The Modern Trade Consumer in India

With increased exposure to global brands, latest internet communications, and desire for better lifestyle, the consumers today are looking to use the global, trendy, life-style oriented products and are demanding more in terms of the shopping experience, simplicity, quality products, and value.

The evolution of Modern Trade is just meeting the demands of these consumers and together causing rapid growth in modern retail. With increased exposure to Modern Trade, the consumer today is becoming more and more comfortable and loyal with Modern Trade.  Nielsen says that a fifth of the Urban India Shoppers now regularly shop at Modern Trade stores. (refer

Technopak forecasts that the penetration of Modern Trade in India will triple to about 15-20% in the nextfive years by 2018.


From the consumer point of view, modern trade results in:

  • Consumers feel that they are smart buyers
  • Increased availability of choice in brands and categories
  • Promises better prices and value to the consumers
  • Better quality products
  • Enjoyable shopping experience with product and brand voyeurism
  • Perceptual benefits of improved standard of living

Consumers feel smart as they have more control in Modern Trade

MT ShopperWith increased brand choice, freedom to browse the products, and the visibility of deals and promotions, the modern trade consumer perceives his buying experience as a smarter way of buying things. It also leads to the consumer willing to experiment more, buying new brands and categories in the modern trade store. It is observed that the modern trade consumers look to buy large packs and aggressively look for promotions, trying to get more value out of every buy.

A family shopping experience with enjoyable product and brand voyeurism

MT Family ShopperThe modern trade consumer is most likely to be accompanied by family and friends, and is not so likely to shop alone. It is increasingly seen that kids sit in the shopping cart, and the mother and father discussing about the product. This increases the fun in the buying experience and provides more opportunity for the retailers to increase the basket size and increase interaction with wide array of brands.

Moreover, the large displays, islands, and the strict arrangement of brands always make the consumers be voyeuristic of the brands and products. This makes them checkout products that were never in their consideration and drop it in the basket.  Modern Trade consumers’ willingness to buy new products and niche variants is making manufacturers add high-end variants to upgrade the consumers.

The rise of mini-modern stores to meet the “modern consumer” needs

Sarvodaya MumbaiThe Sarvodaya supermarket in Mumbai is an example of a growing trend of traditional stores adopting modern practices to meet changing consumer needs. There are about 100 such stores in Mumbai, and this trend is soon catching up in smaller towns too.

The future implications of Modern trade evolution are obvious as more and more consumers flock to the modern trade stores, and as more global retailers look to enter India after the FDI approval.


Television Advertisements – Clutter breakthrough and Brand Relevance

Before reading this article, just close your eyes zeroing your mind for a moment and recollect three television advertisements. Write down a few details of each of the television advertisements you could recollect.

Of all the numerous advertisements I’ve watched, I could recollect only three advertisements:

  1. The old Nescafe advertisement
  2. The recent Flipkart’s advertisement of office-going children
  3. The JK Cement advertisement

These are the only three advertisements I could recollect instantaneously. It is strange to think that I hardly could recollect any other advertisements.  Now, close your eyes and recollect a few brands.  I recollected a few brand names listed the following:

  1. Dairy Milk (chocolate)
  2. Kellogg’s
  3. Dettol
  4. Coca-Cola
  5. Pepsi
  6. ICICI Bank
  7. Samsung
  8. McDonalds
  9. Ford Figo
  10. Flipkart

Also, if one wants to understand which brands do consumers associate with a category, then we have to ask the consumers to recollect advertisements w.r.t those categories. The above shouldn’t be mixed with this.

Clearly, the top of mind (TOM) set of brands are the above. I read through the list and tried to recollect the last seen advertisement in each of these brands. I could recollect the advertisements of all the above brands. Now, why couldn’t I recollect most of these advertisements in the first question? It is because the first question lacked a context.

This shows that a television advertisement on its own is generally of not much use. But if you provide a context to the consumers, then the television advertisements will help the consumers connect the brand with the context. Consumers going to the shop will subconsciously recognize the brand that they’ve watched it on television.  This means if you are investing in television advertisements, you have to provide sufficient contextual support such as in-shop presence, BTL, distribution etc.

