Wednesday, January 03, 2007


The Great indian 'Panwallah'!

The Pan-wallah and Consumer Greed

Q: Bangalore has changed its name to Bengaluru. And so did Calcutta to Kolkata, and Bombay to Mumbai . Have these changes really made a difference to the lives of people?

-Ramnath Pebbula, Godavarikhani

Ramnath, why forget Madras to Chennai?

I agree with ''Sheakespearu' on this count! What's in a name?

Name changes have not meant anything more than just mere semantic exercises that have catered to short-term needs of the political classes.

Each of these exercises have been exercises to act as an opiate for the
masses. If you can't give the people better roads, better habitation, a
better standard of living, better medicare facilities, better education,
never mind. Give them a name-change.....and they will keep talking about it
for a while.

Name change exercises are at best Marie-Antoinette-esque. If they can't eat
bread, let them eat cake!

Q: The luxury brands market in India is new. How does one look at this category? What is the best way to approach strategy here?

-Sevanti Narayanan, Chennai

Sevanti, the luxury brands market is currently a niche sitting right atop the pyramid of consumption. This niche is largely resident in the 8 big megapolises of the country. These brands are however spread across categories and sit in the
category of ready-to-wear brands, accessories, auto, mobile phones,
crystals, leather accessories, food and beverage, and literally every realm
there is to occupy.

Today, one key issue to remember is that the luxury goods market is
essentially all about pedigree. It is about where the luxury good was made.
The imported brand therefore reigns in this realm, never mind the category.

The marketer at large is sitting at the right point of time in the evolution
of the Indian market for such goods and services. These are good times as
consumption and consumptive behavior is at a peak in the 8 megapolises in

The heightened consumption is actually fuelled on by the new prosperity seen
in the economy at large. This is about the boom in stock markets, good
monsoons all around, the surge of the e-word, with ITES and IT in the lead,
and most certainly from what we see happening to real estate prices.

In such a prosperous time, the marketer needs to feed the greed syndrome.
This is the time to build allure and appetite for brands. The eat more
premium brands and drink more premium brands ethos is the one at play.
Marketers fuel this on and benefit.

In this early entry stage of the market, building exclusivity and building
the aura of the brand-candy on hand is the need. The strategy at this point
of time is well nigh a short term appetite building tactic even!

Q: The pan-shop is one point of retail that has plenty of potential. What is the opportunity here for Indian retail?

-Pradeep Rawat, New Delhi

Pradeep, the Pan-wallah is a very indigenous development. Few countries can boast of a network of such outlets in the world today. The point is simple. For every small grocery 'kirana' outlet that you have, there are at least 3 small
pan-wallahs running a micro-business in the same vicinity.

These businesses have emerged to cater to the specific wants and needs of
consumers who seem to seek out what I call the" immediate-consumption
product". In most cases, such immediate consumption products are not stocked
by the small 'kirana' grocery, as the customer profile that comes in for such
products is not desired to be entertained by the grocer who gets the bread
and butter of his business from the house-wife at large. Most of these
grocers don't want smokers and pan-chewing folk hanging around in their
stores, ogling at the women folk in their shop.

In reaction to this need, has emerged the pan-wallah. He stocks immediate
consumption products largely. Items such as the bidi, the cigarette,
'tambaku', pan, packed items of each of these, match-boxes, and such allied

These pan-wallahs offer an opportunity to marketers at large fundamentally
due to their ubiquity, their small size of space occupied, particularly in
high-real-estate-cost metros, and also due to the fact that they are at the
consumers' arms-length and desires-length reach.

Cigarette companies, manufacturers of match-boxes, bidis, tobacco products,
and such are the traditional marketers who have sought width of distribution
reach for their products through these outlets.

The newer product categories that are exploring these outlets for enhanced
reach is the telecom top-up-card selling business and certainly many an FMCG
company looking for penetration and width of volume for their small sachet
pack-sizes. The pan-wallah is today stacking the shampoo and 'Shikakai' alike
in small easy to dispense low-unit packs.

For marketers who have depended on the traditional chain of 'kiranas', this is
an additional reach-providing alternative.

>1. How are the non-conventional categories of products/services deploying the tools of
>marketing and branding?

-RT Jayakumar, Mumbai

Jay, branding is important to every category, traditional or non-traditional. Eventually, every category understands the need for branding.

All categories commence focusing on the aspect of production. Good production practices and good quality and hygiene parameters. Once that is achieved, everyone realizes that this is 'parri passu' business. This is when organizations commence to focus on selling what is produced. Here the focus is on developing selling skills that are distinct.

Even selling reaches a 'parri passu' status. It is at this point of time every manufacturer, traditional or non-traditional focuses on reducing the cost of the output. Cost management is in focus. When this reaches a 'parri passu' status as well, one focuses on branding, the skill and art that helps position one product different from another, and one output distinct from another.

All categories therefore discover the importance of branding. It is only a matter of time. FMCG as a category discovers it first, banking and finance is discovering it now, and technology will discover it in time. Point however rests, that branding is all important. You can't live without it. At least you can't thrive without it.

Non conventional categories such as banking, financial instruments, technology and indeed Medicare and every service there is, is using branding to advantage today. Two financial instruments may vary very little in their fundamentals, but the same very a lot in their brand imagery. This imagery brings in the mega bucks.

Why do you bank with an ICICI and not a Ramput Cooperative Bank?


Harish Bijoor is a business strategy specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.



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