How marketing to modern man in India is evolving?

The MAN has undergone a transformation. And how!

The passive and apathetic existence of a 1980s MAN, inconspicuous to sundry marketers, has transformed to a very aware and involved MAN in 2016, a hot target for marketers.

Circa 1980: An average middle-class family would be pictured thus – The family comprises of three brothers ranging from ages 50 to 40 years, one a government officer, another a bank officer and the third a lawyer. All three have a comfortable earning and live in their ancestral home along with their aged parents, their respective wives, and their respective 2.5 kids. Children’s ages range from 23 years to 10 years.

The family lives in a simple way, owns few appliances like a mixer-grinder, a few fans, some wrist watches, a couple of two-in-ones and a B/W television set and not to forget the quintessential black telephone which is out of order most of the times. The brothers have two scooters and a car between them, shared as per need.

The men’s daily needs are taken care of very ably by the women in the family. Bigger expenses are always a joint decision. The really important decisions are still deferred to ‘Babuji’ – the patriarch. The three sons have one critical role in this family, though – they are the designated breadwinners of the family. And that is the sum total of their awareness about themselves.

Cut to 2017: Picture a similar family. The three brothers, all successful professionals, live in separate accommodations while the parents continue living in their ancestral home. The wives too, are all professionals and have flourishing careers themselves. The brothers now have 1.66 kids each. The 23-year-old eldest grandson has recently started working and has moved to a bachelor pad closer to his office.

Each of the brothers’ family has a countless number of appliances and electronic gadgets. Most adults have a car each and a few bikes amongst themselves. No one shares their gadgets or appliances or shampoos. At times they don’t even share the same breakfast items – while one enjoys sandwiches, the other wouldn’t give up on his muesli and milk.

Each family member has his/her own choice in almost all product segments, and shopping is accordingly done.

And this is where a very happy scenario for marketers unfolds. Marketers have traditionally considered women as the central and most influential shoppers in the family. But the marketers are really delighted now – they have a whole new segment comprising an equal number of new customers to market to – The MEN!

The MAN of 2016, irrespective of his age, is aware of himself, spares a thought for himself and is spending big bucks all by himself.

This sea-change is a result of many forces interacting with each other. There has been a massive shift in societal roles and norms, earnings are higher, finances are easier, decision makers have changed, spending patterns have altered and time has become the most precious commodity. The media revolution which happened concurrently has also played a crucial role in bringing about this change. The marketers who started to recognize MAN as a separate customer category early on altered their strategies and continue to reap enormous benefits. For example, suddenly it was no longer all right for men to use whichever shampoo was there in the bathroom. If you were a man you had to use a Clinic Plus or a Head & Shoulders – For Men variant or even the Beer shampoo. It also became all right for men to use fairness creams openly and not filch them secretly from their sisters and mothers. Emami Fair & Handsome was the first For Men product to be launched in this category and continues to be a front-runner.

Demographical Strategy – The modern man has no age. In other words, the marketers today have a ready customer in today’s MAN – whatever his age may be. The products he buys change according to his station in life which in turn depends on and varies according to various demographic variables like his age, location, earning capacity, family responsibilities, etc. The bottom line here is that this modern man is – buying.

Today the urban Indian man starts spending very early in life – even before he gets his first pay cheque in fact. He is always in need of something – a vehicle, an accommodation, a few gadgets to show off and his daily needs, wants and desires. Often he alone is the decision maker for most of his spending. As the demographic variables move on in his life, so do his needs, wants and desires. Marketers who do NOT market a one size fits all product to today’s man are doing very well.

Social Strategies – The modern man has in fact handed immense marketing opportunities on a silver platter to marketers.

Firstly, MAN himself has increased his needs and wants exponentially. The family home and family car don’t work for him. He needs his own home and a car now! Online shopping is his new temple and credit cards his best saviors. Only the latest gadgets and gizmos work best for him. And he is in love with the word ‘variety’. Sameness bores him. He is always looking for something different. Each ‘different’ is a marketing opportunity. The more the MAN’s material instinct rears up, the more avenues open up for a marketer to explore to his own advantage.

