Posts tagged ‘Observations’

Segmentation in the apparel e-tailing space

Segmentation in apparel e-commerce brands - one comparative pic A friend who recently purchased some kurtas online made a chance remark about how only certain sites stocked the kind of kurtas that she was looking for and this set me looking through the catalogs of various e-commerce sites.

As the apparel e-tailing space in India has grown and evolved, various brands are consciously segmenting their audience (basis demographic variables, occasion of use etc.) and targeting specific segments ; this is evident from the conversations on their facebook pages, their ads, and of course, the offerings in their online catalogues. Even within a particular type of apparel – for instance, women’s ethnic wear, the styles, colours and prints of salwar-kameez sets or kurtis varies, as do the ages and the demeanour of the models in the pics.

 Zohraa - pic Segmentation in apparel e-commerce brands For instance, consider the salwar-kameez collection of Utsav Fashion and Zohraa. In the case of Utsav Fashions, which started off as an offline store and switched to the online model only when they realised that a significant percentage of their business was coming from NRIs abroad, it is not surprising that the focus is on occasion wear. On the other hand, Zohraa, a relatively young firm whose site started operations during the second half of 2012, recognised the opportunity to differentiate itself in a crowded online market-place and consciously decided to focus on occasion – wear, or as their website expresses it, ‘….. our collection of elegant and opulent occasion wear…. that reflects the sensibilities of the royal wardrobes of the past, while ensuring that the cut and the drape are modern, comfortable and practical for the woman of today.’   

Then consider Jabong, which started operations in January 2012 and is targeting a younger, more westernised demographic. Their youthful and light-hearted – even sometimes irreverent – attitude is displayed in the ‘fashion nikla mann fisla’ series of ads (links to the ads here, here and here). To match this, even the collection of women’s ethnic wear at Jabong is far younger, more casual and breezy, witness the difference between this set of pics and the earlier ones.  

jabong piclime road 








On the other hand, Suchi Mukherjee’s Lime Road, which also started in 2012 seems to be targeting a different demographic and a different usage occasion. Lime Road’s stated identity is as a social commerce site targeted at the modern woman. It seems to carry colours, prints and styles that are just perfect for the young working woman, and sits neatly in the space between Jabong’s breezy casual style and the occasion wear offered by Zohraa and Utsav Fashion.  

If you’ve noticed this in other sectors of the online apparel market, do write us a comment. Meanwhile, we’re looking at other types of apparel and accessories too, and will post on this topic again if something catches our attention.

  • Zenobia

August 28, 2014 at 11:05 am 6 comments

Micro-entrepreneurs and Math

Our last post focussed on literacy levels and the availability of schools in a few focus states. This post is anecdotal in nature and contains some observations about the various ways in which the lack of a quality education hinders micro-entrepreneurs from developing necessary business skills and attaining their full potential ; the next post will share some quantitative data on the quality of education available to children currently.

While interacting with adult learners at the Cream training programmes offered by Tree Society to rural micro-entrepreneurs, I’ve noticed that they struggle with basic math and/or with the application of basic math. Yet, the adults undergoing CREAM training are not illiterate; all of them have attended school for at least a few years, most are 10th or 12th pass, and some are graduates from a local college.


There are those who know the calculations – can manage division, decimals, percentages etc. – but struggle to apply these in real-life situations.

[  A simple example : The owner of a small business may know what percentage is and even how to convert a percentage to a value; i.e. he knows that 10% of 200 = 20

But he may struggle when faced with a question in words. ‘A business sold goods worth Rs. 4000 this month. It expects a 10% increase in sale value next month. What will be the value of total sales next month ?’ ]

I have also noticed another phenomenon – even when they learn how to apply a formula and use it, any change in the structure of the problem or in the way they need to apply a formula leaves them slightly confused as algebraic manipulation is a skill not taught to them. For example, even if they understand a formula for profitability and its application, they are unable to rearrange and apply the formula to a problem where desired profitability and costs are known, but selling price and revenue are to be calculated.

