Posts tagged ‘consumer’

English-Vinglish, and all that jazz

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.

English learning appsNo 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

December 10, 2015 at 1:18 pm Leave a comment

Solving a driver’s investment dilemma – part 2

(Continued from last week’s post)

Mahesh’ employers were really intrigued with this riddle and decided that there had to be a solution out there – after all, this was a situation faced by many people in the same income band as Mahesh. They decided to do a little research of their own and understand the solutions adopted by others – spoke to their maids, the neighbour’s maids, a few colleague’s drivers etc., they also spoke to a jeweler that they knew. They finally came up with a few interesting solutions.

The first suggestion was that Mahesh invest in a gold coin with a small hook on top, one that could be used as the second pendant on any necklace. This would solve the usability problem and ensure that it could be used as jewelry on social occasions. Mahesh’ wife shot down this idea though – she’d seen her mother and grandmother wear such pendants, and felt that such jewelry would look old-fashioned and signal that they lacked the money for buying a prettier pendant.

The second solution, suggested after much research and discussion, was to invest in buying a thin plain gold bangle. As they found out, the least amount of gold is wasted during making a plain gold bangle and the labour charges / making charges are proportionately lower than that for other forms of jewelry, hence the price charged is mostly the price of the gold. Thus you get good value for the money you pay, and the bangle is a piece of jewelry that can be proudly worn at social occasions, multiple bangles neither detract from beauty nor from social status. Also, if you decide to remake a plain gold bangle at a later stage, you don’t lose much since making charges were low and most of the value of the gold is retained.

While this solution sounded attractive, they realized that it was workable only for a much higher income group. With Mahesh’ savings, a gold bangle that he could afford would be such a thin strand of gold that it would not retain its shape and would get deformed easily, and then it’s utility as jewelry would drop drastically. So that sounded the death knell for the gold bangle option.

A solution was finally discovered via Suganthi, a neighbour’s maid. Suganthi’s household income was the same as that of Mahesh, and Suganthi’s family lived in a chawl quite close to the one in which Mahesh lived. Every year, Suganthi bought a 1 gm plain gold ring from a small jeweler nearby – the ring was small and affordable, and could be used as jewelry. After buying such rings for a few years, Suganthi would return to the same jeweler and use the rings to get a pair of bangles or some other jewelry made. She had no worries about the purity of the gold in the rings as she would be returning to the same jeweler to get the bangles made.

Viola ! A neat solution indeed.

 

  • Zenobia Driver

 

 

 

October 16, 2012 at 5:56 am 2 comments

Solving a driver’s investment dilemma – part 1

A friend’s driver, let’s call him Mahesh, was thinking seriously about how to invest his limited monthly savings wisely. Among the options he was considering were fixed deposits in banks, savings deposits in banks, a local chit fund, an insurance policy, and like all Indians, purchase of gold. He was quite firm that at least a part of his savings, if not most of it, would go into buying gold each year; he had a young daughter and was already thinking ahead to her marriage and the jewelry required, plus he knew that gold prices only went up over time and it was a good safeguard against inflation. His parents, his neighbours, his friends, all said so, and community wisdom accumulated over several years couldn’t be wrong.

As Dhanteras was approaching, he’d started thinking seriously of purchasing some gold this year. He had some concerns about buying gold though, primary among these the fear of being cheated on the promised gold quality by the shop he bought it from. For this reason, his wife and he had both spoken to neighbours and family members that had bought jewelry over the last few years to find out which jewelry shops could be trusted.

Secondly, he didn’t want to buy jewelry that would be out of fashion when his precious daughter grew up and have to be melted down and remade with all the attendant tension of low quality gold – or worse still, copper – being added to it. To add to these, gold necklaces were not cheap and he wasn’t sure that even his annual savings would add up to one. Most of the jewelry shops that allowed a customer to pay for jewelry in monthly installments offered schemes of 3-6 months, wherein the monthly EMI would be Rs. 1000-Rs. 1500 for just simple earrings, even this was too much for him to bear.

Stuck in a quandary, he decided to discuss this matter with his employers – perhaps he was even hoping for a small loan in addition to their advice. His employers felt that the chit fund option was the worst among those that he was considering and wanted to ensure that he stayed away from that; they understood his hunger for gold and all it represented – a hedge against inflation, a signifier of status, prosperity etc. They were against giving him a loan too often; finally they mentioned to him the option of buying gold coins; he could buy a coin of whatever weight suited his budget, 2gm, 5 gm, 10 gm etc. If he bought ones with the BIS stamp on them, he could be assured of quality. And they’d appreciate in price like gold jewelry, could be sold or pawned in emergencies if need be, and could be melted down to make jewelry for his daughter when the appropriate time came. They were quite sure that this would be a good solution to his dilemma. But little did they know the intricacies of human behavior and all the attitudes, beliefs, and environmental factors – often tangential ones – that influence it.

Though this seemed a solution to his problems, he baulked at the idea.

