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Friday, September 12, 2008

Context is Crucial

Ever wondered, why dish washers failed in India? And why top loading washing machines were suddenly popular in Punjab? The answer lies in the selection of context in either case. Dish washers don’t match Indian lifestyle. Middle class and lower middle class Indians will not like to spend on an expensive product which consumes lot of detergent and electricity.

Rich Indians can afford a home help who can do the cleaning for them. Thus the product doesn’t find a space in their life and hence failed. Where as use of washing machine to churn lassi and curd is an example of customer innovation where they discovered an equally appropriate context for the washing machine and hence triggered a new change. Now there are people in Punjab who sell the lassi making version of washing machine at a friction of its cost.

Introducing a product or service in an appropriate context is very crucial. Especially in India where there is so much diversity and change in customer behaviour moving from city to city one needs to set the context right. In the previous article where Neeraj is talking about free gifts being used to attract customers is another example of getting right context. There are few behavioural contexts around customer buying behaviour which have a direct impact on performance of a product or service in the market. Giving free gifts is capturing the human tendency to always look for an incentive whether it is ‘Sale’ or ‘Free gift’ or ‘20% extra’. But one has to be careful as the idea of ‘Free gift’ might entice a few customers and at the same time might put few others in doubt –“why are they giving a free gift? May be the product is not that good?” So a company needs to careful while contextualizing a particular target audience.
Few other phenomena are ‘Competition’, ‘Exclusivity’ or ‘Personalization’.

Onida TV’s marketing strategy capitalized on the feeling of competition in human beings; where as I-Pod succeeded because of exclusivity Inappropriate context is the reason why Kellogg’s breakfast products took more than a decade to find its way in to the Indian Kitchens and appropriate context helped Nokia mobile phone succeeded very rapidly. Another good example is of ‘Kaya’ chain of skin clinics which was not doing well when initially launched. The reason nehind their failure was that they started as a clinic for people with problem skin. If I will ask you how many around you have a problem skin or how many people consider they have a problem skin. Your answer will be 1 or 2 out of every hundred. Now when Kaya shifted there positioning from problem to “Enhanced skin”, that was when they succeeded and are now an asp rational experience amongst customers. With the idea of enhanced skin every person converted to their target audience where with problem skin it was merely 1-2 %. The reason why “Teach India” is successful because they Indianised “Teach for America” and same goes for ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’ inspired from ‘Who wants to be a millionaire?’ But one should not forget the failure like ‘Kamjor kadi kaun’ inspired from ‘The Weakest Link’ and innumerable Bollywood films inspired from Hollywood movies.
All these examples show how versatile Indian market is and why lot of contextualization is required while making successful businesses in India. With booming economy the stage is all set for many companies to tap Indian potential but they need to understand the dynamic context of Indians and Indian mindset…