If marketers got a penny every time they said India is a unique market, quite unlike the rest, with multiple markets ensconced within a single geography, they would have added another billion to their kitty by now. A possible addendum to that: we not only have our specific requirements but also our own quirky ways of consuming or using products and services.
After all, where else do you see washing machines being used to churn buttermilk in large quantities, breakfast cereal consumed like the traditional evening snack item ‘chivda’ or even ‘bhel’ rather than just that, a breakfast item? Or deodorants used as cheap substitutes of their costlier cousins, perfumes and not for their anti-perspirant qualities that they are actually meant for and even used world over?
Marketers may not always be able to address this quirkiness of Indians. But more often than not, they can alter, adapt, change their products or marketing strategies to suit the needs of the Indian consumers. Or, as an increasing number of companies are choosing to do, listen to the Indian consumers and give them products specifically designed to suit their needs.
Earlier this month, Honda Motorcycles and Scooters India (HMSI) launched its India-specific motorcycle model, Dream Yuga in the mass segment (100-110 cc; priced Rs 44,642) in which it didn’t have any presence in till now. The segment is important for any two-wheeler player to generate volumes as it contributes over 50 per cent to the overall market. By that estimate, if the two-wheeler market stood at 1.34 crore units in 2011-12, the mass segment would be around 67 lakh units. That is almost three times the total sales of Honda in the Indian two-wheeler market last year across segments (21.07-lakh units).
Dream Yuga, is a collaborative effort of Honda R&D India (HRDI; the group’s research and development arm) and HMSI. “The consumer needs and requirements are analysed by our two companies (HRDI and HMSI). Based on this, the HRDI then works closely with our R&D team in Japan to develop our products,” explains Y S Guleria, VP and operating head (sales and marketing), HMSI, who refuses to put a figure to the investment in developing Dream Yuga. But word on the street states that Honda is stepping up its investment in R&D to move from the No. 3 position to that of the market leader currently held by Hero Group, its erstwhile partner. “To compete and outdo Hero, Honda needs to get aggressive in the mass segment. Localising R&D may help them reduce the timeline between development and launch as well as understand consumer needs and respond to them better,” says an industry player.
Mind you HMSI does have a fighting chance. Bajaj Auto, the country’s second-largest two-wheeler manufacturer, lost its No. 2 position to HMSI in March, but reclaimed the spot in April. That’s just a minor irritant: HMSI feels it has a finger on the pulse of the market. Says Guleria, “The basic needs of a mass segment consumer remain constant — mileage, comfort while commuting, low maintenance. But we also noticed that even within this segment there are aspirational needs.”
Now look in a completely new direction.
It is no secret that healthcare costs in India are skyrocketing and few can afford the expensive drugs, tests and hospital visits. Diagnostic technologies are mostly imported in India, making them expensive as well as unsuitable in some cases as they are designed to address the needs of developed markets. “They are high technology and sometimes large foot print,” says a GE Healthcare (GEHC) spokesperson, explaining the need for India-specific diagnostic technologies.
The spokesperson says, currently in India, over 70 per cent population is being covered by 30 per cent trained medical practitioners. The rest, 30 per cent population, is served by the remaining chunk of medical professionals, leaving much to be desired and a huge opportunity as well. The low cost technological innovations are being shipped out globally, to the developed countries as well by GEHC.
GEHC spotted this opportunity early on, starting its R&D operations in India in 2009. It has committed an average investment of $50 million in R&D in India every year. The company has about 1,200 dedicated engineers and scientists working on innovating healthcare solutions. The target: to bring out 100 in-India, for-India solutions by 2020 to meet the country’s healthcare needs.
Some of these in-India, for-India products by GEHC include the Lullaby Phototherapy system for the treatment of new born babies, the Lullaby Baby Warmer, portable ECG devices and so on.
Each country has its own culture and each culture its own requirements, own daily routines and lifestyles. Home appliances need to address these variations to be of some applicability in the consumer’s life. “Marketing global products without altering them to suit the Indian consumer’s needs is not enough. They will not fulfill his needs,” says Y V Verma, director, home appliances, LG India.
