Book Reviews

Customer in the Boardroom


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Krishna Grade

By Krishna Gade

Redmond, Washington United States

'Gives great insights into Indian consumer market. Bijapurkar makes interesting observations and backs them up with data. Overall a great read for someone interesting in setting up business in India.'

Aurelio Gutierrez Perez

Aurelio Gutierrez Perez

Asturias, Spain

'Focused on understanding the nature of consuming forces in India, very interesting for people who are targeting this market.'

B.Sudhakar Shenoy

B.Sudhakar Shenoy


'This book is a very interesting study of the Indian consumer that only Indians can really appreciate. India is a land of contrasts so diverse that one may encounter a totally new local language and food habit every 200 miles. The world's largest democracy has finally woken up to find her rightful place in the global economy, and begun her journey towards market capitalism, thanks to the path breaking policy changes brought about by the Union Budget of 1991. Since then there has been no looking back, despite several changes in political leadership at the Central Government. Coincidentally, I completed my MBA from India's premier business school, the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, in 1991, where I did a course on Market Research taught by Prof Rama Bijapurkar. Till 1991, the Indian consumer had virtually no choice but a few substandard products in most categories, thanks to the strong barriers to entry of foreign companies and restriction in local competition through a regime of industrial licensing. The general belief at that time was that the average Indian consumer is hungry for cornflakes and thirsty for colas and there would be mad queues lining up to grab these products once introduced. In reality, two of the world's global leaders in these products are yet to break even since then. The Indian Consumer is content with hot "idlis" (my favorite) for breakfast, and proud to drink water from a earthen pot at home. It was also believed for example that India's only (and state owned) Life Insurance Company will be in deep trouble once the foreign Insurance companies walk in with innovative "products" and technologies. The fact today is that the largest player remains the largest and most profitable with a reach into 640000 Indian villages that is its competition's envy. "We know India Better" says this India's most recognized brand. Rama Bijapurkar is India's very well known and highly respected authority on the subject of India's consumer behavior. Her quantitative approach to arrive at accurate qualitative insights is not by adopting unavoidable and conventional statistical techniques, but an outcome of her deep understanding of and involvement in shaping corporate strategies for some of India's most respected brands. This book just is a brief summary of her rich experience. Following a non jargon ( non MBA !) approach, Rama Bijapurkar explains several contexts of consumer India through many interesting day to day, real life examples. An Indian with a post graduate degree and working as an officer in a bank with a salary of Rs 50000/- per month has a totally different lifestyle (and hence consumer behavior) compared to a high school dropout who owns a grocery store and earns the same amount. (The shopkeeper may never disclose his income especially to the tax authorities, and in terms of official national statistics he may be earning less than a dollar a day, a very poor man!) India earns lots of foreign exchange through NRI's (Non resident Indians) who send money home. We also have a unique local emerging class of consumer market of RNI's (Resident Non Indians) or the aspiring "green card wallas" who think that they are in India only temporarily, and awaiting their immediate opportunity to migrate, but try hard to emulate American lifestyle in India. Somebody thought that India's belief in Astrology will significantly diminish, thanks to the computer and internet age. Welcome to India which today offers computerized horoscopes and predictions that are accessible through the web. In short, there is no single India. Multinationals, instead of asking what their global strategies would yield in India, should be asking themselves what strategies they should be specifically adopting for India. If, Force = Mass X Acceleration, even if India is moving slowly, its massive mass makes her a formidable global force, no marketer can afford to ignore. This book is an ideal guide to understand and tap this global force. The title of my review is based on a recent Bollywood movie "Chak de India" meaning, "Go for it -India". As Indians know better, "We are like that only". Professor, thank you for this wonderful book.'

A Never - Before World
chidambaram txt


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Anand Mahindra

Anand Mahindra

Chairman and Managing Director, Mahindra & Mahindra

'Rama is a tireless and brilliant advocate for Embedding customer insight into business strategy.'