Until now, we spoke about two things: Advertising your product on television and creating a context offline. This helps the consumers connect the brand with the context. But what actually helps the consumer receive your communication in the first place.

To communicate something you need to first command the recipient’s attention

Consumers, as human-beings, switch on and off in various situations based on different factors. One of the key factors that make the consumers decide to switch on or off is Relevance.  A consumer who is about to buy a car will suddenly switch on (becomes attentive) while watching an advertisement of a car. The same consumer 2 years back might be passive and switched off to advertisements of cars.

Also, anything different from routine generally catches the attention of people. For example, the Flipkart advertisement having elderly looking kids. Another example is the use of celebrities. Because consumers become attentive when they look at celebrities, usage of celebrities and other unique elements commands attention.

I’ve put celebrities and unique creative elements under one category because they are good in commanding attention. But they are not enough. Only uniqueness in the creative will help consumers remember the advertisement, but consumers will not remember the brand of the advertisement.

To communicate something you should be relevant to the recipient

The presence of unique elements or celebrities doesn’t make a communication relevant. But the problem is relevance is something that has to come from the consumers. I cannot shout in the media that I am relevant to you, hear me! For example, a consumer considering to buy a car finds the advertisements of cars relevant. Does this mean that to communicate to a target audience I have to wait for the consumers to feel my category relevant to them? No, in such cases you have to build category relevance to the consumers. You have to give them reasons why they have to use the category.

But, how does one build relevance? Relevance is a recurring theme. You build relevance to a category by relating the category to what is relevant to the target audience. For example, if you want to communicate something on conditioners, you have to make consumers relevant to the category. But the category is very nascent and consumers don’t feel a relevance to the category. So, in such cases you build relevance for conditioners by understanding what is relevant (1-level below) to the prospective buyers of the conditioners and connecting that (1 level below relevance) with the category. So, you come up with elements like softened hair, strong roots, etc which are relevant to the consumer and connect that to the category. This is building category relevance for effective communication. The recent TVCs on Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief is also an example of the category relevance.

But what if the category is already a well penetrated category like shampoos or toilet soaps? As the category is already relevant, all brands clutter the consumer confusing him and he switches off to the category. This is where brand relevance comes into play. This means you have to make the consumer feel relevant, not by talking about the category, but by talking about the brand. Here you don’t talk about the category elements like softened hair, but you try to build relevance by distinguishing your brand such as natural, herbal, seeds of some plant etc. You have to give reasons to buy your brand and make your brand relevant. This is the true test of marketers on how well they can create the brand relevance – the brand associations, the aura of the brand, brand values, brand differentiation etc. Consumers have to feel a specific brand in the category relevant to them.

Most television advertisements today fail because they are not relevant to the audience and they failed to build relevance.  The media is so cluttered today that advertisers struggle to draw attention first, and the very few that draw attention fail in being relevant to the target audience. So, television advertisements are an effective tool to build brand awareness and recognition. But it is a difficult task to build brand relevance using TVCs, because consumers are not ready (and too much clutter) to receive the differentiating factors that should make this brand relevant to them.

In my next post, I will write about how to build effective relevance and how we can connect relevance with the consumer decision making process.

Packaging gaining more importance

Although advertising can be a highly effective means of communication for those consumers who are exposed to it, it is becoming extremely difficult to reach with increased media fragmentation and costs of TVCs. Advertising on TV is a very costly affair and is done only when other vehicles cannot attain the objectives.

Increase in Modern Trade

With Modern trade contributing to 20% of FMCG retail consumption in the major metros and tier-1 cities of India, now more and more consumers are scanning your products. The Indian consumers love going to malls and the consumers find the “product talking” at the store more relevant. With these changing dynamics in India, packaging is going to play a major role in the future.

