The Indian market continues to remain upwardly mobile albeit at a slower pace after the global financial crises hit the Indian market in the latter half of 2008. A large proportion of the workforce was rendered jobless as the world saw financial giants and strong global brands closing down. A large number of Indian exporting companies had order cancellations. Demand slowed down in India for all products and services. Though global and large Indian companies downsized their operations, Indian entrepreneurial groups continued to grow and offer employment opportunities. This is particularly true in services sectors like telecom, education and health care. Although, the ILO (International Labour Organization) has forecasted that there would be job losses across the world to the extent of 50 million by the end of 2009, the impact is likely to be much less in India and China, which are likely to lead the revival in the world economy.
The impact of slowdown in income growth is a compression in demand and postponement of consumption. Increasingly, price sensitive behaviour is going to be visible across all products and services. The customer is more likely to choose products on the basis of price and not just on non-price factors. Hence, while experience will continue to be an important factor, the customer is going to look for an experience that helps him to gain the most at the lowest price.
Nonetheless, as one looks at the Indian market through the prism of time one cannot but conclude that Indian consumer today is economically far better off than his earlier generations.
Corporate rivalry has also grown manifold. Consider for example the case of telecom once again. From a monopoly of one players per telecom circle to six players per circle has only been music to the Indian consumer as he/she is spoilt for choice. It is true for all other sectors like airlines, search engines, television, channels automobiles FMCG etc. The implication of this enhanced competition is multiplicity in product options and competitive pricing. Almost all products now have more variants similar to budget airlines also being operated by full service airlines, a newspaper being available both in physical and virtual forms. Product features have also seen revolutionary changes. Scale of operations have been enlarged as is evident from the retail chains like Big Baazar, Reliance Fresh, Croma of Tatas, Vijay Sales in Mumbai, Hypercity in Mumbai or Spencers or even cell phone majors Nokia. Consistently the marketer has been pushed to innovate on product or process or both. Consider the case of PVR, which has today revolutionized the film viewing experience of an average Indian consumer.
Likewise innovations were visible in other sectors like financial services and consumer durables. Convergence of technologies was yet another major development that offered the opportunity to the marketer to engage the customer on a continuing basis. Hence companies now reached out to the customer through physical media like print, outdoor hoardings, interactive kiosks, electronic media like television and radio, internet and mobile phones. All these were now used simultaneously thereby creating a new and forceful thrust. These were used to communicate and seek feedback and even involving the customer in product design. CNN IBN was the first news channel in India to use this strategy and involve viewers not only in chat show and debates but also in creating news.
A survey on technology dependency showed that the urban Indian consumer was increasingly becoming tech savvy. The most common tech products used are cell phones and the SMS facilities offered by cell phones service provider. 90 per cent of urban consumers are computer dependent today. This characteristic only facilitated the launch of tech savvy gadgets and companies using all technologies to engage their customers 24×7.
Demographic shifts too continued to make the Indian market buoyant and the market dominated by the young made it possible to introduce fascinating gizmos. Not only this, even the delivery mechanism changed to respond to the aspirations and lifestyles of this young generation. The average expectancy of life too has changed. From being just about 61 years in 1996-97 it is today 65.4. This is expected to further improve given the developments in health care sector. Also large number of people are now conscious of their physical fitness and hence take suitable steps to remain fit and alert. Yoga and other stress busters are very common now in the urban markets especially in the metros and large cities. These developments have created markets for health supplements, sports goods and other accessories. It has pushed insurance and the housing sector for the old young. The demographic changes are not just restricted to age but even reflecting the growing importance of women in the Indian market. So much so that even the cell phone companies are considering creating products for this market.
Growing urbanization and social changes induced by long working hours, young professionals staying separately from home also contribute to the market buoyancy.
All these changes have marketing implications. It also has an implication for the image of India as a market. Today Brand India is a reality which has come to be respected worldwide. This brand India is young, intelligent, tech savvy, hard working, eager to prove and proud of their history and accomplishment. It’s a brand that has no single colour. Rather it is collage of colour of colours of different religions languages, customers, rituals and festivals. This then is India for any marketer.