C.K. Prahalad

C.K. Prahalad

Author of The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid

'Rama's analysis provides a focus for new questions not just for multinationals entering India but for established Indian firms as well.'

Ruchir Sharma

Ruchir Sharma

Author of Breakout Nations

'Rama Bijapurkar is one of the very few global minds who doesn't paint emerging markets with a developed country brush.'

We are like that only


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Shamni Pande

This also, that also

by Shamini Pande
Business Today - Dec 2, 2007.

It has been more than a decade since the first wave of consumer marketers came to India in the wake of a newly liberalised economy. Talk to them, and they'll tell you that they are still searching for the promised El Dorado-the 250-million-strong Indian middle class that was expected to open up its purse strings to purveyors of everything from potato chips to sneakers to colour televisions. While some of the multinational marketers have done fabulously well (the Koreans, for example, in durables), many others have failed to live up to their global status in India.

In the past, we have had books on changing India and consumers, where Gurcharan Das's India Unbound sought to engagingly chronicle the country's progress since shortly after Independence and elaborated on the impact of liberalisation process in 1991. Later, Pavan Varma's The Great Indian Middle Class commented on the role of the individual citizen in a changing world. But Bijapurkar's work is different; it is not a casual-if-incisive commentary, but a well-researched and fact-based work. There is no attempt to pontificate, but merely to analyse and synthesise. And the message is delivered in a style that's now her trademark: direct, and with the least amount of fuss.

Sample some of her observations from Chapter 1: "The nature of emerging market economies is fundamentally different"; "emerging markets need not be virgin markets"; "emerging markets today-such as India-are not what the developed markets were in their infancy". In shattering such myths, Bijapurkar, a former McKinsey consultant who now consults independently, dives straight into the heart of the matter on how every indicator on India is a relative measure. While key indicators such as purchasing power reveal a trend, what they don't usually reveal is the level of aspiration. For it's not just people, but even cities that have mindsets, she contends.

All this may appear to be a case of obvious knowledge in hindsight, but not really. In early 2000, Hindustan Lever (now Hindustan Unilever) realised that consumer spends were going up, but it possibly did not bargain for the fact that people would not spend on soaps and shampoos, but would direct their earnings towards mobiles, home loans and automobiles.

At company after company, marketers are realising that change has crept in on them unawares. So, Bijapurkar's critics might say that her book is a tad too late, but they would have missed the point that she has been voicing these views for some years now at various fora and through her writing. In this book, she states herself with greater vehemence: ask not, she cautions multinational marketers, "what is the size of market that India offers for my global strategy?" rather, ask "what should be my local, customised strategy for the Indian market?"

Marketers needn't get depressed, though. Bijapurkar also points to something that may be uniquely Indian (perhaps, Asian as well): the Indian consumers morph slowly, but the collective change, when it finally happens, is phenomenal. Just ask Nokia.

Sunil Jain

The expectations trap

by Sunil Jain
New Delhi, Dec 07, 2007.

When management gurus such as CK Prahlad and Jagdish Sheth endorse a book so wholeheartedly, you have to take it that much more seriously. As it happens, marketing and strategy consultant Rama Bijapurkar's lives up to much of the praise and does a great job explaining what, to many, looks like a schizophrenic Indian consumer. To the extent she does this by running down fancy marketing executives paid even fancier salaries, and going on to take up important global assignments in their parent companies after an India stint, the book gets that much more delightful.

I don't know any of the India chiefs Coca Cola has had, but if they ran up losses of more than their equity investment of $268 mn in a decade, and were foolish enough to pay a huge amount to buy the Parle brands only to kill them, surely I couldn't have done much worse? Indeed, while top MNCs have failed in the automobile market, former-bureaucrat Jagdish Khattar has done wonders at Maruti using a simple theory - that no one theory works in the Indian market. So, Khattar has gone around wooing panchayat heads, for instance, a market segment no one has thought of as a distinct one so far.