Secondly, since the turn of the century, there has been a gradual and widely welcome blurring of the traditionally accepted roles of men and women. Just as women are now common in corporate corridors, so are men increasingly seen in kitchens, on post – natal / childcare leaves and are even single parents. A decade ago it would be unimaginable that ‘the’ Shahrukh Khan would agree to buy groceries on TV. But now he is seen happily ordering and receiving his grocery in his kitchen in a TVC.

Today men are also buying so many products – almost always marketed to women – all by themselves – simply because their female counsellor-partners, be it the mother, sister, wife or daughter is too busy to buy or just not available to counsel them. Marketers need to step in on such occasions and help make this bewildered man the right choice.

Targeting the EQ – The 2016 MAN is everywhere. Except perhaps giving birth to a child – nothing else is a woman’s sacrosanct bastion. He is working hard to make a good life. He lets his hair down like crazy. He is health conscious. He makes sure he looks and smells good. The zit on his face worries him as much as the health of his six-pack abs.

He makes himself available – to his wife, parents, girlfriend, children and friends. He is not afraid to show his emotions. He is now buying jewelry all by himself for his wife – a Platinum love band to start his marriage with a solid foundation – an older Amitabh Bachchan is also seen buying a Tanishq necklace surreptitiously to surprise his beloved Jaya. Both are men, huge difference in age but are shown buying jewelry alone. A thought unthinkable a couple of decades ago.

Move over macho man – the metrosexual is here!

He is aware, and he is involved. And he is an equal shopper now. Each emotion he shows is a whole new marketing opportunity for a smart marketer.

The marketer needs to talk to this man. The marketer needs to inform him, educate him and give him choices – he is more than willing to listen, choose carefully and spend. And he spends big…

…For he will settle for nothing but the best.

Photo courtsey: Nivea Men Advertising

E-commerce Boom in India – Will it last?

Recall the days gone by when Indians were introduced to the “Big saving days” or “Cheapest three days of the year” by big retail stores. Consumers were baited by the promise of cheaper everything – from grocery to shoes, from fashion to appliances. But over a period of years these same stores have either vanished or have (been forced to) changed their business model because of various reasons. Mounting debts has been one of the major factors for all kinds of business realignments, sell-offs, mergers, spin-offs – you name it – they’ve done it.

Cut to 2015 – Everywhere I turn, I see an Amir Khan asking me to shop on, a very confused Mr. Bachchan on and even a Shahrukh Khan taking a grocery delivery from I would be forgiven to think that e-commerce businesses are the most lucrative ventures and most profitable space to be in.

Déjà vu anyone?

Call of the rosy figures – e-commerce in India is still just taking off. Success stories are awe-inspiring. The numbers beckon more. It seems only about 10% of card holding Indians are shopping online. Then there is the COD option for the rest of millions of Indians not having a card. And millions don’t have online access yet but once they do it’s a realm less market – a marketer’s delight, an entrepreneur’s dream. And not to forget, we keep hearing and reading that deep pockets of investors and venture capitalists are just waiting for the next new idea.

So every aspiring entrepreneur with dollar signs in his eyes is jumping onto the ‘start-up’ bandwagon. The ‘start-up’ either promises to serve its customers in some unique way or is selling something – all online. Invariably, new businesses are online companies. So essentially there is no real wealth generation. Either the new age entrepreneurs are offering a service or are retail stores. Real wealth generation, so critical for an economy to grow and prosper has been sidelined from our entrepreneurs’ economic vision and consciousness.

We are thriving on e-commerce success stories.

Being an entrepreneur and running a profitable business is not an easy job. Having a profitable online business is all the more difficult. Online ventures very easily get into a vicious circle of self-destruction.

A business with physical presence takes loans/debts or funding / venture capital (do they even manage to attract VCs these days– I doubt) and invests it either in its product or its facilities or in expanding its physical reach.

What do online businesses do with their funds? Believe it or not, they spend it in providing subsidies to their customers.