“I will buy gold coins once I’ve bought enough jewelry; kuchh pehenne ke liye bhi hona chahiye naa (there should be something to wear too)”

To him the utility of gold coins was much lower than that of gold jewelry, as jewelry could be worn by his wife and daughter at various social functions over the years and hence had a utility value – in terms of adornment as well as signaling status – and an investment value. And he couldn’t think of what to do with the gold coins until it was time to sell them or melt them and remake into jewelry ? And wasn’t the latter a huge headache that was better avoided ?

How did his employers help him find a solution to his problems ? And they did find a really neat solution – one that addressed all his concerns and was affordable. We’ll reveal their solution to you next week; until then, do let us know if you have any thoughts or ideas that we could pass on to Mahesh.

  • Zenobia Driver

October 9, 2012 at 8:09 am 4 comments

Crowdsourcing

The dictionary definition of Crowdsourcing: the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people and especially from the online community rather than from traditional employees or suppliers.

Its advantages are numerous – access to a larger talent pool, lower cost barriers, new, innovative, out-of-the box ideas and content generation, consumer engagement opportunity and the chance to really understand what the consumer wants. Of course this has been facilitated by technological advances and the Internet.

Crowdsourcing is a recent phenomenon in India. Here are a few examples of successful crowdsourcing initiatives:

LAYS – Frito Lays ran a campaign called “Give Us You Dillicious Flavorduring the past year, asking consumers to suggest flavors for their potato wafers. They ran a nationwide contest and gathered over 1.35 million entries! Four flavors were shortlisted, then piloted across India for two months; this was when a promotion with the theme “Bachega Sirf Tastiest” (Survival of the tastiest) was run to seek consumer votes to decide which flavor continues to stay in the market (and who takes home the Rs.50 lakh prize and 1% sales revenue). The second phase of the campaign garnered over 4 million votes.

Traditional media, including TV, was used for supporting and driving consumers to the digital platform. Lays used Web 2.0 applications like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter extensively for its campaigns.

MAGGI – From a lonesome hostel-living student’s sustenance to a child’s evening snack to a trekkers reprieve from hunger, Nestle’s Maggi Noodles has, over time, been a part of everyone’s life. Maggi asked its loyalists to send in their favorite Maggi stories and their favorite Maggi recipes.

The latest Maggi ads are a series of short stories, showcasing consumers’ memories of Maggi. For instance, friends remember splitting Maggi after measuring it with a ruler; scouts members remember eating Maggi at a camp; while another person remembers serving Maggi when people were stuck in the Mumbai floods (Click here to view montage). The ad concludes with consumers being invited to share their own Maggi story, through which they can get a chance to feature on the Maggi packs or ads. The campaign generated over 30,000 stories, some of which were used to generate further ads based on these stories.

Maggi has launched 3 flavors basis the campaign – Trilling Curry, Tricky Tomato and Romantic Capsica.

BINGO – Another example of this is the ITC Bingo Mad Angles online campaign to create print and TV ads for it through an application. Users created 309 print ads and 69 video ads in just a month.

Active engagement is what crowdsourcing is all about. It enables companies to turn brand enthusiasts to loyalists and eventually advocates. It puts the customers first, makes them king and serves them what they really want, how they want it, as they want it. A win-win situation for both.

By,

Roshni Jhaveri

August 3, 2011 at 5:49 am Leave a comment

Health and Wellness – Dealing with the Challenge of ‘Need, but don’t Want’

One common challenge faced by businesses of all hues : unless you can convince people about why they need the benefit a product offers, they will not want it and will not buy it, be it a brand of soap, a pressure cooker, a water purifier or a cosmetic product. In its simplest form, ‘No conviction about need = No desire to buy = No sales’, a scary prospect for any business.

For businesses in the wellness domain in India, this challenge often has an added degree of frustration. There may be a strong physiological need for the product and a long-term quality – of – life benefit to the consumer, yet those that need it most will buy it irregularly or not at all. Examples of such products range from vitamin and mineral supplements to healthy foods and beverages such as low calorie snacks, juices with high fruit content, probiotic curd, etc.

A slightly different form of this scenario plays out in the Healthcare space too. In cases where the impact of an ailment or problem is not immediately felt – for instance, diabetes, high cholesterol or high BP, patients are less likely to spend on medication to keep it under control.

 In comparison to other chronic diseases, diabetes is relatively well understood and there is broad-based agreement in the medical profession about how to manage the disease. Despite this professional knowledge and consensus, diabetes is often poorly managed in practice. Even some patients that have been diagnosed may not want to start using the medication, or may not use it for the required duration, or may consume less than the dose recommended by their doctor. If you don’t believe this, just speak to a few diabetics and check how many of them take all their medication regularly. Or how many check their blood sugar often enough to suit their doctor. And remember that these are patients that have been diagnosed, and are aware of the ailment !

 To find the solution to this problem, we first need to understand the underlying reasons in a bit more detail, but that shall be the subject of the next post on this topic.