Then there are some adults who seem to have learnt hardly any Math beyond counting and addition in childhood. They struggle with sums that involve simple division and cannot interpret decimals or fractions correctly. They are fazed by basic calculations such as margin or profit %, growth rate etc. As a result, the micro – businesses they run are inefficient and fail in adopting well-established processes such as setting the right selling price for their product, or estimating the right amount of raw material based on a sales forecast, or making a reasonably accurate sales estimate in the first place. The experience of teaching this set of micro-entrepreneurs made me start wondering about the state of primary education in our country and the implications on the supposed demographic dividend (or liability) for our future.

In fact, as data from Pratham’s ASER survey shows, it’s no surprise that so many of the adult learners struggled with division; even today, only 25% of children in class V can solve a division problem, and this proportion rises to only 46% of students in class VIII (wait for our next post for more information and some interesting infographics on this).

  • Zenobia Driver

May 13, 2014 at 4:47 pm 3 comments

Mine Healthier Than Yours


McVitie’s Digestive Biscuits and Parle Digestive Marie recently came out with ads exposing their competitors and attempting to strongly differentiate themselves amongst the ever-growing list of biscuit options now available to the consumers.

McVitie’s Digestive – What’s inside your biscuit?

McVitie’s Digestive biscuit ad claims that it is the only biscuit in the market that is made up of whole wheat as compared to others that contain refined flour (maida), hence positioning itself as the healthier option even among digestive biscuits which consumers believe are healthier than regular ones. “The commercial elevates the digestive category compared to regular biscuits by honing onto a relevant category truth. The objective is to tell consumers why McVitie’s is better,” said Jayant Kapre, President, United Biscuits.

Parle Digestive – Fat Kum, Fit Zyada

Parle Digestive biscuit ad claims that all other digestive biscuits add a lot of fat to their biscuit to make it taste better, but Parle Digestive has significantly less fat (50%) while still tasting good, making it the healthier option for the consumer.


Criticizing and exposing competitor brands seems to be the common route chosen by the brands. Given that the digestive biscuit segment in India is growing fast owing to increased awareness about improved health and wellbeing amongst consumers as well as the simultaneously increasing affordability, it is getting more and more difficult to differentiate oneself in this “better-for-you” foods segment. So while one claims to be refined flour-free and another with 50% less fat, not only are these biscuits positioned on the digestive health platform, but also trying to occupying significant space in the weight management/ weight loss platforms. So while they are trying to differentiate from one another basis the ingredient, the final health benefit(s) they are offering is the same.

So are they really being successful in this ‘mine healthier than yours’ strategy ? I don’t think so. What do you think? Do share your thoughts.


  • Roshni Jhaveri

October 22, 2013 at 6:39 am 3 comments

Desh mera rangrez hai babu

A few months ago, I was one of the faculty at a programme that imparts training in the basics of business to micro-entrepreneurs from rural areas (CREAM training programmes run by Tree Society). The audience comprised villagers running simple businesses such as a cycle repair shop, furniture making, honey collection and selling, beauty salon (or, as they pronounced it,‘saalun’), barber shops, a wedding decorator, etc. Most of them were between 20 to 30 years old, all but 3 were men.

During one session, we were trying to illustrate the importance of adding product / service features that consumers value the most rather than others, given the ever-present constraints of cost and resources. We’d made our point using several simple examples and the audience seemed to have grasped it too, however they seemed slightly somnolent after a heavy lunch and we wanted to wake them up with before we began the next topic which was math-heavy.

So we decided to use an example of a product that was ubiquitous even in villages and used by everyone, that was feature-heavy, and from a category where the fortunes of companies selling the product had gone through ups and downs. One product fit the bill – a mobile phone. We began by asking the audience to tell us what features they wanted in a mobile phone, and which of those were must-haves and which were nice-to-have. Internet and multimedia were amongst the first few mentioned by the audience, followed by aspects related to how long the phone would last – sturdiness, a warranty, good battery strength etc. Basic features such as call quality, sms etc. were mentioned much later, almost as an afterthought.

