Have marketers in India been chasing a mirage? Is the bottom of the pyramid (BoP) market a myth? Is our jugaad mindset, being celebrated as an advantage, actually a handicap? In his second book India Reloaded, scheduled to launch mid-September, Dheeraj Sinha, National Head of Planning at Grey (a WPP group company), boldly puts the cat among the pigeons. Sinha argues his case compellingly, juxtaposing numbers with rich, fascinating anecdotes, forcing you to stop in your track and think. Excerpts from a conversation with Chitra Narayanan:
In your book you say India is not really a mass market place. That sounds counterintuitive.Yes, we went on a wild goose chase. If you look at the numbers: 350 million middle-class consumers, 500 million under the age of 25 - big numbers were thrown, which kicked up the euphoria. But if you cut to the real numbers, there are just 50 million people who own cars.
Marketers have been sent on a wild goose chase
The poor customer wants an upgrade in his or her lifestyle. What I am suggesting is a real investigation of the size of the market and slightly more upgrade market thinking rather than mass market thinking. The belief that we can strip down a car and poor people will lap it up, that is not going to happen.
But so much money has been invested by marketers on BoP? Is that a mistake?Just do a research on small town India and the youth there are saying that if the size of my dreams is big then why shouldn't the size of my mobile phone be big. That segment is driven by desire, by aspirations. So the conversation about stripping down products for the BoP segment needs rethinking. I am not a fan of frugal engineering.
While reading your book it appears that Indian consumers go for "safe" and are risk averse.
The mindset is that if you are selling more you are good. Which means from the consumption perspective, we are a market for relevance. Most consumers here are at the stage of their first or second experience of consumption. They are buying their first car, first flat screen and the thinking is that we would much rather go with things the world has experience with. If you look at any category, the top three players have 60 to 70 per cent of market share. We are more lopsided at the top and challenger brands are not doing so well. I think one of the solutions for challenger brands is to go for scale.