What Ticks for Indian Consumers/ Family – Dr MG Parmeswaran and Anuj Poddar

17 Sep,2014

Continuing with our extracts from the second edition of the MxMIndia Annual, we present contributions by Dr MG Parmeswaran and Anuj Poddar



Realisation among consumers would continue to grow


By Dr. M G Parameswaran


The definition of family in India is changing and it would continue to change. Single biggest change is that women now have a more forceful presence in the family and they are becoming increasingly articulate. If one looks at broad numbers, percentage of working women in urban India in SEC A, B might not have dramatically increased but the role that they play in the family has changed dramatically. From being housewives, they have now become home managers. They handle a lot of finances and many other things.


It can, to a large extent be attributed to the fact that women are getting better educated. As a large percentage of women in SEC A, B, C become graduates, they tend to have a bigger voice in how the family is going to be run, what stream of education the child should follow and so on.


As for nuclear families, we always had them. If we look at our cultural history, the eldest son tended to stay in the house, while the younger ones moved out. The trend is far more obvious now, to the extent that number of families with three generations staying together seems to be coming down. Interestingly, what one also notices is that while the son, his wife and children are moving into a new house, they tend to stay within a kilometre or so of the parents house.




Regional has to be more contemporary


By Anuj Poddar


adly, regional entertainment is falling S into the trap of the same TRP battle we are seeing in the Hindi GEC space. There is too much of focus on GRPs for my liking. The focus needs to be more on innovating, on creativity, and while you do that – it’s about being relevant and connected to the regional audience. The biggest USP of regional is that it is able to connect with its audience far better than Hindi.


Culturally and socially, it is so much closer to its audience than Hindi. I think Hindi is the lowest common denominator as far as content is concerned because it appeals to so many different people. It is more mass, it is national in a way that everybody watches it. But regional isn’t mass. It isn’t made for everybody. It is made for a certain audience, therefore, the focus is that much better.


You know your audience so much better as against a mass audience that you cater to in Hindi entertainment. That allows regional to do things that national or Hindi television can never think of. We have seen a lot of regional content being picked by Hindi GECs. But, we haven’t seen that happening – from Hindi to regional. And I do not think it will happen as a big trend in the future.




Rural vs. Urban

In rural India, one needs to look at R1, R2 differently from R3, R4. R1, R2 which is the upper 20 per cent of the rural society is quite similar to urban society. Women are educated and they want to educate their children. They use modern gadgets like DVD players, mobile phones etc. But if you go to R3, R4, the lower part of the rural society, which is probably 70 per cent of rural India, the woman is still in a ghunghat and lives in a controlled and suppressed environment, which might take some more time to change.


In rural India, there are still some attitudinal differences in terms of how a girl child should be treated vis-à-vis how a boy child should be treated, what is the right profession for a girl, what kind of education she should have etc.


One thing that integrates all the segments of society whether in urban and rural India is intense belief in spirituality and religion.


India as a collective or an individualistic society

Hofstede had done a lot of work on individualism, collectivism and power distance. He had surmised that societies like the Indian and Chinese ones are a lot more collectivist in approach as compared to Europe, which is far more individualistic.


In my view, in one or two generations we would not move from being a collective society to an individualistic society. In India, even today, when one goes for interviews, questions about where one hails from and father’s profession etc are quite common. While in the US, questions about one’s family are never asked in an interview. These things are deeply ingrained in our psyche and they would not change in a hurry.


Purchase decisions

Teenagers have always been more individualistic, and it is not only about purchase decisions. However, as far as big purchase decisions are concerned like which car or TV to buy, everyone in the family gets involved. In fact, when it comes to technology products, it is the younger individuals in the family that have a point of view. For instance, when buying a laptop for the home or upgrading a mobile phone, the teenager’s opinion is sought. A fair amount of collective decision making happens.


Evolution of the Indian consumer

The Indian consumer has swung from one end of the choice behaviour to the other. Twenty years ago, there was a very limited choice of products – probably one or two brand of cars, two-wheelers and television sets. Today the choice is dramatic, be it cars, two wheelers, music systems, mobile phones, readymade garments or any other product category. Therefore, in many categories consumers behave like a child in the candy store. They want to sample almost everything, and also get swayed by the options available.


Today, there is a fair amount of realisation among consumers that if it is a foreign brand it does not necessarily mean it is better. This realisation would continue to grow. Also, the consumers are becoming far more balanced in their decision making and do not want to buy every new product in the market. Good thing is that they ask a number of questions before buying a product.


The fastest changing consumer group

Young women in the age group of 18-19 to 25, in my view, is the most dramatically changing demographic in this country. As they are continuously evolving, they are the most difficult to reach as well. To communicate with them, to establish a dialogue with them is quite a challenge. Unlike 25 to 45 year old women who can be largely reached through television, this particular target group is far more multimedia oriented. Whether it is digital, TV, print, radio – there is a huge gamut of media that they consume.


Changing consumer expectations

Indian consumers are becoming a lot more knowledgeable and demanding. They are willing to pay more as long as marketers are willing to offer better quality and service. If marketers just want to charge more and offer poor quality and service, they are in trouble. Indian consumers are very value conscious, so marketers need to balance value with service and quality. Some marketers and brands hit the sweet spot and attain dramatic results, while some others tend to fail.


Are marketers future-ready?

Consumers are changing at a faster pace than marketers overall. Marketers tend to underestimate consumer. They say the consumer will not pay five rupees for a biscuit, or two rupees for a candy, but maybe the consumer will. Marketers tend to underestimate the limits to which they can push the consumer to buy. At the same time, there is issue of realistically balancing what marketers can offer to the consumers.


Social media is another front where marketers need to keep pace with consumers, and not everyone is doing so. Consumers, especially of premium product categories, post things on social media and create a lot of negative word of mouth. Every company should track social media buzz – it is free consumer feedback, free market research.


Companies need to understand what consumers are saying about their brand, about their competitors. Consumer is evolving in many ways. While some marketers will be able to keep pace with the evolving consumer, some will not be able to do so. They will probably continue to see the consumer through yesterday’s eyes. 21 – (As told to Ritu Midha)



That’s where I believe regional entertainment has an edge over Hindi. For me, if regional has to evolve in the next five years, it has to be more contemporary. Just because it is regional, doesn’t mean it cannot be contemporary or modern.


So today, sufi music is not classical old sufi music, it has evolved to some extent and has started to appeal to a lot many audience that were not fans of sufi music. So the evolution has to happen in terms of the way it is presented – more contemporary and modern which cuts across genders and demographics. As regional broadcasters, we have to look at that rather than just concentrating on ratings every week.


Yes, budgets in regional media are lesser than the budgets in Hindi entertainment, but I don’t think it’s a big constraint. We have seen the budgets in regional entertainment increase in the past two to three years. They are not as smaller or tighter as they were three years back. And people associated with regional entertainment understand that.


The creative talent in regional understand that they have a far better chance to succeed in regional than in Hindi entertainment where there are more pressures and expectations. Because in Hindi, you are either super-hit or flop. The scope of experimentation is minimal as stakes are higher. On the other hand, regional allows you to settle down and experiment as the stakes are relatively lower.



Tomorrow: Thursday, September 18:  Men – Ajay Kakar and Manish Kalra


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