Thursday, March 06, 2008


Brand and Product Chess

Edgy-buzzy Gender Stuff

By Harish Bijoor

Q: What is this trend of segmenting products for women and men differently? I am referring to the recent launch of Women’s Horlicks by GSK.

-Mrs. PK Ganapathy, Mumbai

A: Mrs. G, this is just the beginning of a trend. Segmenting products and services by gender is a new trend in the Indian market for now. It is however a trend that signifies that India as a discerning consumer market is just about happening.

The demographics of the Indian market is a supportive fact to this.

Slightly less than half the population is female. Look into the data churned out from the bigger metros of India. The share of working populace between the sexes in the big metros has shifted dramatically over the years. Today, as much as 19 per cent of the women in the big cities work out of home. Of these, 11 per cent find themselves in blue collar jobs.

The out of home culture is hot among women in the big cities in particular. This helps products such as these skewed to the woman on the move.

In many ways these products are a wee bit before their time. Those pushing these early-state products are doing it to appear at the cutting edge of consumer understanding. The ones who do it first will be remembered the most.

At least for a while.

Volumes are absolutely niche. Nevertheless, the image shares these brands enjoy is good. This is differentiation at play. This is edgy buzzy stuff. And women love it! Never mind they may not buy it. They love the fact that some companies are out to pamper them. GSK is one such with its Horlicks offering, as is Kellog’s with its own variant of breakfast cereal.

The marketing idea of gender segmentation of products is all about the differential and differentiated needs of nourishment for different body types as embodied by the two sexes. Women fulfill many roles that men do not. So, create a new solution! Horlicks for women is one such. There will many more that will follow.

Q: If you were to point at one big opportunity area for the marketer of the future, what would it be?

-S K Tripathi, Jaipur

A: Tripathi-ji, when I look at potential categories of relevance for the future, the first thing I pick is the lowest common denominator category of food and beverage. My rationale here is the universal truth that people have bodies. These bodies need sustenance in terms of food and beverage. These are what I call "staple sustenance" categories. They will never go out of fashion.

Further still, when you look at India, we boast of the second largest numbers of bellies and bladders in the world, after China. Our 1.039 Billion population number is a number that craves for these "staple sustenance" categories.

There are opportunities in the realm of food and beverage both at the product and service end. I do believe the opportunity is bigger in the food and beverage service end though.

What’s the key insight here?

Insight: while food is important, the consumption habit of food itself comes a full-circle.

In the beginning, the best food is good old home food. People either tire of eating home food, or alternately find it cumbersome to make. Then, in a progressive society people start eating out. For instance, in Bangkok, the average person eats out 47 times a month versus the 7 times a Mumbaikar eats out a month! This means that the home-kitchen is out of fashion in Bangkok altogether.

And then, when the aspect of health concerns emerge, people tend to want to eat healthier options, such as home food. The ability to procure home food however is the issue here. There are two routes. One is a dabbawalla who will bring your food to work, or the other is a Tiffin service coming to your workplace or even bachelor home from someone else's home. This is the potential of the two streams of the dabbawalla as a service and the Tiffin provider as another service altogether.

The category of the Tiffin provider and the dabba-service is ripe for such a brand play tomorrow. In such a market play, the value of the food is but notional, as it is made at home. The value of the service is a tangible, and a value that can be captured big by the small entrepreneur in this space as well as the corporate valet service which might want to get into this space.

I do believe our society is going to morph faster than Western societies onto the bandwagon of health. The craving for home-food will be big. There will therefore be opportunities in this space. There will be further opportunities to segment the Tiffin offering on the scale of Organic Tiffin’s, Vegetarian Tiffin’s, Eggetarian ones, Hindu Tiffin’s (non-beef), Health Tiffin’s (non sugar and non oil heavy), and a host of such options.

This is going to be big business opportunity for sure.

Q: As more and more foreign origin brands enter the Indian market, what’s the one big reality that Indian brands need to face and battle?

-Josy Paul, Trivandrum

A: Josy, the big reality to face is the game of product chess.

The threat of the MNC product line up in every vertical that your ‘desi’ brand has is a reality today. . This is a game of product chess. Every one of your product has a match out there. You are a black Bishop and his is a White Bishop!

You need to play better chess than he does.

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


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