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CII Marketing Summit 2007: Who is an Indian consumer?

22-August-2007
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CII Marketing Summit 2007: Who is an Indian consumer?

The ‘Marketing Summit 2007’, organised by CII and in its eighth year, is based on the theme ‘Rewriting Marketing for the ‘New India’ -- Managing Dreams, Realities, Needs and Wants’. Kapil Sibal, Union Minister for Science & Technology and Earth Sciences, delivered the keynote address at the inaugural session of this two-day marketing event on August 21.

Besides Sibal, the other speakers at the inaugural session included Sunil Bharti Mittal, Founder, Chairman and Group CEO, Bharti Enterprises, and President of CII; and Suhel Seth, Chairman, The Marketing Summit 2007, and Managing Partner, Counselage.

Delivering the keynote address, Sibal said, “We are in a world where marketing plays a significant role. Three prime factors of marketing are customer satisfaction, profit for manufacturer, and benefit of stakeholders. If you are able to satisfy all the three pointers as a marketer, you are in a win-win situation. There can be no marketing without information technology, and a good example of this is the availability of cell phones and connectivity in rural areas.” He added that marketing couldn’t be possible without sharing the technology with the rest of the world.

According to Seth, the real challenge for India was affordability, accessibility and availability. Mittal said, “Marketing is a power to keep in touch. We need to keep our message simple for it to be powerful. For example, in rural India, we already have cell phone connectivity in 550,000 villages.”

The first session of the summit kicked off with an interesting topic, ‘Is there anything called an Indian consumer? -- Outlining the profile of an Indian consumer’. This session was moderated by Shereen Bhan, Delhi Bureau Chief, CNBC-TV18, and the speakers were Arvin Wable, Chairman and CEO, FCB Ulka; R Balakrishnan (Balki), Writer and Director of ‘Cheeni Kum’, and National Creative Director, Lowe Lintas; and Charulata Ravikumar, Managing Partner-National Head Integrated Services, JWT India.

Balki said, “We don’t believe in mass marketing, but in micro marketing. Although there exists a ‘global consumer’, we respect marketers who can respect us for being Indians.”

Wable observed that the Indian market had grown from what it was a few years ago. “A lot of global brands have entered India. There may not be global food or a global language, but there is global connectivity. There are strong unifying realities among Indian consumers. A significant factor that determines an Indian consumer is that he or she is an individual rooted to family values. Today’s young generation lives at home but has huge dispensable income to spend. Traditionalism is wrapped around in modernity. The Indian consumer is value conscious, and hence demands values addition. Housewives and children are the driving forces on what should be purchased.”

Wable further explained that most marketers had chosen a point on the spectrum. For example, Bingo develops a ‘tandoori tikka’ flavour to appeal to Punjabis, and a mustard flavour for Bengalis. ICICI Prudential focusses on Indian traditional values like marriage and family, whereas HSBC bank focusses on individuality.

According to JWT’s Ravikumar, “There is an Indian consumer who is rooted to India who believes in God, believes in a balance between karma and spirituality, value systems, as also modernity. The bonds of joint families are strong. For every one Indian we are talking to, we are being heard by two. Earlier, we had to choose one role, either of a housewife or a working woman. However, the trend has changed now. The Indian consumer lives in a ‘duality’ and is constantly evolving.”

Ravikumar pointed out that the biggest paradigm shift was in the consumers’ level of confidence. “Marketers today are not worried why the brand is not doing that well. They are willing to improve their brands,” she added.

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