For most of these consumers, packaging is the first point of contact which attracts them to the product while they scan the shelves. According to some newspaper reports of shopper research, an Indian shopper typically spends 20 seconds scanning a shelf. Research always talked about the importance of packaging and the consumer perceptions built on packaging. It is just that marketers didn’t find its relevance, as Indian retail was majorly dominated by traditional trade.

Packaging plays the biggest role in winning the First Moment of Truth ( and plays a crucial role even after the purchase of the product, Second Moment of Truth.

At the point of purchase, packaging serves a number of key functions, namely:

  • Cutting through clutter and letting the consumer notice your product
  • Communicating marketing information
  • Stimulating or creating brand impressions
  • Providing brand cues and values – safety, style, value, quality, etc.

Sensation Transference

Consumers don’t make a distinction between the product and the package. How consumers feel about the package is transferred to how they feel about the product itself. For the consumers the product is inclusive of the package. There is numerous research that shows that consumers build quality, experience, and taste perceptions from the package itself.

Multinational brands that are eager to chew up a bigger share of the Indian market are spending huge sums to carefully study the Indian consumer to bring in elements that appeal to them. For instance, the latest Kellogg cereal packaging to hit shelves has created more drama around food to make it look more appealing.

Packinnova 2011

This year, for the first time in India, design outfit Desmania, under the aegis of Procter & Gamble, organised a competition for innovative packaging ideas, Packinnova 2011. The company invited students from leading design institutes in the country to submit ideas on ‘packaging for small volumes’. So, the point is clear – packaging is gaining importance in India.

Deodorants and the launch of ‘Sure’

According to newspaper reports, deodorants and fragrances market in India is more than Rs. 10,000 million in 2010. No one could have imagined that deodorants would become such a huge market in India. It required a monumental marketing effort to convert people from an old to a new way to meet a primary human need.

Rexona – the first deodorant in India

In the mid 90’s, Hindustan Unilever (HUL) decided to launch its global deodorant brand ‘Sure’ in India under the brand name ‘Rexona’. Rexona was one of the first deodorants launched in India and was available in roll on, sticks, and aerosols. Though Rexona was a major player in the category, over the time Rexona as a brand lost its way, with a lot of competition from the grey market in deodorants, positioning confusions, and inadequate support from HUL. As a result, Rexona was tapered and its deodorants were slowly phased out from the market.

It is observed that women in this segment have fewer options and much fewer options from big brands. Though there are a couple of brands like Fa, Santoor, Yardley, and Garnier, there is no big brand like ‘Axe’ is for men. As a result, there is an opportunity to create a big brand catering to women in this segment.

Launch of the global brand ‘Sure’

With this opportunity, promising growth rates, and the evolving consumers in India, HUL has launched its leading international brand ‘Sure’ in India. However, as mentioned, Sure was earlier available to the Indian consumers under the brand name ‘Rexona’. The brand ‘Sure’ promises ‘No Paseena’ and provides long-lasting unbeatable protection against sweat and odour keeping the skin, dry and fresh all day long. It is positioned as “stops sweat” rather than as a fragrance. The Sure anti-perspirant range in India was launched in early 2010, with products for women in two variants – Passion Dry and Free Spirit. Later this year, Sure has launched its mens range.

With this launch, HUL is looking to build anti-perspirants as a new category in India. HUL is conducting a lot of consumer education and brand building activities for the brand Sure. HUL is looking to serve multiple consumer segments and build a master brand with the launch of Sure. HUL with the launch of Sure is looking to:

1. Address the void of a big brand in the women segment
2. Take advantage of the growth of the category with two master brands
3. Enter and build a new category, and not to leave any scope for competition
4. Take share from the abundant number of grey market products and private labels
5. Increase revenues and share from the deodorants basket
6. Counter increasing number of new entrants and “me-too” players in the deodorants segment

This seems like a safe bet for Unilever as it gives advantage on both the fronts – growth of female deodorant segment and entering a new category – without disturbing the market of Axe. Apart from building its own niche as anti-perspirants, it is expected that the brand will take away some share from the private labels, and the smaller brands. HUL is aggressively pursuing focused brand building activities, and Akshay Kumar and Asin endorsing this brand will definitely help take it to the masses.

