Marketing to the Indian Consumer
University of South Carolina, USA
Ajay K. Manrai
University of Delaware, USA
We are pleased to bring you the 2nd Virtual Special Issue #2, VSI-2, based on seven excellent articles published in the Journal of Global Marketing during 2012-2016.
Are you doing business in India? Are you marketing your products or services to Indian consumers? If your company has a growth agenda, your company’s future may very well lie in India. Emerging and developing economies like India are increasingly driving demand; they currently account for 56 per cent of global GDP (measured in PPP terms), and 79 per cent of global GDP growth (with PPP weights), up from 36 and 43 per cent in the 1980s (Obstfeld, 2016). But you may need to “let go of what you’ve learned” in business school, you may need to disregard the tricks of the trade that got you your business success in America, in Europe, and in other rich countries of this world. When doing business in India, “in fact, it’s best to assume that you’ve just landed on Mars” (Govindarajan & Trimble, 2012, p. 14). It is necessary to understand and experience the market forces at play, in short, “to understand how things really work in India” (Messner, 2009, p. vii). India is a land of contrasts; nowhere else will one find such an abundance of wealth so close to traumatizing poverty, business parks with manicured lawns adjacent to polluted slums, high-end research centers and pervasive analphabetism on the other hand. But business opportunities can be found everywhere, and things keep changing at a speed unknown to people and businesses in the developed world. How the subcontinent rises “from poverty to prosperity, from tradition to modernity, is a great and fascinating enterprise.” In fact, “never before in recorded history have so many people been in a position to rise so quickly” (Das, 2002, pp. ix, 357)
Based on seven excellent papers using different types of research methodologies to generate business insight, and published in the Journal of Global Marketing from 2012 to 2016, this Virtual Special Issue, VSI-2, investigates two important aspects of marketing to the Indian consumer: Use of effective promotional strategies and channels of distribution, and measuring consumer perceptions and maintaining consumer loyalty in service industries.
1. Use of effective promotional strategies and channels of distribution
Celebrity and brand mascot endorsements are very popular and often-used techniques to enhance appeal, attention, and recall ability. In their paper Impact of Celebrity Endorsements and Brand Mascots on Consumer Buying Behavior, Malik and Gupta (2014) find that celebrity endorsers – that is film stars like Shah Rukh Khan, Amitabh Bachchan, and Katrina Kaif – play a significant role in persuading people in both personal care and food products categories. In the Indian context, strong brand mascots are generally more successful than celebrities. The brand recall for the well-known Amul butter girl created back in 1967 lasts till this date. While film stars become associated with too many brands, brand mascots stay loyal to their brand. Only in the personal care segment, celebrity endorsement seems to be more effective as consumers would like to see evidence that the product will work to their satisfaction.
Recent investments in India’s retail industry have changed the retailing landscape. Malls and hypermarkets have spread from an initial seed in India’s metropolises all the way to tier-II and tier-III cities, where they coexist with the unorganized retail sector and its huge number of kirana (mom-and-pop) stores. In the article Influence of culture on Indian Consumers’ Preference to Shop at Small Retail Stores, Khare (2012) researches how cultural values and norms influence the shopping style in India. 97 per cent of Indians across the country frequently shop in kirana stores, and prefer to do so. In fact, the author highlights the opportunity and necessity for both types to co-exist, and build collaborative relationships.
Traditionally, banks in India relied on a vast branch network to reach out to customers – and thwart any attempts of the competition entering the market. High expenditure on real estate and other growing operating costs forced banks to develop more cost-effective ways in the form of self-service channels. In their article on Consumers’ Behavioral Intentions toward Self-Service Technology in the Emerging Markets, Kaur and Gupta (2012) find that Indian bank customers are mainly driven to adopt self-service technology if they perceive it useful and if the technology is easy to use. The authors suggest to equip Indian banking self-service terminals with enhanced interactivity and diversified offerings.
2. Measuring consumer perceptions and maintaining consumer loyalty in service industries
The study Convenience, Satisfaction, and Post-Purchase Behavior in India’s Health Insurance Market by Mathur, Das, and Paul (2016) demonstrates the significant impact of service convenience on consumer satisfaction, which, in turn, affects consumer repurchase intention. Indian insurers are advised to factor service ease into their strategic planning by enhancing convenience at the process steps of decision making, accessing, transaction, and receiving post-sales service.
But what if there was a service failure? How are companies supposed to recover? In the article Linkages between Switching Barriers and Service Recovery Evaluation: An Indian Exploration, Gautam (2013) investigates the relationship between switching barriers and service recovery evaluation of consumers across the banking, insurance, telecommunication industry, and department stores. They find that, across industries, compensation and promptness constructs have a comparatively high influence on overall service recovery evaluation. Indian customers expect to be attended rather immediately, and not be sent from one place to another.
Service providers in India’s competitive environment aim to gain advantage over their business rivals with the help of various service quality attributes. In his empirical study Service Quality Perceptions of Customers about Mobile Telecommunication Services: A Case of India, Gautam (2015) extracts eight relevant service quality dimensions: employee performance, transmission quality, competitiveness, support attributes, reliability, credibility, operational efficiency, and convenience. Human resource policies and practices are central forces for shaping behavior and attitudes of Indian employees.
With the introduction of mobile number portability in the Indian telecom industry, switching barriers have come down, and competition has increased. Sahi, Sambyal, and Sekhon (2016) find in their study entitled Analyzing Customers’ Switching Intentions in the Telecom Sector that customers’ switching intentions largely depend upon switching barriers perceived by them.
- Das, G. (2002). India Unbound. From Independence to the Global Information Age. New Delhi: Penguin Books.
- Gautam, V. (2013). Linkages between switching barriers and sesrvice recovery evaluation: An Indian exploration. Journal of Global Marketing, 26(3), 147-154.
- Gautam, V. (2015). Service quality perceptions of customers about mobile telecommunication services: A case of India. Journal of Global Marketing, 28(1), 19-31.
- Govindarajan, V., & Trimble, C. (2012). Reverse innovation. Create far from home, win everywhere. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.
- Kaur, G., & Gupta, S. (2012). Consumers' behavioral intentions toward self-service technology in the emerging markets. Journal of Global Marketing, 25(5), 241-261.
- Khare, A. (2012). Influence of culture on Indian consumers' preference to shop at small retail stores. Journal of Global Marketing, 25(2), 100-111.
- Malik, G., & Guptha, A. (2014). Impact of celebrity endorsements and brand mascots on consumer buying behavior. Journal of Global Marketing, 27(2), 128-143.
- Mathur, T., Das, G., & Paul, U. K. (2016). Convenience, satisfaction, and post-purchase behavior in India's health insurance market. Journal of Global Marketing, 29(4), 218-232.
- Messner, W. (2009). Working with India. The softer aspects of a successful collaboration with the Indian IT & BPO industry. Heidelberg: Springer.
- Obstfeld, M. (2016, Jan 04). The global economy in 2016. Retrieved May 07, 2016, from International Monetary Fund: http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/survey/so/2016/INT010416A.htm
- Sahi, G. K., Sambyal, R., & Sekhon, H. S. (2016). Analyzing customers' switching intentions in the telecom sector. Journal of Global Marketing, 29(3), 156-169.
Journal of Global Marketing
- Garima Malik, Abhinav Guptha
- Arpita Khare
- Gurjeet Kaur, Sangeeta Gupta
- Tanuj Mathur, Gurudas Das, Ujjwal Kanti Paul
- Vikas Gautam
- Vikas Gautam
- Gurjeet Kaur Sahi, Ritika Sambyal, Harjit Singh Sekhon