The concluding session of the National Marketing Summit organised by the All India Management Association (AIMA) was a special discussion session titled “The Challenge of Sasta, Sundar aur Tikao”.
The session not only aimed to explain the fascination that Indians have for all that is sasta, sundar and tikao, but also tried to understand how different the Indian consumer’s psyche is today from what it was earlier. As Rajeev Karwal, Summit Director, said, “Not many have deciphered the Indian market because of its complex nature.”
Prasoon Joshi, Regional Creative Director (South and South East Asia), McCann Ericsson, Sunil Gupta, CEO, Sting Communication, and Ashok Vidyasagar, Head of Branding (Operations), Reliance Infocomm Ltd, were the speakers in this session.
Joshi had some insightful observations that explained how Sasta, Sundar, Tikao is ingrained in the psyche of Indian consumers. He explained that earlier, the Indian value system emphasised on exercising restraint and appreciated a sense of balance and good bargaining skills. Buying things that were not very expensive was a fact that one was proud of as it signified ‘I am smart to buy something that is inexpensive’. Earlier, Indians underplayed the Sundar factor, while Tikao was one of the most important factors while purchasing anything.
Joshi added that all that was earlier considered important (Sasta and Tikao) was now not that significant because the Indian society was suddenly seeing money. The contradiction here is that though spending power has gone up, Sasta and Tikao things are still important with Sundar gradually gaining importance.
He pointed out that while advertising a product, creative people had to understand that though Sasta was extremely important for the Indian consumer, the price should not be mentioned in any ad. Sundar was a factor that was directly related to socially accepted norms and was more important today than it ever was, and with people “getting into the upgradation mode”, Tikao was an indispensable feature even though consumers would fast change what they purchased.
According to Gupta, the communication challenge of marketing Sasta, Sundar and Tikao was bringing the three features together. He said, “Sundar and Tikao have acceptable implications and are universally sought, while Sasta means ‘cheap’ and is not sought universally.” It is extremely important that all brands must provide value for money – what value is the product offering and for how much.
Ads should not communicate what the product does not stand for by misinforming the consumer, but simply state the product features through communication that appeals to the consumer’s sensibility. Classic examples are the earlier Volkswagen ads that never positioned the Beetle as what it was not.
In the Indian context, Gupta gave the example of Nutramul by Amul. The product was wiped out even though it was cheaper than Maltova, Boost and Bournvita. The mistake made by Nutramul was that the ad trumpeted the fact that it was cheaper than products sold by the competitors.
Gupta emphasised that a premium brand should never be positioned as a Sasta and ordinary brand. Sting Communication’s ad for the Indian Army truthfully stated that an Army man’s life was not easy, but it took guts to join the Indian Army. The ad not only won the Campaign of the Year award at the Abbies in 1997, but also resulted in the Indian Army being ranked as the number five job from number 10 within one year.
Vidyasagar said that people’s purchasing power was fast rising and Indians today were more open to experimenting and leading indulgent lifestyles. The challenge, according to him, was creating brands that addressed the mass market in a classy manner. This, he said, could be made possible by not selling cheap products, but offering inexpensive products and services that had a strong value proposition.