Areas five to eight that need strengthening in Indian Marketing: Learning from Philip Kotler


The first article in this two-part series elaborated on the first four areas that need strengthening. In fact, a few successful examples were taken to illustrate that the process of Indian Marketing is now on a firm footing. In this article, we will discuss the next four areas of concern in Indian Marketing, according to Philip Kotler.

Introduction

The next four areas, that is, areas five to eight that need Strengthening, in Indian Marketing, according to Philip Kotler, are a) Little use of marketing research; and what market research is available is not trustworthy. b) Therefore little segmentation of the market and poor targeting c) Over-focus on winning through low price, neglecting differentiation and d) Retailers carry the same goods and their service is poor. We will discuss each of these areas, with a number of examples.

The earlier article tiled areas that need strengthening in Indian marketing dealt with a number of examples to illustrate that marketing in our country has come a long way since Philip Kotler's interview was published in the Smart Manager, Aug-September 2006, pages Pages 41- 52.

Little use of marketing research; and what market research is available is not trustworthy


While this might be true of some brands, the recent success of so many brands -- some big and some not so big -- does indicate that the concerned players have made a very accurate assessment of customer needs and have just satisfied that. Since the interview was published long ago, what might have been true then, does not hold good now. Yes, there might have been some mistakes but the overall trends are quite interesting. And Indian Marketing positively seems to have improved by leaps and bounds. Take the example of the Pathanjali range of products, that is growing at over 30% in sales. The products have been riding the "organic" wave. The absence of chemicals is almost impossible. However, one does have to live with the new reality that the Patanjali range of products has the minimum of chemicals in them. Now, let us take another example. Kalimark, the company that owns the Bovonto brand, is now very successful with another brand that sells well, reportedly only in Tamil Nadu, and a few places in Andhra Pradesh. Guess who did the marketing research? One is told that several MBA students of some B grade B schools reportedly went around discussing what kind of product would satisfy them. They were positioned right in so many retail shops where the customer would ask for some cool drink and have it. The findings were reportedly very good. The owners seem to have understood that there was a big scope for a cool drink with what is called "panner" taste, as what is commonly available at the lower end is called "goli soda". One can notice a small pebble right in the first portion of the bottle. One has to push it down and then drink the soda, which is still retailed for six or seven rupees in most parts of Tamil Nadu. The brand is called Vibro and retails at Rs. 12 or Rs. 13. It is a huge success. The bigger variations are now available at Rs. 35/-. The advertisements carefully announced the "freshness" and "cool" strengths of the product. However, what has just been recorded is from trade sources. The company does not share anything in public. However, marketing research seems to have worked out very well.

Years ago, there was this soap called "Meera bath soap" that was very horribly advertised and segmented. It had a lady running on a railway platform, advising her son, "do not take a bath" in Tamil. The brand was supposed to take away all the dirt, but the focus of the advertisement was misleading. Cavinkare killed the product and has never entered that segment. On the contrary, it has entered the pickle market and had acquired the Ruchi brand. It has really nurtured it very well. The advertisements targeting the huge crowd of customers who look for pickles with curd rice, a staple item in every South Indian home, was very successful in segmenting the product.

Little segmentation of the market and poor targeting

Yes, the Meera soap quoted above was a victim of very poor targeting. In recent times, it is surprising that Micromax, the Indian player, has not come out with rival products to take on the emerging leader, Xiomi. Possibly, the focus of Micromax on long-lasting charges to the cell phone did not work when the new competitor offered just this and much more. Chinese companies are very shrewd in understanding what works in India. Similarly, LG is so successful because it has very good products catering to some many segments. Big Bazaar is so successful as it plays on the "discount" and engages with customers on a very regular basis. Panasonic has not been able to come out of the "quality" obsession. Toyota is very clever. Its 68% resale value, even after five years clearly gives a big message: buy from us, and you get back most of your money. And then you can come back to us. Indian Marketing is seeing so much of this action happening in every product, and in every segment.

Over-focus on winning through low price, neglecting differentiation

Once again, we do have several success stories. Pril, a dish washing bar sells for lesser than Vim, which is the marketing leader. Guess what? It goes on advertising that its product is very good at killing germs and its quality is so good that you will have only clean vessels. And guess what the servant maids do? Or housewives do? This author wanted to check. He did so in ten homes. Every single woman was seen mixing the product ( it comes in the form of bar soap) with the more costly Vim. However, the latter is used in very small quantities!! The product Pril is a very fast selling product as well. The focus seems to be: here is a product, our quality is good, at a reasonable price. It does seem to work. Amurtanjan, the pain balm specialists play around women. The advertisements proudly claim to offer a solution for headaches across various age groups. Its differentiation is in terms of announcing its effectiveness across categories of customers. It has worked. Tiger, the low-cost brand of biscuits still talks about quality at a low price. It has worked too.

Retailers carry the same goods and their service is poor

2006 is different from 2019. Since the time when Philip Kotler made his views clear, the times have changed. Even in the smallest of towns, Indian Marketing has not seen it so good. Farmers, who had never entered a "supermarket" and touch and feel a product. Any product. In small supermarkets, that have come up in very small towns with a 60,000 population. If the town has a railway station, the repeat buyers and casual buyers are also huge. The reason? The owner knows the regular customers so well. This was the lesson when this author spent twenty minutes in a small retail shop. Seven buyers, who were about the board the Brindavan Express at around 7 PM towards Chennai, were seen chatting with the owner of the supermarket. They did mention the name of one small brand of what is called "kadalai mittai" ( a small snack made out of jaggery and roasted groundnuts). The owner immediately rang up to the supplier of similar products and asked him to give the cell number of the actual manufacturer. The service standards have improved so much. In smaller towns, the service standards have improved so much since the customers are always known to the owners of such very small supermarkets. In bigger cities, Customer Satisfaction is done by building relationships.

Conclusion

The times have changed. 2006 is different from 2019. Yet, there are several areas that need to be addressed and Philip Kotler is still right. The cases of success have been discussed only to prove that Indian Marketing has improved. That we have a long way to go cannot be denied, though.


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