In the same vein, Bijapurkar tells us, with help from economists Subir Gokarn and Omkar Goswami (in two different studies), that to equate rural India with agriculture is completely wrong, that more than half of rural income is non-agricultural, that there are at least 150 rural districts that have assets and amenities equivalent to that of urban India. She points out that it is foolish to believe the Indian market, or parts of it, will mimic those of other countries at different income levels - so, just because people in the US behaved in a certain way doesn't mean Indian consumers will buy the same things as their incomes go up. By way of example, and there are many more, Bijapurkar points out that US-style malls located far away in the suburbs don't work in India and that Subhiksha-style 1,000 square feet chains are more successful. Similarly, while Indians want to cook less as incomes go up, and wives start working, they haven't embraced ready-to-eat western food but have opted for freshly made tiffin box lunches provided by housewives or large kitchens. And, while many lazy marketers are content to wait till the market develops, Bijapurkar points out, the opportunity simply gets taken by someone else - so, while the IBMs and Dells waited for income levels to rise enough so that people could afford to buy decent PCs, low-cost assemblers simply walked away with the market.

At the end, however, you get the feeling Bijapurkar's trying too hard to show the Indian consumer is different. Sure, India's consumers differ from region to region, across income categories, even occupation categories within the same geographical area, but surely that's the case everywhere in the world and to be expected in a country the size of India? After all, Wal-Mart may have succeeded in the US, but it has been a failure in similarly developed markets like Germany and Japan - indeed, even in the US, Wal-Mart has been struggling to reinvent itself and its every-day-low-cost pricing model.

And, just when the reader is getting convinced that no grand theory or categorisation of customers works, Bijapurkar starts explaining the market in terms of precisely these categorizations. So, "China 2005 = India 2015", she says to explain that India will soon be just as hot a consumer market as China was. The Socio-economic Classification (SEC) which classifies consumers according to their education and occupation, she says, is a special favourite when it comes to explaining consumer behaviour, even though education levels of a 40-year-old may have typically frozen two decades ago and occupation categories like 'officers/executives' are too broad to give meaningful results. The Dharavi slum in Mumbai, the author admits, contains households all the way from SEC B to E, with a smattering of SEC A - in which case, why not explain consumer behaviour the way NCAER does across not just income groups but even occupation groups across rural and urban areas and across regions?

That said, the book is great read and offers valuable inputs. Just make sure it isn't the only one you're reading though.

S. Ramachander

The Indian Consumer

by Mr. S. Ramachander
The Hindu, Jan 29, 2008.

The focus of the book is the central question of all marketing and strategy thinkers as well as managers: how large really is the Indian market, and how can we reach it profitably? For, surely there is no altruism or developmental orientation at all in the eyes and minds of Big Business, be it Indian or international. The fact is that the bottom of the pyramid, presented most recently and forcefully by C.K. Prahalad, is a chance for them to make a fortune.

Rama Bijapurkar's book provides, among other things, some directions as to how one might define this as well as the rest of the pyramid, starting from the creamy layer on the top. Much has indeed been said in the past decade, and since 1991, about the mammoth consumer market of 300 million people. Some chief executives of foreign companies and money men have been foolish enough to think of this as a market the size of the U.S., all speaking English and reachable by television. No wonder so many companies came salivating over the prospect. Yet, reality soon caught up with them, through the slowdown in the late 1990s. What they did not have is an appropriate mental model, a picture that was true to the reality of the Indian market - in terms of both its structure and behaviour. They used analogies, at best, of experiences in countries such as Brazil and Thailand, to size the Indian consumer market.


What they should do, as Rama argues, is to see the fallacy of facile simplifications and clichès about market segmentation. Many are irrelevant to India. It is fashionable to say that there are two Indias, and the sound-bite makers have coined the terms India and Bharat to describe them. The truth is that there are far more than two types of India, perhaps a dozen. Much depends on what parameters you are looking at in segmenting and aggregating the target population.

