told us, her husband complained about the amount of oil she used and its effects on his health, but when she made parathas with less oil, he refused to eat them as they weren’t tasty enough ! Her solution, to make the parathas with ‘enough’ oil and then dab them with a paper napkin before serving them so that no oil was visible !
Unlike the belief that they are getting a reasonably healthy diet, most people recognise that they are getting nowhere near the required amount of exercise. Concerns about this cause a heightened awareness of exercise solutions available, and probably an over-stated intention to exercise in order to stay healthy as seen in the survey.
Before ending this post, let me mention that while most people believe that their diet is reasonably healthy, they also believe that they need to tweak it slightly in order to address certain specific health issues. Understanding which health issues these are and creating offerings that address them has been the key to many a successful product launch in the past, and it is only this understanding which can lead to the high growth rates that have been estimated for this sector.
Dominos sure knows what they are talking about.
My husband and I are loyal and very regular customers of Dominos; so much so, that when my husband and I went on a diet and gave up pizzas for about 6 months, their customer care personnel called us to ask why we’d stopped ordering pizzas, if they had done anything wrong, if they could do anything to get us to order pizzas again. A single call – a simple gesture of caring for their customer – and they won us over.
My husband suggested that they include a whole wheat pizza option on their menu – as a healthier alternative. Promptly, the very next month, a pamphlet was delivered at home, talking about the launch of the new whole wheat thin-crust pizza! I’m not saying that the credit goes to my husband for this brilliant addition to their menu, I’m sure they heard this from enough of their customers before they decided to go with it – but this won them pots of brownie points from us. Not only did they introduce the pizza, they also knew who to inform about the same.
This sure got us ordering pizzas once again. We started asking for “less cheese” on the pizzas. The first couple of times we did this, we had to really explain to them what we meant by less cheese – because they weren’t used to hearing it at all. Now, after about 3 months of doing so, “less cheese” and “no cheese” have become standard options to choose from – there’s no hesitation or speck of surprise in the voice of the person taking the order.
That said, these options aren’t offered across all Dominos outlets. They have identified pockets of the city where there is demand for such healthier alternatives, like, the Dominos on Pedder Road in Mumbai has these options but the branch in Prabhadevi, although aware of the offering in other branches, does not have the option themselves. On the other hand, the Dominos in Nagpur hasn’t even heard of this option (I was met with a look of “pizza and whole wheat are oxymorons” when I tried ordering a whole wheat pizza in the Dominos in Nagpur). Smart move – acting locally and how! No added complexity and cost in the form of additional product options unless there is sufficient demand for them. But where sufficient demand exists – Bingo!
In addition, they track their regular customers very closely. And not only do they track them – they also create customized communication material and discount coupons for these customers and mail/ email/ sms regularly to them. In our case, since we always order two thin crust pizzas with a fixed combination of toppings – we receive mailers that have a set of coupons such that they are always applicable for our typical orders. Our friend, an even more regular Dominos customer (he orders from there at least twice a week) has a standard order combination of a thin crust pizza and a pasta dish – the coupons that he receives in the mail are always addressing his typical order pattern. Another friend, who always orders a dessert with his pizzas, gets a bunch of coupons via email with offers for their Tiramisu and Choco-lava cake.
It’s brilliant! A lot of companies do use customer information, but few actually succeed at making the customer feel so special!
They call this their Precision Marketing Program – I say, Well Done!
Need some results to show what this investment and effort into technology and analytics has gotten Dominos? Sales generated solely basis precision marketing efforts account for 30% of total sales.
This strategy is surely Precise!
[Disclaimer : This post deals mainly with one aspect of the shopping experience – interactions with the staff. Also, the list of outlets visited for the purpose of observation is not exhaustive.
Outlets mentioned in these posts will differ widely in terms of pricing, degree of premiumness and image; for the purposes of these blog-posts, we are still tackling all these outlets together.]