By,

Zenobia D. Driver

June 20, 2011 at 5:29 am 2 comments

Limitations of the SEC classification

This article in the Indian Express today mentions a proposal for better  identification  of  the Below Poverty Line (BPL) rural poor. The proposal suggests including classes like destitute, manual scavengers and primitive tribal groups  while excluding those who own telephone landlines, refrigerators, two, three or four-wheelers, tractors, farmers with Rs.50,000 kisan credit limit, those with income of Rs.10,000/month and more.

While discussions around accurate classification of BPL poor (whether urban or rural) are led by economists, sociologists and policy experts, marketers have also been discussing the need for an accurate scale that captures spending power (of various socioeconomic groups) and consumption trends. For instance, a leading marketer such as Rama Bijapurkar has mentioned here the need to calibrate the current SEC classification with respect to asset ownership.

But, let me give some background first…

Socio Economic Classification (SEC) is a common parameter used by businesses to understand consumption potential in the Indian population. The urban SEC classification is a combination of education level and occupation of the chief wage earner of the household. According to this system, the urban Indian households are split across SEC A1, A2, B1, B2, C, D, E1 and E2.

SEC Classification Grid

Although this parameter is very commonly used, it has its drawbacks. One of the fundamental drawbacks is – since the classification is based on education and occupation level only, it misses out on the fact that income levels within an SEC can be quite disparate. The grid simply assumes that higher education and better occupation leads to higher income and thus higher consuming potential, but this may not always be the case.

Take the case of a shop owner with only primary education (classified as SEC D) who may be earning more than a graduate junior executive (classified as SEC A2); therefore the shop owner may have the potential for higher consumption, despite being categorized into a much lower SEC.

The chart below clearly illustrates how the standard SEC grid misses out on the fact that income levels within an SEC can be quite disparate. This is especially true of SEC A, and to a lesser extent, of SEC B. While there is a fairly large chunk of SEC A (34%) that earns less than Rs.3 lakh annually, the rest is composed of fairly thin slices of varying income levels. The richest slice, 16% of SEC A that earns over Rs.15 lakh per annum comprises of people of widely divergent income levels and very different purchasing power and consumption trends.

Source: Indicus Analytics

Therefore, SEC is too simplistic a classification and cannot be used as a consumer segmentation variable on its own – it needs to be layered with additional defining criteria such as income, asset ownership, etc.

Perhaps this classification did work when India was a uni-dimensional, mass market. But, with growing product offerings, new brands entering the market, more players in the market space, increased consumer involvement in decision making and higher aspirations and needs – the consumer has evolved,  and so should the way of  classifying him/ her.

By,

EV Team

May 19, 2011 at 7:03 am 16 comments

Des Mera – travels through small towns

These are some of the not-so-obvious differences we’ve noticed between metros and smaller towns :

  1. In small towns, family outings are a common means of time-pass, and these outings often consist of visits to temples or to relatives’ houses
  2. Page 3 of TOI local editions show local parties and the pictures have people without make-up on. The teenagers actually look young !
  3. The curtains in the windows of many houses I pass remind me of neighbourhoods I grew up in – often the curtains patterns have broad yellow and blue stripes, with big red flowers or apples in the middle of each stripe; no Fabindia ethnic stuff here – printed stuff in artificial fabrics is aspirational, FabIndia is too plain (and probably too expensive)
  4. Language has a different regional tadkaa (flavour) to it
  5. Front page of TOI has local news occupying as many column inches as news of India-China relations, the 2G scandal etc, unlike Mumbai where local news is in the supplement, if at all. To add to the local flavour of these articles, comments from parties involved are printed verbatim with full flavour of the accent of the region.

 In Varanasi, one of these local interest articles described how villagers in a particular area got tired of power cuts and took matters into their own hands. They raided a power department godown and walked away with a 100 KVA transformer in front of the staff ! Sample this explanation for the act, from a villager called Suresh Nishad, “sahib pure gaon mein sau se zyaada connection ba, phir bhi yihaan batti ki hamesha killat rahat hai (despite the fact that there are around 100 legal connections in our village, there is an acute shortage of power).” Or Shri Shanti Patel’s excuse, ”bhaiya du mahina se batti ke bina bura haal raha aur fasal bhi kharaab hoye jaat hai, par bijli bibhaag wale kuchh nahin karat rahein (the condition was horrible in the absence of electricity for the last two months. Our crops were also getting damaged but the power department was least concerned).”

 As the lyrics of ‘Des Mera’ from ‘Peepli Live’ tell us, “Indiya Sirr yeh cheez dhurandar, rang-rangeela Parjatantar” 

p.s. Someday soon, we’ll write about the basic differences in healthcare attitudes and practises between those living in metros and those in smaller towns.

Till then, why don’t you write in to us, dear reader, and tell us what differences you’ve noticed between metros and small towns.

 By,

Zenobia Driver

February 8, 2011 at 10:22 am Leave a comment


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