To the CEO of a newly entering multinational, the issue is of great importance because it is a major step and a significant commitment of management time. Assessing the true potential means making adjustments to one's lenses and seeing reality as it is, not drawing inappropriate European or American parallels. She makes the point strongly that the sheer variety and diversity of the population is more than that of continental Europe.

Yet another fallacy is the great rural foray that everyone is so convinced about today. It is easy to think that the rural areas comprise mainly farmers and therefore incomes come mainly from agriculture. This is yet another fallacy that needs to be exploded, as the author does, showing the power and the growth potential of the self-employed and trader segments of the population. In fact, the purchasing power of the rural middle-income group in the aggregate is as large as that of its urban counterpart. What is more, the purchase and consumption of durables amongst the non-farm rural population follows a pattern not dissimilar to that of the urban counterparts.

Insight, the key

I like this book personally for the reasons that we like most things; because it says what one wishes one had done oneself. For instance, her persistent use of the new and more research based mental models is very encouraging. The fact of the matter is a good marketing strategy in India of today demands a combination of the skills of a sociologist, anthropologist and economist, which is quite rare in any individual and difficult to come by among the permanent staff of a company.

Insight rather than information or statistics should guide thinking on any relevant, innovative marketing strategy. It is a lesson that many CEOs tend to learn slowly and somewhat reluctantly. Here is a book that should help along the way, if they are so persuaded.

A common friend once described Rama Bijapurkar's chief strength as the ability to popularise difficult concepts and turn research findings into layman's language. I thought that it was a perceptive remark, considering how she has used a career in marketing research, and understanding the complex entity called the Indian consumer market as a springboard to becoming a well-recognised publicist for marketing and a strategy consultant.

After reading this very interesting volume full of insightful arguments and convincing data, one tends to agree. The book demonstrates that "Rama is like that only."

Ashok V Desai

Consumer dissection

by Ashok V Desai

From the time when she worked for a foreign management consultancy, Rama Bijapurkar has met a procession of ignorant foreigners who think that India is just a poor country, and that it will become more and more like Europe and America as it gets richer. This book is a detailed refutation of that view; it goes about detailing how and in how many ways India is different. But it is not just the product of a bee in a bonnet. It describes an approach to analyzing Indian markets - a successful one, since it has made Rama one of the most sought-after marketing consultants in this country.

Consumers show enormous variations that are relevant to what they buy and how much of it; Rama rings these variations in a number of dimensions. To begin with, she takes the population and slices it into quintiles by income. According to her, the poorest fifth live a hand-to-mouth existence and are insignificant as consumers. The next fifth, aspirants, acquire the most basic consumer durables - bicycles, fans and radios - and learn to aspire for more. The third group, climbers, is hooked, but find that their desires far outrun their income, so they buy the cheapest goods. The fourth group, whom she calls the consuming class (aren't the others?), is of inveterate buyers; they weigh the price against what they get for it. The top fifth are the rich; they buy the best without looking at the price. Over time, the income of each group would rise, some members of each group would rise into the next, and their objectives would change; the rate at which all these changes take place shapes, in a complex way, the expansion and contraction of demand for various consumer goods. The income elasticities that emerge from these changes would be different from those historically observed in other countries; in this sense, India is unique. Rama is not wedded to quintiles; she also tries out 7, 8 and 10 income classes. But the idea is the same: that income levels determine consumption behaviour and aspirations, and a consumer's place in the income hierarchy determines his objectives and calculations. Rama similarly slices the population on the basis of values, industry, occupation, education, age and location (rural or urban).

In Rama's view, Indians can be divided into a number of generations: those born before independence, the products of post-independence socialist India, and those who grew up after liberalisation. Each has a different mindset and approach to consumption. As time passes, each generation will pass into history, and new generations will arise. Their changing outlook has an influence on consumption patterns. Rama covers other variables more briefly, such as gender, culture and psychology. All this is interspersed with jokes and anecdotes. Rama has many friends, and gives talks to corporate managers who are often rather ridiculous; both provide material for much merriment.