How? Is the free delivery of products really free? No! Granted for the customer the delivery and return pick-up may be free but someone is bearing the cost of delivery! The logistics partner of an online retail store has to be paid. The e-commerce businesses often end up using their funds for paying their vendors or for managing daily cash flows.

Who is bearing the cost then? The investor or the VC or whoever is providing the funds.

Why? In the firm belief that the customer will be a returning customer and over a period the losses will be recouped and profits will be generated. In a monopoly, it would be true. But where there are tens of other similar online business offering similar products and services, customer loyalty is not assured. The customer was fickle, is fickle and will remain fickle for times to come.

The funds received by e-commerce businesses with much fanfare in millions of dollars (the numbers are never less than millions) is not used for strengthening business processes or for any real wealth generation. It is widely used for subsidies, discounts, day-to-day cash flows, undercutting the competition and soon a day comes when the funding cushion disappears.

Even revenue generation does not mean profits are accrued. A classic example of this scenario is the story of Taxi for Sure. TFS exhausted all its funds in underwriting the various costs it was incurring in offering competitive prices to the customers and had to sell eventually out to its competitor Ola. Note that even higher revenue/number of trips did not result in profits for the company.

Remember It successfully survived the dot-com bust of the early 2000s. But once it got trapped in the vicious circle of utilizing the investor funds for daily cash flow it folded up pretty soon for want of fresh infusion of funds.

Amazon is a world giant in online retailing. Many online businesses may have taken inspiration from Amazon. A quick google search reveals that despite being a giant, Amazon has never been a high margin/profit making company. Its business model is such. What is the probability that Amazon inspired online businesses may be following if not the same maybe a similar model? Quite high I believe!

That just doesn’t bode of a very rosy future for e-commerce players then, does it?

In many online businesses the systems and processes are just not in place. And then starts the often deceitful and such a tangled web of (shady) business operations where the promoter and vendors fill their pockets till the funds last. The inside story of Foodpanda in India makes an absorbing read in this instance.

Fundraising has become the raison d’etre for online businesses. And in the meantime hopes of entrepreneurs dreaming up of physical business ventures with solid business plans just wither and die for want of a fraction of funds the e-commerce companies raises.

But why do the investors keep on investing funds in ventures that do not have a profit generating business model in place? Do they not question the avenues and ask for business plans about where and how their funds would be put to use? Questions I would love to have answers to. Answers anyone?

Source: Data credit – Mint Newspaper

Digital India – Futuristic vision for an effective backward integration

There’s a new ‘start-up’ in town. And it’s the “big-brother” of all start-ups. Its scale is so vast and its vision so broad that the digital world big daddy, themselves a start-up at one time, are giving it a standing ovation. Modi Government’s ‘Digital India Initiative’ has the world IT czars up and applauding this futuristic vision.

With ‘Digital India,’ the government is envisioning multi-pronged benefits. Much has been written about them in detail. How it will contribute to education, health, information and communication. How it will generate more employment too. But as an ordinary Indian citizen who struggles to get the tiniest bit of movement from the gazetted officers and babus, there is one aspect of Digital India that excites me.

One of the main thrusts of the Digital India initiative is to provide and strengthen e-governance across sectors and services. E-governance will ensure easy access to and smooth delivery of government services to the citizens. Touts and middlemen plague too many of our government offices which in turn make them hubs of corruption and collusion. E-services will simply be the death knell for such middlemen. Case in the point is the success of e-application for passports, e-filing of taxes and automatic subsidy transfer. These e-services have made interaction with the respective departments much easier and systematic.

With wider e-services, the government is also looking to streamline its own and its officers’ working and modus operandi. Here is a government that is devising new and perhaps more efficient ways of being accountable to whom they serve. E-services would immediately bring all service providers under a relentless scanner that can provide useful and implementable directives for performance evaluation and reward. Could this then be the beginning of the end of rampant corruption in government ranks?

Many might argue that a country that is still struggling to provide basic amenities to all its citizens should focus on just that. But haven’t we been doing just that since independence. Perhaps this kind of futuristic vision, planning and backward integration will help us achieve what grassroots level focus has not!