Consumer dynamics in deodorants

No doubt people in both rural and urban India are becoming more and more conscious about their personal hygiene. But, the Indian consumers need a lot of education about anti-perspirants, as most Indians still buy a deo for fragrance. Most consumers in India still use deodorants as ‘fragrances’ on their clothes rather than on their skin. Brands like Axe are bought both for its fragrance and its odour reduction. With these challenges, the success of this new category requires some fundamental changes in consumer behavior and consumer dynamics. However, HUL is not new for developing new categories and altering consumer behavior.

With more focus on ‘blocking sweat’ benefit, the brand Sure is in danger of being perceived as not for office-going people who sit in air-conditioned offices. It might be more appealing for people from the humid regions, people who face the problem of excessive sweat under different situations like travelling, etc. In my view, not many people will have the need to stop or block sweat, and definitely not throughout the year. This puts the brand in danger of becoming a seasonal brand. Broadly there are four types of consumers in this space:

1. Type 1: Consumers, both men and women, who are looking for anti-perspirants in specific
2. Type 2: Consumers who are suffering from excessive sweat and are dissatisfied with deodorants
3. Type 3: Consumers who are looking for an established deodorant brand for women
4. Type 4: Consumers, both men and women, who are new to the deodorant category

While the Type 1 and Type 2 consumers will look for the functional benefits of the anti-perspirants, the Type 2, Type 3 and Type 4 consumers will look for the fragrance benefits of this category. It is interesting to see if the consumer will evaluate the brand based on its fragrance or the consumer has evolved to understand anti-perspirant as a stand-alone benefit. It could well happen that the larger base of consumers would initially buy Sure as a branded deodorant for its fragrance, and slowly then adapt to its functional benefit as an anti-perspirant. Also using Sure, it will be much easier to bring in new consumers into the deodorant category, than educating consumers and changing their behavior towards anti-perspirants. All this behavior makes it more critical for the brand to succeed as a fragrance first, and then adopt more consumers for its anti-perspirant benefit.

Will the same fragrance sell?

Though the Indian consumers have already smelled Sure under the brand name ‘Rexona’, there is less chance that consumers would smell Sure the same as Rexona. With thousands of brands and different fragrances it is less likely that the consumer would be able to smell the same as Rexona. The fate of Sure is more dependent on the brand building and how it is perceived by the entrants in the deodorant category.

As mentioned, it might be easier to bring in new consumers into this category anti-perspirant, than converting existing users from deodorants to anti-perspirants. Sure has been priced at affordable price points – 40 rupees for 25 ml, 60 rupees for 40 ml – apart from the regular SKU size of 150 ml. This shows the intention from HUL to generate more trials from new entrants and a deeper penetration of the category and the brand across all channels. For now, it is expected that ‘Sure for women’ should do well; however, it is interesting to see if the consumers will buy it as a deodorant or as an anti-perspirant.

The brand has to succeed as a fragrance first, to sell the anti-perspirant benefit to the Indian consumers. A lot is dependent on the brand building and positioning in the consumer’s mind.

Thank you.

The thoughts expressed in this blog are completely my personal views, opinions, and interpretations based on observation and secondary research. The blog neither represents the views and ideas nor used any information of the organizations or institutions I am associated with. Thank you. is currently among the top e-commerce companies in India. Recently, they started above the line (ATL) advertising with the television commercial(TVC) below. As most of us know, if you have the pockets, a TVC is probably the best way to create awareness of your brand in India. TVC on air

Going on TV is a very big investment for any brand. A lot of strategic thought has to go behind such move. Most of the e-commerce websites in India lack awareness. There are a few successes like Flipkart, which got people’s trust with time and which initially sold only books – considered to be a safe category to buy online.

For people to buy you, they should know you first. So, might have thought that trying to increase awareness through word of mouth(WOM) or through some BTL promos will take a lot of time and may never happen. This gives a chance for competition at any time in future. So, the awareness also helps them strategically in avoiding a ‘deep pocket’ competitor in future.