While this book conveys much knowledge in an easily digestible form, it is not a do-it-yourself guide to market analysis. It does not contain formulae one can use to work out how to sell, say, iPods in India. For that one would have to call in Rama. The Indian market is a cranky machine that only she knows how to start.

This is because Rama has no explicit model. An economist would approach the problem by assuming a demand function for every consumption good, in which income, price, age, occupation etc., would appear as independent variables; he would look for a function that best fits the data. For instance, using the NCAER data Rama uses, I once found a good fit between the proportion of an income class possessing a consumer durable and the ratio of income to price. It was a promising beginning; one could add other variables to the equation until one got an acceptable fit. I hope Rama will graduate to this kind of simple econometrics, for her own amusement if for nothing better.

I also think Rama's book would benefit if she took account of changes in technology. The biggest difference I see between the world I was born in, before World War II, and now is the enormous reduction in physical work. Such a huge volume of goods used to be transported in hand trolleys; so much agricultural work was manual work; almost all the goods on trains and at ports were loaded and unloaded by hand. I remember rice being unloaded from a train in Patna during the Bihar famine of 1966. We would not let the porters steal any. So they used to stick a hook into a gunny bag to get a grip on it. As rice spilled out of the hole, they would take it and eat it raw.

If mechanisation of such tasks had been suggested 50 years ago, people would have been shocked; they would have thought that the bulk of the population would lose their jobs. Surely this decline in physical labour must have affected consumption patterns. An obvious impact can be seen in the decline in per capita foodgrain consumption; now that the people are burning fewer calories, they need to eat less. But there must be other effects. It would be interesting to see where the application of Rama's quirky mind to this question might lead.

Now that Rama is prospering, she should wander around the world. She will find that everywhere, people are like that only - in many different ways. Her roving eye would capture many idiosyncrasies; they would make an even more interesting book. Meanwhile, this one may be a contribution to management literature, but it is not serious, let alone ponderous.

P. Chidambaram

Singular at the top, plural at the bottom

by Mr. P Chidambaram, Hon'ble Minister of Finance
The Economic Times, Nov 7, 2007.

IS THE word 'trousers' singular or plural? Sunil Khilnani narrates the story of an Irishman who replied that 'trousers' was singular at the top and plural at the bottom! This delicious vignette is recalled in Rama Bijapurkar's book We Are Like That Only, an original and thought-provoking treatise on the Indian consumer market.

Substitute the word 'trousers' by the words 'Consumer India', the phrase used by the author to describe the Indian market and the Indian consumer. The question whether Consumer India is singular or plural would be more difficult to answer - in fact, the answer would border on the philosophical. According to Bijapurkar, a renowned consultant on consumer behaviour, what we have in India is a 'tricky and complex market' that has to be looked through 'multiple lenses'. That is what she has attempted to do in this fascinating - often irreverent - book that questions many assumptions, myths and conventional wisdom.

Divided into 13 chapters, the book explores the demographic, cultural and the social trends and identifies the strategic themes and approaches that businesses must think about when addressing Consumer India. Bijapurkar describes the Indian market as 'rebellious'. Why does Nokia win while the cola majors struggle? Why does Honda win while Mercedes struggles? Why does Levi's lag behind, Nike limp along and Star TV rethink? Bijapurkar tells her clients that the onus is on them to define what their India is. Every business is advised to develop a mental model of 'my target India' and then translate it into a well-defined construct of a consumer market. The winners are those who were able to market a 'Made for India' product.

Bijapurkar has extensively drawn upon two pathbreaking surveys of the Indian consumer market. One is the Market Information Survey of Households (MISH) of the NCAER and the other is the Guide to Indian Markets 2006 by Hansa Research, a market research agency. She has also drawn on her own earlier work 'Solving the Income Data Puzzle' authored with Laveesh Bhandari. Interpreting the data, she has reached the conclusion that there are, today, no more than 60 million people with high purchasing power, 100 million who are well on the road to consumption and, below that, another layer of 100 to 150 million consumers who have just begun their consumption journey.

