Understanding the Indian consumer market

Disclosure: This is not an attack on Indians. I love Indians a lot. Everyone around me know that. I love India. If I don’t I won’t make it a home for the past two years. It only makes business sense for me to write this. Really, there’s nothing wrong in the trend I described below. I just said it, as it is.

Indian ecommerce giant, Flipkart has been advertising “The Big Billion Day” for about one or two weeks. Billboards everywhere touting the big day. Newspapers and internet ads as well. The Big Billion Days soon came on the 6th of October. Flipkart’s target was to rake in 1 billion rupees in sales in a single day by offering the biggest discounts ever. While this is not my focus, I hear they achieved this target.

However, there have been a public outcry about the promotion. Virtually every Indian I know is angry and disappointed with Flipkart. Everyone feels cheated. My timeline on social networks is filled with several rants. As there are already enough rants directed at the Bansal twins, this is not going to be another rant. Oh, well, I am not disappointed, so why rant?

For me, it’s bigger than the Big Billion Day. Flipkart only played hugely on the understanding they have about the average Indian customer. I have studied this market over the last two years of living here. I have seen the same pattern among almost every Indian friend I have. I have bought from hundreds of stores (online and offline) and seen the same trend. In fact, I have once been invited to work on a business based on this single trend.

The Indian market is filled with people who will hardly make a purchase unless they perceive it is being sold at a discounted price. It’s a market largely driven by price. In fact, I feel like calling it a “free” market. I have walked into stores with several Indians. They will buy almost anything with a huge discount on it. The store owners know this. So, they paste a 500 rupees price tag on a product that normally cost 250 rupees, then advertise a 50% discount offer. Most literally jump at such and it feels strange to them why I normally won’t get excited in the offer.

Last week I and my friend bought from Levi’s. We made a purchase of over 8,000 rupees and they handed us a free Levi’s wrist watch. We didn’t know there was an offer advertised until we got outside and saw a poster advertising it.

You walk into stores and see “buy one, get one free” stickers everywhere. In other markets I’m used to, things get more expensive during festive periods. No, not in India. It’s a market that normally will not buy until the festive periods. Why? They simply get the largest deals during these period. My friends would say “Tobi, Diwali is just next week yar, you should have waited till then to buy this. You’ll get a better offer yar”.

Every single store I walk into (except the high profiled ones) say things like “sir, in this, you’ll get 10% off, if you buy this together you’ll get 50% discount sir”. While this puts me off a lot, it only reflects a sales attendance whose employers understand what motivates the average Indian to buy.

So, I am not surprised to see the big giants to do that. The Big Billion Day ads didn’t move me at all. Forget about the replication of black Friday here. The bigger truth is hidden in the trend I painted. Honestly, the only way to rake in a billion rupees in a day is to paint a billion picture about a billion discount.

Starting a business in India, never get pricing wrong. As this is a price conscious market, the market will never forgive you if you do.

Feel free to disagree with the above, the proof/basis of my argument is now in the big billion. 1 Billion rupees in no joke, you know 🙂

Technopreneur. Chief Hustler at 1Plify. PhD scholar [Technology entrepreneurship]

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