How often does this happen that international conglomerates have tweaked their products or services to cater to the local markets?
Well, in India, it happens very often due to the acquired taste and Desi consumer preferences. Or should I say that it’s the Indian consumer’s power that made such brands bow down to adopt changes? Not incorrect either way.
Here are some examples wherein brands came forward and showed that they are not only here to make money but to genuinely serve the customers for what they want.
Who could hit the Desi code right at the center?…
Considering the ‘Tapri’ culture of India, Starbucks realized that there’s much more bucks in selling a cutting chai than a hazelnut frappuccino in India. To capture this market, it introduced ‘Masala Chai’ and ‘Filter coffee’ on its menu.
TATA Starbucks Pvt. Ltd. announced a radical addition to its beverage menu under the name Teavana™ beverages recently. It aspires to modernize the desi tea obsession of Indians with 18 distinct tea servings ranging from Indian masala tea, iced tea, and tea lattes with a Starbucks touch. And as complimentary snacks, it also introduced small beverage cups, street-style paneer sandwiches, and milkshakes.
With such major adoption by the beverage giant, it’s still learning the consumer acceptance recipes and adjusting the product range with the local needs.
A beef giant across the world acquired the classic ‘Aloo Tikki’ and ‘Paneer’ burgers to save itself from being kicked out of India. In the country where cows are worshipped and looked after, it was next to impossible for beef burgers to make space for themselves.
As an early adapter, McD localized its menu to introduce the roadside ‘Aloo Tikki’ into a burger and ‘Chicken Maharaja Mac’ as a delicacy . Such innovations were introduced keeping in mind the Indian Spices and flavors.
Not only the taste segment but McDonald’s also took good care of the price range and kept it affordable to increase the footfalls in their stores. By adopting unique products and adjusting the price range, it attracted large crowds and continues to do so.
But not every brand got this indiansiation concept and resisted to adapt, which proved them costly and eventually got into the track of adapting Indian flavours.
..but who remained rigid and failed miserably?
The breakfast cereal leader came up with an idea to serve race cereals and cornflakes as breakfast to Indians. Little did they know about the Indian obsession with aloo paranthas and idli dosa as the staple breakfast. This became a barrier for the company as corn flakes were only known to the rich class of the country whereas it was still an alien concept to middle-class masses. In addition to this, it was the brand’s overconfidence in its product so much so that it overlooked the behavioral patterns of the country and played a blind card initially.
A bland cornflakes bowl stands no chance against spicy and tangy dosas and vadas. It was when it introduced ‘Frosties’, ‘Chocos’, and Indian premixes such as ‘Masala Upma’ that it got the much longed validation from Indian consumers. Even the producers were in awe of the response it got and the products get only better after that. Hence, at last Kellogg’s had no choice but to pivot its product line to make space for itself.
Gillette entered the indian consumer market intending to make shaving a sophisticated activity. Until then Indians were habitual with its two-blade, double-edged razor. But its USP included long-lasting diamond coated triple blades giving ‘PowerGlide’ with adjustable handles that were 10 X the price of local double-edged razors. On other hand, its product called Vector was introduced in India after enormous research by MIT graduates. It failed still. The reason being the clogged razors after their very first use. Since Indian men used a cup of water instead of running tap water to clean the razor, it got clogged after first use and didn’t really made up to the promise made. At first, it failed due to its rigidity in making shaving a premium activity but it nearly forgot that India is a land of the common man and to succeed here, his preferences must be taken care of.
Unusual shaving methods and premium products made Gillette’s survival skeptical. But not after October 2010 when it upgraded its past mistakes by launching a product exclusively for Indian consumers called Gillette Guard. It was priced at Rs. 15 per razor and was made easy to use and assemble. This razor seemed exactly what Indian men were looking for and it became an instant hit.
Why do brands LOVE the Indian consumer market?
Given the consumer potential of India in terms of population and brand loyalty, companies are nothing but desperate to get themselves validated by Indian consumers. Looking at the diverse demographic of the nation and its varied income distribution, it becomes crucial for the brands to take them into consideration while marketing their products.
Another reason why India is important as a consumer market is its wide acceptability. Becoming India’s favourite isn’t easy for brands but if we love a product, the loyalty stays for long. And this clearly shows in the balance sheets of companies.
Since globalisation, the Indian consumer industry is highly welcoming towards foreign brands and products. Right from Coca cola to Pepsi, and Iphone to Samsung, Indian consumers have greeted every brand but only if it didn’t hurt their sentimental values.
But is mere glocalization a sure-shot bet to captivate Indian consumers?
It’s important to adhere to the local cultural values when entering any local and saturated market like India. It requires thorough research and efforts to actually understand the customs and beliefs of the people before simply launching a product. But it’s not always welcomed wholeheartedly by the consumers.
Sometimes, too much indiansiation makes the brand lose its brand positioning and leads to market loss. One such instance is of Dunkin Donuts which introduced savory donuts with Indian flavors to impress Indian consumers. In addition to this, it started a sandwich and burger line which made consumers confused about its brand image and diluted its market. This made the company shut half of its stores in India in 2018.
In a nutshell, it’s a good idea for brands to Indianise their products to capture the market initially but not at the cost of their brand identity. The key lies in adapting to the local markets along with keeping the brand values intact to make an effective brand presence.
As very rightly said, “Think Global and Act Local”.