Posted in Marketing & Strategy Articles, Total Reads: 2016
, Published on 23 February 2012
It is common for a person in India, be it in office or school or in college, to be ‘late’. Punctuality is not a virtue of the average Indian and as we know it, IST is sometimes even expanded as “Indian Stretchable time”. It has almost become an acceptable norm these days in the society. A meeting at 2 PM automatically implies 2 15 or 2 30 to most Indians. And coming to class at 10 minutes or 15 minutes past the time is acceptable by both the teacher and also the student. Such practices are frowned upon in most western countries (US) and also some eastern countries (Japan).
But, the hypocrites that we are, we do not accept delay from others. We tend to criticize others when they show delay on their part. This brings us to the topic that I wanted to discuss in this article. The delay, not of students, professors, office colleagues, but that of products. At a point of time, there were simply too many products that were not brought straight away to India. These products were first launched in European markets or American markets, and after being proved successful there, they were launched in India. This practice was prevalent across multiple industries such as automobiles, fashion, luxury items (perfumes), electronics etc.
India was always seen as a market for dumping excess products, after being tested and sold in western markets. And to be fair to these brands (and their managers), it proved to be successful. India used to see itself as an underdeveloped country and was happy to ‘finally’ get automobile models 3 – 4 years after their release. People were happy to buy a Mercedes S-Class 5 years after its launch in Europe, happy to see a film 6 months after its release in Hollywood etc.
This was the case till the late 1990s. But as the people realized that they were a ‘developing’ nation and not an ‘under-developed’ nation, things began to change. Foreign products that were very late or products that were out of fashion were no longer acceptable. The Indians did not want a car model that was launched 2 years ago. They wanted in February, the car that was launched in January that year. This did not become apparent very quickly, but the Indian domestic market did respond to it correctly.
On the other hand, European and American manufacturers did not understand this. They continued to launch movies and cars well after their launch date. They still continued to introduce cars that were ‘excess produce’, meant for export and movies that had finished their collection of the box office share in India, assuming that the Indians were ready to buy it. In the early 2000s, the customers reacted to this by not buying these products, but it took until late 2000s for the American/European manufacturers to understand this.
It is only now that the products are launched at the same time in both the west and in India by the smart marketers. They fail to understand that the Indian customer is far more exposed to new technology and world events than before. That we have auto expos and access to internet and mobile communication way more than what used to be before. The Chetak scooter modeled on the Vespa scooter may have been a success story in the early 1990s, long after it was out of fashion in Europe. But then, that was the time when the Indian consumer did not have all the exposure available now. It wasn’t possible for Vespa to re-launch the same thing again and be successful.
Take Fiat for example. They still want to promote the Linea and Punto here in India, but they keep their more advanced models still in Europe. Take Toyota for example. They launched the Toyota Innova quickly as a SUV in India after its success in Thailand as an MUV. Mercedes too takes care to launch the same variant of S Class in India and Europe at the same time. It is almost offensive to the average Indian customer these days to be given a product that is ‘outdated’ by a few months/couple of seasons.
India is actually the current leader in the number of variety in car models. The Indian consumer seeks a lot of variety these days, and it is imperative for the western manufacturer to capitalize on this and introduce their products early to make a killing.
The manufacturers in the western world will never understand why their “new” product failed until they realize that the Indian consumer is way more aware of the latest releases in much better depth than before. Actually speaking, it should be an option for them to consider India as a market to test and introduce new products. No longer are Indians ‘poor’ to be unable to afford a Mercedes or a new perfume. And until everybody learns that India can no longer accept ‘delay’, they will not be successful in selling their ‘new’ product in India.
This article has been authored by Srinivasan C and Ishpreet Narula from NMIMS.