The story does not stop there. There is not one India or one Indian market and hence the monolithic model must be replaced by a mental model for a schizophrenic India. 'Schizophrenic' is not a pejorative word to describe India: it is simply a shorthand to describe the heterogeneity of the Indian market - 62 socio-cultural regions, 23 languages, and diverse food habits, climatic conditions and cultural orientations. The author points out that if one recognises that there are many distinctive demand segments in India - the 'many Indias' - the logic behind the erratic and capricious consumer demand in India will become clear. Her argument is that IT India and agricultural India are two different demand segments. Likewise, rural India has two distinct demand segments, one agricultural and the other non-agricultural. Government employees constitute a separate demand segment while the self-employed constitute another demand segment. The author goes on to argue that, in the future, the pattern of many Indias becoming many more Indias will continue. Hence, the thesis that each business must identify 'my target India'.

Using research and survey data, Bijapurkar skillfully puts forward the case that consumption is determined by demography, psychography (mindsets of people such as a class that has arrived or is aspiring or is striving or is escapist), age and ethnicity. The author cites the lesson learnt after one particularly difficult market research assignment for a paint company and says, "We discovered that the reason our user and volume estimates were not tallying was that the living room walls were painted with plastic emulsion while the ceilings, where guests were unlikely to look, were painted with distemper. Similarly, the bed rooms, where guests do not go, were painted with cheap distemper."

What about the consumer at the bottom of the pyramid (BOP)? The size of the BOP market - where the individual has an income of less than a dollar a day - is put at 650 million. Bijapurkar argues, quite convincingly, that a dollar a day per capita translates into Rs 6,750 per month for an average family of five and, on a PPP basis, this would convert into a comfortable living. Of this 650 million, she estimates that the 250 million who are at the very bottom may be very hard to integrate into the mainstream market economy. The story that Bijapurkar tells is gripping. Her data is of the highest integrity, her arguments are unexceptionable and her conclusions are quite telling. One conclusion with which the reader will readily agree is that India and Indians will never be like some place else or someone else and they will march down their own road because "we are like that only". It is a story that should be compulsory reading for every marketing executive.

We are like that only - Understanding the logic of Consumer India

Bibek Debroy

No Rules Please, We're India

by Mr. Bibek Debroy
The Indian Express, Nov 11, 2007.

Rama Bijapurkar writes well. "India is a nuclear-capable state that still cannot build roads that will survive their first monsoon. It has eradicated smallpox through the length and breadth of the country, but cannot stop female foeticide and infanticide. It is a country that managed to bring about what it called the 'green revolution', which heralded food grain self-sufficiency for a nation that relied on external food aid and yet, it easily has the most archaic land and agricultural laws in the world, with no sign of anyone wanting to reform them any time soon. It has hundreds of millions of people who subsist on less than a dollar a day, but who vote astutely and punish political parties ruthlessly." However, this book is not about these dichotomies. It is about the Indian consumer market and its marketing implications, based partly on material Bijapurkar has earlier written in magazines and newspaper columns. The backdrop is the India Shining growth story, present and future. Though not directly pertinent to the meat of the book, more care on macro numbers (with years indicated) was warranted. Is India's Atlas method per capita income $538 (page 27) or $700 (page 34)? Is overall GDP $700 billion (page 33)?

If there is income and prosperity growth, there should be consumption growth. Yet, initially, the hyped 250-300 million middle class didn't materialise and part of the reason was a misunderstanding of the Indian consumer market. One emerging market economy differs from another and all emerging markets are not virgin markets. "Consumer India is like an experienced hire in an organisation, while Consumer China is like a fresh hire. An experienced hire is more difficult to manage and mould, because he already has a set way of doing things that works pretty well and therefore he needs a lot of convincing (by persuasion or clout) to adopt your way of thinking or doing things."

