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The India Touch

There has been a lot mentioned about the special 'India' touch needed to make a company's product successful in India. Many multinationals have failed miserably when entering the Indian market for having duplicated their efforts from somewhere else in the world - whether that be USA/ Japan/ Korea or even China. Even the vastly popular Nokia made its real indent by launching a mobile specifically catering to the mass demands of Indian public.

Daewoo was one of the first international car brands to enter India. They thought the market to be very similar to China - and statistically speaking, it is. So, they launched the small car - Matiz (and some others like Cielo) with the exact business model that they followed in China - where it had succeeded. The car won many accolades - but bombed. So unsuccessful that Daewoo vanished from the India scene never to emerge again. And kept away some big car companies from India as well. Today, the Matiz has re-entered India since 2007 with custom modifications, under the Chevrolet brand (since Daewoo is dead anyway) and is now called 'Spark' - it is one of the more successful small cars available. Chevrolet itself entered India after much thought, with customised modifications. The interiors and config of the Optra and Aveo launched here are quite different from the US versions. The advertisements which were almost copies of the US ads initially have also changed - and the brand has seen quite a rise in sales. Apart from the Spark, Chevrolet caters to premium segment here - quite unlike Chevvy.

Coca-Cola came back to India with huge media glory in 1993, after 16 years. People flocked to try it. But soon sales fell in front of the home-brand ThumsUp - leading to CocaCola eventually buying it in a bid to save its sales numbers. Till date the leading cola sales are by the Thums Up brand, and its kin- Limca (the real answer to a fizzy lime drink!); and Coca Cola India has still to recover its losses.
India is the only market in the world where Coca Cola does advertisements using celebrities - it has no choice.

Mc Donalds after much fanfare entered the Indian market. However, soon the outlets were empty and there were concerns regarding the oil they used, the unhealthiness of the food and the absence of any discernible taste. So, Mc Donalds modified itself for India. Changed its cuisine, sales strategy and even contemplated separate veg and non-veg kitchens. After much re-branding, cheaper menus and Indian style food (with smaller buns and thicker patties), Mc Donalds is finally looking forward to breaking even by FY2009.

The worlds first only-vegetarian Pizza Hut was setup in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Till then, they just could not sell in Gujarat. It still exists and has spawned many more. And, only select Pizza Hut outlets provide alcoholic beverages on the menu - those outlets too are not doing too well because they have a tie-up with Fosters, whereas the Indian palate demands Kingfisher...and a choice.

Sure, every market is unique. But some are more unique than others. Unilever is a success in India as Hindustan Unilever Ltd. Well actually, till recently it was HLL - Hindustan Levers Limited. They have been in India for donkeys years. And the reason they are successful? They launched brands unheard of in other parts of the world, with different constitution than those available anywhere. And, they targeted markets which did not exist. Villages which were not yet mapped. And they launched unique 'affordable' packaging sizes - the Re1 and Re0.50 sachets. Now every company has sachets, but HUL is more successful than the others. Some names stick in consumer minds - like Lifebuoy.

Last night I watched a movie produced by Warner Brothers. Their first in Hindi, made in Bollywood venture. Bollywood, or the Indian Hindi film market is one of the most lucrative and now everyone wants a part of it. Last year Sony made an entry by producing what they thought was a perfect match for Indian palate - a song-ridden dance drama with no time scale. It failed miserably, even though the director is well known. Saawaria was its name. This time Warner Bros came up with 'Saas Bahu aur Sensex' - a sensational title. It featured everything that a typical modern day Hindi movie should have apparently - a catchy name, the stock market, good actors, a multi cultural society, a love story between the 'young and hip' call-centre working people, wealth seekers and the lot. But the producers didn't know where the heart is. The movie came up fine, but I wonder if it will break even. It misses the whole point of a Bollywood movie with the same ingredients. Stocks may run the Bombay economy, but a movie they dont make. And a joke about a Mrs Sen dabbling in SenSex can only be that cliched. Farooq Sheikh rocked though. A fantastical 'Welcome to Sajjanpur' will do much better.

Many a wine maker has lamented the preference of sweeter wines by Indians. A preference culminating to outstanding sales of Sauvignon Blanc rather than the Chardonnays and the Merlots. And preference for Grappa than Australian ones.Actually, when talking of international brands, the port wines from Portugal are hands-down winners in terms of sale.

So what is it that makes the market so unique in almost every category, over the years, consistently. Is it inflexibility? A resistance to try new things? But thats not true. Indians and the Indian market has seen acceptance of almost every innovative or new creation.

It seems that apart from saying the market is unique and needs specific catering. It seems you need to be Indian to know what Indian wants. No, not even an NRI. No wonder then, than international work-ex does not really count when you are being hired for a job looking at the Indian market.
Meanwhile, all that successful international multinationals can do is feel the pulse and try to serve up as we Indians want it.


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Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
(Anonymous)
13th Apr, 2011 22:39 (UTC)
Can't wait to make a contribution
Hi - I am definitely delighted to find this. great job!
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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Regurgitations of my mind. Specific, Vague, Memorable, Forgettable, Thoughtless, In-depth.

More variegated than your dreams or colours off a crystal. More than I can pen down. What I can, you can read.


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