Sunday, December 26, 2010

 

Urban, rural and more....

The Urban-Rural Chasm

By Harish Bijoor


Q: The urban-rural debate is a forever debate. Do you see this changing as we work towards Inclusive marketing as the basic ethos of all marketing?

-Raghu Y Reddy, Mumbai

A: Raghu, inclusive marketing is a far way dream as of now. Today is the day and age when exclusive marketing has hijacked all semblance of inclusiveness altogether.

Ever since independence, India has witnessed a creeping and crawling phase where masses of people have morphed from mindsets and consumption sets that were rural to mindsets, which are more aggressively urban. The marketer at large has been responsible for this. The movement that was a crawl became a literal gallop in the early and mid-eighties when Television knitted the nation as one, pumping urban imageries of the modern marketing man in India to rural audiences. Television and all the advertising it carried threw up and pushed down rural throats and stomachs and bladders the urban way of life. In more ways than one, India became an Instant urban society.

This I do believe is an un-doing. An un-doing that needs to be corrected. In many ways marketing is a hegemony in India. The urban-educated and privileged marketer markets to the rural person. Never mind that rural is three times bigger than urban. The imagery that consumers emote with in India today is the urban imagery.

Turn turtle this and emote with real India. Emote with the imagery that is rural. Put a program that is rural in your marketing mix. Go one step further and show your archetypical brand hero in your TV commercials to be the rural person. See what it does. I do believe India is ready to turn-turtle its marketing imagery. The BOP market will admire this. And will certainly reward this effort. With market share. And money. And more than that, consumer affection.

The road ahead for the Inclusive India agenda is an exciting one. Tread it with strategy. But start treading it for sure. The marketer as of today is just talking about it as of now. Nothing meaty to report from here.
Q: Do family controlled companies believe in brands at all? I ask this with a latent frustration in my heart. I work for one.
-Name withheld on request, Delhi



Dear NWOHR, Most family controlled brands in India have typically depended on family names, surnames, pre-fixes, suffixes and acronyms that represent the family in some way or the other. Therefore there has always been the Tatas, the Firodias, the Birlas, the Bajajs, the Murugappas and more.

In the beginning the family name was used as an identification device of origin. Therefore if a business was started by a Bajaj, so be it, the family name would stick. Later, as the days went by, and as these very quality oriented Indian businesses built up empires from scratch, these family names came to be viewed as reputations in themselves. To that extent, the brand is defined as a reputation as well. These family brand names created, nurtured, protected and consolidated upon those reputations. Therefore, in many ways family brands in India understood the value of a brand much before the science of brand management as postulated by the Gurus of the west came into India in a formal manner even.

Over a period of time, the effort of all these groups has been to dissociate the family moorings of the brand name and distance many of their enterprises from the narrow trap of family. However, it is pertinent to understand that despite very effort to make the consumer forget the moorings of family, these names evoke family and the values represented by these families in terms of manufacturing ethos, quality standards, reliability, trust and more.

Family controlled companies in India are certainly warming up to the idea of the brand. The brand is seen to be something enduring, durable and something that is perpetually adding value to the enterprise. There is therefore a big effort to carefully re-define what these brands stand for and deliver. Companies are putting energy and enthusiasm behind this effort. The brand name is no longer a cost-center side of business. It IS the profit center!

Make the family-controlled enterprise understand this, and you and your company are in for good surprises ahead.

Q: I am a jeweler in a buoyant market. What does one look forward to ahead?
- Jai Seth, Mumbai

A: Jai, these are good days and bad. Together. Good days as there is prosperity around. Prosperity is back and we are out of the clutch of the cautionary recession consumers had gotten into during the last two festive seasons. The bad news form the consumer end is that the commodity price of gold is up. Metals seem to be at a different level of pricing today. And consumers will be cautious.

A jeweler needs to keep the mood gung-ho. The need is for exciting design. The market is very fast morphing from a functional gold oriented market to a design oriented one. Our consumers are still weight-oriented, but the eye for design is become more broad-spectrum oriented. Western designs are being welcomed for the first time, albeit in heavier models. Gold is still 70 per cent investment and 30 per cent cosmetic in India. A design besotted marketing plan will work. Jewelers need to sort out the inherent issues of integrity and credibility as well. Weight and quality guarantees still work in the market and a Carat-meter led strategy will always work in this era of high gold prices!
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Harish Bijoor is a business strategy specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.
Email: askharishbijoor@gmail.com

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