Hence, with an initial investment of around Rs 80 crore LG India started the concept of Indian Insight Products in 2009. Since then the company has introduced products based on Indian insights across categories, with the number currently standing at 27. The company earmarks a specific investment for this endeavour each year, the current commitment being Rs 27 crore for 2012. “We do robust consumer surveys and studies to understand current and future trends. We conduct surveys to exactly learn more about people’s expectations from our products. We also keep a close tab on the changing lifestyle trends as well. This helps us develop a product concept. These concepts are then brainstormed on by HQ lifestyle and Indian R&D people,” elaborates Verma.
The products may not be designed from scratch. They may instead be tweaked to include features to suit local needs. As for the challenges, the biggest would be the difficulty faced by any player in meeting the specific regional demands of a country as diverse as India. Products are therefore designed to address the common ground. Their markets grow as these products find acceptance in countries with cultures and lifestyles similar to India like in West Asia, Africa and some parts of Sri Lanka.
Another automaker vying for the Indian pie by seducing us with a for-you-only stance is Hyundai with its model, Eon, “specifically built keeping in mind the varied Indian conditions and special requirements of the customers here,” launched in October last year.
As with all other sectors and companies, the reasons for developing a model specific to India stay the same — the Indian consumer’s our unique preferences, the vast population that makes for a market second to only China in size and the rising disposable incomes and aspirations.
“Hyundai Motor Company (HMC), South Korea, has put great emphasis on R&D and its commitment to bringing innovative products. HMC’s Namyang R&D centre worked closely with the Indian R&D unit in Hyderabad to develop Eon in order to meet the needs of customers in India. More than 1,000 Hyundai R&D staff members (Korean and Indian) devoted four years to capture the needs of Indian consumers. The development cost for Eon has been approximately Rs 900 crore,” says Arvind Saxena, director, marketing and sales, Hyundai Motor India.
With the Eon selling a total of 70,000 units (in India plus exports to around 20 countries) till date and an average sale price of Rs 3.5 lakh, the company has already made sales worth Rs 2,450 crore in under eight months.
Talking about the product’s development, Saxena says, “The challenges was to create a car which is affordable yet appealing to the Indian design and styling sensibilities, and tailored to fit the local climate, road conditions and culture.”
The consumer goods market has also caught the made-for-India-in-India virus. Take L’Oreal India. Just sometime back, this cosmetic major was struggling to make a mark in the Indian eye makeup market. “Globally, the eye makeup market is defined by mascara.
That is not the case in India where kaajal is much bigger, seeped into the Indian psyche,” says Satyaki Ghosh, director (consumer products division), L’Oreal India.
To crack this market, the company therefore went back to its laboratories in Paris seeking a formulation for kaajal that is smudge proof and can be applied on the lower waterline. The reluctance was natural as globally there wasn’t another market that could have absorbed the product. And yet, today Ghosh considers Maybelline Colossal Kaajal one of L’Oreal India’s biggest success stories and the company is even contemplating other markets like Morocco, West Asia and Pakistan with an appetite for the product.
Then there’s the mobile handset maker, Research In Motion (RIM), BlackBerry’s parent. It recently launched a for-India model, Curve 9220, aimed at the youth, priced a little over Rs 10,000. “In the last couple of years, there has been tremendous growth in consumer devices in India and most of it has come from the youth,” says Krishnadeep Baruah, director, marketing, RIM India. “It has therefore become critical to offer relevant products to this segment.”
And since this group is synonymous with high usage of social media and the BlackBerry messenger (BBM), the company introduced a special button dedicated to the BBM. Of course, the hygiene factors are all there — the FM radio and the youthful colours like pink over and above the run of the mill.
Though developed for India, the product has been launched in other countries too. Baruah says that is the key challenge for a global player like RIM: to develop a product with features that can find applicability in other markets as well.
In stating this challenge, Baruah has quite succinctly summed up the dilemma of every marketer looking at an India-only product. But then, most find solace in the fact that such products do find resonance in neighbouring countries as well as fellow Asian nations, even in some Latin American ones like Brazil and Mexico, especially if you are looking to ride your two-wheeler beyond India’s borders.