Nor are emerging markets like India what developed markets were in their infancy. Hence a marketing strategy has to be India-specific, looking at India through multiple lenses. Through 13 chapters, we are taken through these multiple lenses, the first two chapters being primarily introductory. In the third chapter, we begin with some broad-brush propositions. Consumer India is large. It is mostly poor, but is getting less poor. (One should have been more careful about the 22 per cent poverty ratio for 2004-05, page 34.) It has some rich people. But they are increasing in number and getting richer. However, the market is like a patchwork quilt, with consumption ideologies of the post-liberalisation generation significantly different from the pre-liberalisation one.

In the chapters that follow, we are taken through segmentation of Consumer India, initially based on NCAER's five consumer categories - the rich, the consuming class, the climbers, the aspirants and the destitute. Thus, Consumer India is not a monolith, but a multi-layered cake. There is the inevitable question of matching consumption/expenditure data, with income data. "Consumption data from surveys is accurate and tallies well with supply side information. Here's the mantra to remember - consumption is like maternity, a certainty. Income is like paternity - merely a matter of inference." Let me reiterate that this is an exceedingly well-written book, with an abundant of anecdotes thrown in. However, this part (Chapter 5) is an exception and while economists will understand what Bijapurkar has to say, the non-specialist may feel lost.

To get back to many Indias, Consumer India can be segmented into the afore-mentioned five consumption classes, urban and rural India, four age cohorts (with two distinct consumption ideologies) and five economies (agriculture, manufacturing, government, services, IT). Marketing thus has to define the target India and cannot afford to assume that one size will fit all. To add to our comprehension, we are next taken through SEC (socio-economic classification), the self-employed as a distinct consumer class, psychographic determinants and ethnicity.

After an explanation on how this is changing (Chapter 8), we move on to issues that are usually not covered - cultural foundations (Chapter 9), young India and women (Chapter 10), the rural market (Chapter 11) and perhaps inevitably, the bottom of the pyramid (Chapter 12). How many marketing books are likely to have data on village India? The final concluding chapter brings the arguments together and there is a foreword by C.K. Prahalad and an afterword by N.R. Narayana Murthy. A good and engrossing book.

Suhel Seth

Made for India

by Mr. Suhel Seth, Managing Partner of Counselage India
Hindustan Times, Nov 13, 2007.

If you want to know how to sell to an Indian, buy this book.

WITH THE title of the book, Rama Bijapurkar aims to capture not just your mind but also keep the cash registers ringing. Not an unattractive aim for a book that is a must-read for anyone who wants to navigate the complexity of India's consumer landscape. Bijapurkar's learnings, both as a teacher and a consultant, have stood her in good stead. The book has delightful dollops of jargon, even though Bijapurkar says she prefers keeping it simple. So don't be surprised if she calls you an 'under-doser' because that is what most Indians are: mothers will be content giving their children one table-spoonful of baby powder - even though the dosage is two - in order to save.

The book underscores the social contours that make India so diverse but equally impossible for any marketers to face with one single strategy. I believe her most compelling contribution is her thesis on why brands need to be Made for India. Her hypothesis is that marketers will not only need to construct products and brands with a clear Indian idiom, but also critically re-examine their global strategies and their communication interventions since there is no other market quite like India. There are, however, some usual pitfalls.

I disagree with Bijapurkar that the market can be easily divided into the premium, popular and discount categories and that income can be so easily consumer-segmented. She only needs to see the number of well-heeled people who shop at large format stores to believe that discount is an Indian birthright and no matter how rich or poor you are, discounts are hard top overlook.

I would have liked the book to be a much bigger, but then, as Bijapurkar says, we are like that only and would prefer small and manageable pack sizes. For instance, her chapter on schizophrenic India could have had many layers if one took into account the political hypocrisy that is often practiced by Indians. We love castigating the same crooks we often elect. I also believe Bijapurkar would have done well to extend the logic of Bollywood influence to the mania that other film industries, such as the ones in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, cast as also the taboos which many brands play on, be it a Fair & Lovely or, for that matter; nationalistic brands like Amul.