One of the biggest problems to buy online is ‘trust’. Lot of research proved that people generally trust a brand that comes on TV. So, achieved both awareness and trust with this TVC, which I think is an initial success. I am very sure that Myntra must have received an exponential increase in the number of hits, and registered users. But, people will forget things very quickly in this cluttered world. Myntra has to follow-up the consumers with banner ads, direct marketing, etc. to be in the consumer’s mind. This helps them to achieve the first target – getting established in the consumer’s mind. But, the bigger question is – how to make users buy stuff online?.

Beginning to be looked as a brand, Myntra could afford to give heavy promos without letting the consumer doubt Myntra. They only hope that with such heavy promos, and cash back guarantees people will start buying online. I think Myntra should look at their promotions more strategically. Instead of providing promos to buy online, it would be good to direct the promos towards letting the consumer experience buying online. In India, most consumers still haven’t experienced buying online. So, if one needs to be successful, one needs to attack this area.

Promotions should have a strategic direction

Myntra should direct their promotions activity more towards categories that will help consumers make choices easily. Some of the categories may be: track pants, shorts, simple backpacks, slip-on’s, flip flops, etc. This will make the consumer go and buy categories which are relatively easy to decide and not so high-involving category as apparel. Once consumers buy low-involving categories like above, you begin to take their trust to the next level. They trust you as a brand, and they trust you to buy online. Once you’ve achieved this stage, if consumers are still wary to buy apparel online, strategic directed promotions should be set up to help consumers first experience buying apparel online. For example, you may give a t-shirt free if consumers buy above 2500 rupees. Give some online promotions for any in-shop purchases. This will make consumers take that risk of choosing apparel online as it is for free. If you deliver as promised to the consumer, you will be embraced by him.

I believe it is only time this happens in India. With India being a relatively young country, I think e-commerce boom is just a few years away. It is time that we take this business very seriously.

Related Posts: Behavioral to Attitude Marketing –



A to B and B to A marketing

In marketing, there are two fundamental principles called Attitude to Behaviour (A to B) and Behaviour to Attitude (B to A) marketing.

In A to B marketing, you target and change the attitude of the consumer first, so that the change in the attitude may result in a desired change in the behaviour. For example, you tell the consumer the toothpaste whitens your teeth, so that this attitude may result in the change in behaviour of buying the product. This is what most ATL activities do.

In B to A marketing, you target and change the behaviour of the consumer first, so that the change in the behaviour may result in a desired change in the attitude. For example, the whitening toothpaste gives a promotion of 1+1 free that makes you buy the product. After using the product (behavioural change), you liked it (favourable attitude) and you changed your earlier inimical attitude towards the product. This is what most BTL activities do.

What’s happening in Online India?

The Nielsen Global Online Shopping Report looks at how consumers shop online: what they intend to buy, how they use various sites, the impact of social media and other factors that come into play when they are trying to decide how to spend their money.

  • More than eight out of ten Indian online consumers plan to shop online in the next twelve months
  • More than a quarter indicate they spend upwards of 11 percent of their monthly shopping expenditure on online purchases
  • 71 percent Indians trust recommendations from family when making an online purchase decision, followed by recommendations from friends at 64 percent and online product reviews at 29 percent
  • Half the Indian consumers (50%) use social media sites to help them make online purchase decisions.
  • Online reviews and opinions are most important for Indians when buying Consumer Electronics (57%), Software (50%), and a Car (47%).
  • More than four in ten Indians are more likely to share (post a review/ Tweet/ review) a negative product or service experience online than they were to share a positive experience
  • In the next six months Indians are most likely to buy Books (41%), Airline ticket/reservations (40%), and Electronic equipment like TV, Camera, etc. (36%) online
  • When shopping online, one third of Indians (33%) purchase most frequently from websites which allow them to select products from many different stores.
Google India‘s Managing Director – Rajan Anandan gave a keynote speech at NASSCOM Social Media Summit in Delhi on 29th April, 2011. Following are some of the videos from the summit: