We all love ‘Anna’! He seems to have united India and its youth. But is India really one, especially when it comes to business? This is one country where all the laws of marketing will fail, because it’s so diverse. If you have just one theory, then it will not take you anywhere. India changes every 200 km. Yes, a few basics remain the same across India, but a lot changes too. For starters, language changes (we have 192 official languages and dialects), culture changes, traditions and festivals change, food habits change. If this is not enough, think about it – even the geography and political views change. Yes, it is vast, but it is not an easy market. Only the hardy marketers will be able to survive and thrive here.


A lot of multinationals have come into India but failed – not because their products were not good, but because they failed to understand India’s culture. Globalisation has been the new trend, but ‘standardisation’ will not work always. As a marketer, you need to be sensitive to each culture’s identities and its unique regional preferences and customise your product offerings.

Our local markets are not barren as many multinationals thought. There are very strong players in almost every local market. Take the case of Kellogg’s. Apart from the taste not really matching the Indian palette (we like to put warm milk with sugar in our cereals, unlike the west that has it with cold milk), it under estimated the presence of local competitors like Mohun cornflakes (priced lesser than Kellogg’s) and Champion (whose price is almost half as that of Kellogg’s). Retail chains may never be able to understand the bonhomie that people share with their local kirana shops or the Mom & Pop stores as they are popularly called in the West. They share a bond and enjoy a mutual level of trust (giving things even on credit to their favorite customers) that big retail chains will never be able to enjoy. CavinKare challenged the multinationals in various segments. Earlier, it was Clinic shampoo and Fair & Lovely fairness cream (both from HUL) that were touted as the only good options. But homegrown brands like CavinKare are giving them a tough fight. CavinKare used sachets to sell its shampoos. It understood that the consumer was not willing to buy a whole bottle. But a small sachet was a luxury she could indulge in. [Today, 40% of the shampoo market consists of sachet buyers.] It used India’s weakness for ayurvedic products and ensured that its fairness cream Fairever – with saffron and milk – promised not just fairness but also good skin, and quickly cornered a significant chunk of the market share from the giant HUL and its brand Fair & Lovely. So strong has been this positioning that it made Fair & Lovely change its positioning from “badle aap, badle zindagi” to “gorepan se kahi zyaada, saaf gorapan”, meaning “not just fairness but a clear skin too”. CavinKare understood the Indian consumer and her changing needs, and this homegrown brand has become a formidable competitor today.

Going the ayurveda way, Emami too has managed to keep the biggies out of the way with unique Indian brands like Boroplus, Navratan oil and Fair & Handsome cream, that command a significant market share today. Marico’s Parachute oil is way ahead of HUL’s Nihaar. Agreed. Products like hair oil are distinctly Indian and MNCs may not have an edge here, but even when it comes to products like toothpaste and hair color, our Indian brands are doing a pretty good job! Dabur toothpaste is giving Colgate and HUL a tough fight. In the hair color sector, Godrej still has the largest market share (more than 30%),with L’Oreal coming a distant second (a market share of 19%).

Just because a brand has a foreign tag is no guarantee that it will be perceived as superior. It needs to match the local sensibilities too. KFC entered India with its American menu of chicken wings and wraps in Bangalore. The Indian consumer did not identify with it and it had to pack its bags and leave. In 2004 when it did come back it had a vegetarian menu, rice meals and Indianised chicken recipes. It survived.      Read More....

An Initiative of IIPM, Malay Chaudhuri and Arindam chaudhuri (Renowned Management Guru and Economist).

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