In sum, the book is a compelling read for all those interested not just in marketing to Indians but also in getting under the Indian skin. It is incomplete in certain areas but it would be too much to ask even of Rama Bijapurkar to capture the myriad idiosyncrasies of the Indian marketplace in one book. Like any good marketer, she has kept space for a sequel.

Shankkar Aiyar

Talking Shop

by Mr. Shankkar Aiyar
India Today, 26th Nov, 2007.

Is the Indian consumer a local shopper or a global citizen? This audacious book maps the mindscape of the mall rat and more.

Defining the Indian consumer is as arduous and complex a task as defining Hinduism. By definition, definition is the act of defining or making clear, definite or distinct, a concept or a phenomenon. A stipulative definition freely assigns meaning to a completely new term, creating a usage that had never previously existed. Rama Bijapurkar's tome on the Indian consumer is more an ambitious attempt of the latter kind. Talking about Hinduism or the Indian consumer, no one definition can cope with the plurality and the diversity, or be copious enough. Indeed, no definition really exists.

Yet, it is a definition everyone is looking for. It matters because India matters. You have to know the who, what, why, where, when and how of the Indian market because India is the fastest growing free-market democracy between Turkey and Tokyo. With a billion-plus populace, a trillion-dollar economy growing at 9 per cent and the youngest demographic profile in the world, knowing the Indian market is critical to growth. Those who didn't bother are still wondering what else they lost besides opportunity.

Should products be made for India? Or marketed uniquely in India? Is the Indian consumer a local product or a global citizen? Should transnationals localize or globalize? Why did Toyota's Innova work, how did LG and Samsung buy market shares, what did Nokia or MTV do to get it right? These are subjects of boardroom discussions. But nobody has quite attempted to landscape rather mindscape, the Indian consumer. This book deserves to be read for the sheer audacity of its attempt at definition. And who better to attempt it than Bijapurkar. An IIM-Ahmedabad alumnus and now part of its visiting faculty, she has worked the numbers and the markets with the best minds at McKinsey and MARG, and boards ranging from Hindustan Lever to Infosys.

You may get thrown off by the jargon and the sheer spread, or the rapid pace at which questions pop up. Questions, warnings, lesson and suggestions fly fast and furious. Bijapurkar picks up the threads from 1991 and bombs you with numbers, reasons, perspectives and commandments. For instance, low-cost offering does not mean short-changing the consumer. Or, never mind the billions, we love the discounts. Be it the top of the rack or the bottom of the pyramid, there are instances and there is analysis. There is high-brow economics, pure marketing and pop psycho-sociology too. You may argue, wonder and disagree. For instance why is the book called 'We are like that only'. Shouldn't it be, 'We are like this only'? Or is the consumer changing? But then, this is quintessential Bijapurkar, whose normal conversations are 100-words-a minute with at least three case studies and four perspectives. If you are selling or buying, this is worth the tag and the time.

Business Line

Define your own India

Business Line, New Delhi, 15th Nov 2007.

Fed up with 'popular methods used by consulting firms and business analysts to evaluate the Indian market opportunity,' Rama Bijapurkar comes up with an alternative. "The top line of a P&L (profit and loss) statement is about consumer choices, not supply-side economics," she writes in We Are Like That Only (

The book argues that emerging markets do not evolve the way the developed ones did, and consumption here takes off at far lower income levels, with low-priced innovations. The 'Made for India' proposition makes sense here, rather than "the conventional wisdom of 'global standard' benefits at global equivalent prices", says Bijapurkar.

Considering the demographic and economic growth of India and China, the author calls for a re-think on "the centre of gravity of 'global'". She urges businesses, therefore, to define their own India, and to 'translate the geographic idea into a well-defined construct of a consumer market'. Marketers should learn to accept India as 'a market of contradictions and focus on designing innovative businesses which would or might work in such a market'.

Bijapurkar foresees a 'guaranteed to happen' opportunity: 'China 2005 = India 2015.' In about eight years, India would attain the same per capita income as China had in 2005, she declares.

A book for those looking for the winning long haul.