What almost every person below 30 in that audience wanted was to be able to access songs and video on his mobile phone; even if they didn’t know how to download them, they knew that they wanted to be able to store and listen to them or watch them. Many didn’t really know exactly what internet and multimedia meant, but they did know that such phones guaranteed them access to songs, clips, pictures and games. Many of these young men already had cheap smartphones, those that didn’t were quite clear that affordability was the only reason for not buying one. In hindsight, maybe I should have expected this given the lack of entertainment options in a village, and that a lot of these people ran businesses where they spent significant amounts of time just waiting for customers to visit their outlet.

This article from the Mint gives the results of a TNS survey on mobile phone usage in various countries across the world ; while the survey was probably carried out in urban centres, it’s worth a look anyway. Listening to music turns out to be the No. 1 activity that Indians engage with on their mobile phones, the next are playing games, sms/text messaging and taking photos / videos, in that order.

Clearly the villagers that I met reflected a widespread trend.

  • Zenobia Driver

September 17, 2013 at 12:47 pm 5 comments

A Placement Puzzle

This week we bring you a fun post, an interesting twist to a well-known sales and marketing funda.

If you’ve read ‘Why we Buy : The Science of Shopping’, Paco Underhill’s classic on the retail environment and how to influence consumers to buy more, you already know a whole lot of interesting facts. You know that products meant for the elderly should not be kept on the lowest shelves as they find it difficult to bend down and pick up products, and sales of these products end up being lower than they ought to be. You’ve also read about the ‘butt-brush’ effect (really apt naming here) – in narrow aisles people get jostled and brush against one another, nobody really likes this and hence they spend less time browsing these aisles and rush out of them as soon as they can. ( If you haven’t read the book yet, do get your hands on it, it’s well-written, fun to read and a lot of what he observes is fairly intuitive and gives the reader a sense of ‘aha, this sounds so logical, why did I not notice this before’.)

You’ve also probably noticed certain products being stocked next to each other or on adjacent shelves at the grocers; for instance, shampoo next to conditioners, moisturisers and face-wash and creams together, all cosmetics together. The logic here is fairly obvious.

So, using that as the base to begin from, here’re two questions for you.

Q1) In some shops in Gujarat, why do shelves stocking a certain brand of fruit juice also have yeast packets stocked ?

Q2) If you look closely, you’ll see that yeast is stocked next to packs of only a certain brand of fruit juice, not all; why is this ?

(Disclaimer : Cannot take credit for working hard and noticing this in the retail environment myself, I heard this at a party this weekend ; am yet to visit Gujarat and verify this for myself, would be glad to hear from any reader who visits or has visited Gujarat too)

And here’s the answer :

Two hints first, so you can try figuring it out yourself. One, Gujarat is a dry state ; two, grape juice, though the answer applies equally to other juices too.

Didn’t get it yet ? Fermented grape juice…wine ! In a dry state, one easy way of making your own alcohol is to buy fruit juice, pour it into a glass bottle, add yeast and wait for it to ferment.

And, to help you out, retailers even keep the juice and the yeast together on the same shelf.

And the answer to the second question is that this doesn’t work with all brands of fruit juice, some have preservatives that kill the action of the yeast. Hence, not all brands of fruit juice have the yeast packets stocked next to them.

[ Additional info courtesy a reader’s comment (Thanks, Rohit). Apparently the grape juice and yeast trick was fairly common during the prohibition era in the U.S. and has been mentioned in this documentary too. Even more interesting is that the write-up mentions that ‘with a wink and a nod, the American grape industry began selling kits of juice concentrate with warnings not to leave them sitting too long or else they could ferment and turn into wine’. Yes indeed, something to really worry about and avoid, I’m sure.]

  • Zenobia Driver

April 25, 2013 at 1:09 pm 4 comments

Masterchef – reflection of reality


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 !


Masterchef Australia:

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.


Masterchef India:

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. 


Masterchef USA:

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’ !


Roshni Jhaveri

March 1, 2012 at 7:00 am 3 comments

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