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Special Columns
Arindam Chaudhuri, Editor-in-Chief, 4Ps B&M Chief Consulting Editor's Desk
Rajita Chaudhuri
K.K.Srivastava Guest Column
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The enigmatic Indian (male) consumer
There is no single psychographic profile that can claim to represent the whole Indian market
David Buss, an evolutionary psychologist at the Michigan University, concludes in his study, ‘Tactics for Promoting Sexual Encounters’ that men prefer the direct approach. But women find men with a subtler approach sexier. So lines like ‘I really love you’, or ‘I care about you deeply’ might work better, he mentions, than flatfoot statements conveying the need for physical relations. Aggressive tactics shown in most Hollywood movies, he again suggests, are unlikely to help.

Perhaps. Or, on second thoughts, perhaps not so in India.

1991 was certainly a watershed year in the annals of Indian economy. The nation took the first diffident step towards freeing the economy from the clutches of socialism. Unconnected, but as if on cue, KamaSutra condoms were launched the same year focussing not on planning the family but for enhanced pleasure. The year divided the market into BC and AC eras – before consumerism and after consumerism. Post 1991, social austerity did not anymore remain a virtue.

Now, we have ‘First World’ hospitals, shopping complexes, resorts, schools, spas and condominiums in ‘Third World’ India. You can buy any car here. India belongs to the so-called Internet and Global Village. The similarly titled technical revolution seems to have been ushered in. Men spend hours and small fortunes in salons and spas. Seafood sampler with pickled beetroot chutney or corn pea cake served with tomato compote is what you get to cleanse and rejuvenate your body. Chefs are on a health mission, serving to the well-heeled a detox diet. Age – both on the lower and ageing side – is no bar to visit parlours and gyms. Everyone is fighting age with cosmetics, surgery, potions and lotions, and protein shakes; each one is reinventing himself.

Money has acquired a sensuous quality. Greed is good; actually it is God. Epicureanism abounds. According to a media report, the three food habits we are likely to see in 2012 will be home cooking based on exotic ingredients, consumption of ethical food which has to be tasty as well, and visits to the celeb restaurants like Le Cirque and Hakkasan. Instant Nirvana, new age spirituality, fad diets all are new rage along with the reining alternative therapies like Reiki or Feng Shui. Such are the things that excite consumption saturated Gen Xers and Yers.

To have physical relations is no longer under wraps – at least not as it was before. The age of innocence metamorphoses into adulthood sooner now. Live-ins are more de rigueur than same sex relationships – which also seem to be catching on quite fast. An aspirational society is offloading traditions.

On the plus side, of course, there is a new kindling of the can-do mentality in a nation dictated by Kismet and the sense of fatalism. Young India is proud of the country and things Indian. Optimism and the ‘feel good’ factor are getting stronger. The future is even brighter for marketers too.

An IDBI Capital study suggests that the middle class population will grow up to 583 million by 2025 (up from 50 million in 2005) with a significantly increased average real household disposable income. 70% of the household money will be spent on discretionary purchases. The working age population will go up from 65% (2005) to 68% (2030) with more than 39% of the people being below 25 years and 87% below 60. The numbers are truly staggering as far as future potential consumption in concerned.

Well, actually what I wish to highlight is this fact: As Buss simplifies things (read the research at the start), even if sacrificing the intergroup differences, so do the above remarks about the emerging consuming class. But oversimplification is fraught with risk.

While a marketer prefers a single prototype, since it makes his job of communicating and selling a single product easier, stereotyping is always laden with dangerous overtones. Not every male is using caviar creams or undergoing laser treatment for hair removal. Nor for that matter have sarees been abandoned or red wine become the preferred drink for the fairer sex. No doubt, the androgynous sartorial style popularised in Dil Chahta Hai has its loyalists. But the muscle rippling dresses of Salman Bhai have a great degree of acceptance too. There is no single psychographic profile that can claim to represent the whole market. Broadly speaking, Indian males fall in four categories, Conformists, Hedonists, the Janus Faced, and The Evolving Ideal.

A Conformist is driven by traditional values, loves his family, and is shorn of ostentation. He likes value for money brands, and is unlikely to ‘dress up’. He finds debt as an abhorring burden. So sell him the mass marketed brands which reach out to him with images celebrating the man in control (over situation or woman in his life). Platina, Peter England or economy in Gillette shaving gel are likely to succeed with this tribe.

A Hedonist, the second type, belongs to the ‘I, me, myself’ genre. He is driven by status and status symbols. Unlike conformists he is a risk taker and pleasure seeker. Situated in metros and tier-1 towns he is perhaps single. He equates best in the class with the concept of value. Dandy looks are very important to him; in fact he is obsessed with his appearance. Credit card is something he frequently swipes. He aspires for a Harley Davidson, but sell him at least a Pulsar, an Allen Solly and the brands of the ilk on premiumness and hitech imagery.

We also have the Janus Faced consumer who is constantly striving to project a politically and socially correct image. He is always conscious of others’ opinion about him (a Blackberry 9900 or Apple i4S) and conducts himself accordingly. For him success equates both money and recognition. He is paradoxically individualistic and yet approval seeker. Therefore he is unlikely to breach social norms. Ads built around loss of face or social ostracism are likely to be on spot for this category. It is for these people that Maruti is introducing its SUV which is actually a cross between a car and a true blood 4x4 off-roader, since he wants to set himself apart and get noticed but not very radically. So, truly innovative category creators are not for him.

Finally we have the Mr. Male of the future – The Evolving Man. He believes in tending to his kids (Nivea Man) and the family. He shares the household work with the wife, gives her the morning cup of tea first thing when she wakes up (now, which ad was this!). He is neither overly conformist nor a rebel against all things traditional. Young, professionally educated, he has a progressive outlook.

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