Thursday, November 24, 2011
We are like that only
Review by Sria Majumdar
Penguin Books India| Paperback Edition, Price Rs. 399 approx.
I have seen the book in bookstores many times, and passed by the stand, making a note to buy it the next time. The next time came only when the professor in my Consumer Behaviour class recommended it as one of the best books to understand the Indian consumer. I decided the time had come, and picked up the 2007 edition of the book from the library. I mention the year specifically because half of the book deals with numbers and statistics, and that kind of a book loses its relevance in 4 years. But not this one. Read on to know more about one of the most interesting books I have read off late.
The book stems from the single idea that MNCs and most marketers do not understand India. To them it is the country which promised a consumption explosion, only to deal a blow to all the financial projections and expected sales volumes of companies. Rama Bijapurkar, one of India’s most respected thought leaders on market strategy and consumer behaviour, talks about how a multi layered schizophrenic India needs a multi-pronged customized strategy- not a direct transfer of the global best practice. Winning in India, she says, requires companies to accept that all emerging markets are not the way developed markets were in their infancy, and in India’s case- one should forget about thresholds of income above which consumption ‘takes off’. The question that MNCs should ask is not ‘When will this market be ready for my “global” strategy?’ but ‘What is the right strategy to unlock the potential of this market?’
The book is wonderfully organized, with beautiful writing style interspersed with numbers to lead authenticity to all the arguments. From the mixed messages consumer India sends out to marketers, to understanding the diversity in demography, psychography and social cultures- the book discusses the purchasing power of India, why consumer India cannot be neglected, how to predict and read change in India and understanding the ‘Bottom of the Pyramid’. The book explains apparent contradictions in consumer behaviour such as rising incomes leading to downgrading to cheaper FMCG products, and poor monsoons leading to reduced sales of toilet soaps but increased motorcycle sales in rural India.
The book has a foreword by C.K. Prahlad and an afterword by Narayana Murthy. Do I still need to give it a verdict? Rama Bijapurkar has a way with words that makes all the heavy information ridden text an interesting and even gripping read. If you are interested in history, economics, culture, philosophy or marketing, you will appreciate how the book tries to decode the inscrutable Indians.
Must Buy! Grab the latest edition, and read it at leisure. I guarantee that it will worth your time, and definitely better than that consumer behaviour book you are reading. Be it understanding the SEC classifications, or the myriad behavioural issues of Indian consumers; in Narayan Murthy’s words ‘It is highly recommended for students who need credible insights and data to understand and prepare themselves for the creative market called India’. Bibliophile or not, don’t miss out on the book!