The format we will follow is to begin by specifically mentioning those stores/brands that we think were good examples, and then give a few instances (without naming the brand) of those that were average or less than satisfactory.
Classy : Burberry
The sales executives at the Burberry store at Palladium were best-in-class, that’s the reason we choose to call them sales ‘execs’ and not sales ‘assistants’. In terms of presentation, they fit the brand to a ‘T’, poised, stylish and genteel. They were welcoming, knowledgeable about the collection, informative and yet un-intrusive. They encouraged us to look around, were available for assistance if needed, but let us take our time looking at stuff. When asked about a particular type of bag, they were enthusiastic about showing all available models that fit the requirements and described their attributes.
Satisfactory : Zara, Vero Moda and Promod
Promod: The salesperson was aware of what merchandise they had, and readily helped people find the right size etc.
Vero Moda: Though there was only one sales assistant on the floor, she was very efficient and helped multiple people in the store. When asked for help, she promptly found the size that one of our team was looking for and was confident about the fit.
Zara: Though the sales assistants here seemed really busy, rushing about the store folding things, stacking them etc, they were willing to help when approached. They knew the sizes that were available, and walked over to the racks to help find clothes in the required size.
One comment though, we might have felt less hesitant about approaching them for help if they didn’t appear so harried and rushing around.
[Since this survey is not exhaustive, not mentioning a brand in the two sections above need not mean that we were not happy with the salespeople there, we may not have visited the outlet]
Not-so-good, a few examples of what we didn’t like :
- In one store with 4 sales assistants, 3 of them were gossiping at the cash counter, while the fourth was busy combing out her damp hair in the mirror !
- In two stores, the sales assistants did not bother to even say ‘hello’ or offer to help, even when we rifled through merchandise trying to find something – non-intrusive is fine, but this is taking it a bit far. One of these intently stared at the computer at the cash counter and furiously tapped keys every so often, whether checking monthly sales or playing a game on it.
- Often noticed a slight reluctance by sales people to actually approach the racks / shelves, almost as if they were afraid that the area was infected with a contagious disease ! Many seemed satisfied to just point in the general direction of the right rack and tell you that whatever sizes were in stock were on the rack.
- However, we noticed in one of the shops that even the salesperson that didn’t show much initiative in helping us was very enthusiastic about helping someone who had tried on some clothes and needed to find a better fit – she rushed to the racks, picked out clothes, took them over to changing room, waited there while woman changed, examined the outfit on her, gave her opinion, discussed it and then rushed off to find some accessories to match.
Our hypothesis : Even lackadaisical sales staff are enthusiastic about helping potential customers that seem further along the process towards a purchase, and hence contributing to their sales incentive. Hence the inertia to serve a customer until they display strong signs of intention-to-buy such as trying on outfits.
- Another anecdote related to the process of trying on clothes illustrates a different point – store policy often doesn’t take into account how women like to shop, especially in India. Women often shop in groups or pairs, in order to have someone you trust give their opinion of how a particular outfit looks on you; it’s important to allow this pair to interact in or near the trial rooms.
Two of our friends visited one of these outlets; one entered a trial room to try on some clothes. The store prevented the second from standing outside the stall, so the first had to come right out of the trial room and into the store area to show her friend how she looked in the outfit – we’ve all been through this scenario, we may not like it, but we’re used to it, so far, so good.
Now one of the ladies decides to try on a back-zipped dress and needs help zipping it up. But the store won’t allow her friend to enter the trial room stall and zip it up. As per policy, their staff would provide the help needed; which would also be ok, except that the person manning the trial room was a guy !! Especially in India, this scenario just makes no sense at all.
So those are our observations, folks. Overall, we agree with some of Nafisa’s points. The sales experience and interactions at many of these stores could do with improvement.
Grade given by the Escape Velocity team : A few exceptions that surpassed expectations; overall, a B +.
Next stop: Cosmetics & Skincare
Nafisa De Figueiredo and the Escape Velocity Team