Bates' CSO Dheeraj Sinha turns author with his debut literary offering

By Ashwini Gangal , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | March 14, 2011
Titled Consumer India - Inside the Indian Mind and Wallet, and targetted at professional marketers, the book is an insightful account of the changes that have transpired in India over the last two decades.

In the presence of the agency's top management, clients and other industry professionals, Bates 141's chief strategy officer, Dheeraj Sinha, launched his first book. Titled Consumer India - Inside the Indian Mind and Wallet, the 192-page offering is targetted primarily at the marketing fraternity, both in India and overseas. Preeti Verma, art director, Mudra, has crafted the front cover.

The book, which has just been launched in India, was launched in Singapore early this year. While the international edition is priced at US$25, the Indian copy is available for Rs 400, in India. Published by John Wiley & Son, Consumer India will now see a pan-India distribution. The book presents a definitive account of the changes that have transpired in India, in terms of the minds and wallets of Indian consumers, across categories and life-spaces, over the last 20 years.

At the launch, afaqs! caught up with the author and found out more about his debut literary venture. Sinha explains that it is a "second-level book, rather than an 'India for the dummies' kind of book", as it is primarily targetted at marketing professionals. However, the book also attempts to capture the interests of those whom Sinha likes to call 'Indian aficionados' and 'Indophiles', who comprise the secondary target group of the book.

Confiding that it took him close to six months to pen down Consumer India, Sinha explains how the book is an accumulation of the India he has lived and worked in. "Unique Indian consumer insights are discussed in the book," says Sinha. "Indian cultural codes are changing, and this has implications for brands and marketing. The book addresses these implications," he adds.

The book specifically analyses five categories, namely money, technology, beauty, retailing and media, and how they affect the cultural milieu and consumption patterns in India.

The author has segmented India into three parts - the era that is influenced most by the partition of India, the transition generation - that is, those with one foot in the pre-liberalisation era and another in the era after the economic liberalisation of India, and the 'No Strings' generation, that is, today's youth. "The third segment has no allegiance whatsoever to the Doordarshan era," laughs Sinha.

His experience with brands such as Virgin Mobile and Tata AIG came in handy while writing, he informs. The former helped in understanding how, though there are a lot of young-looking brands in India, very few are actually 'youth brands' that are not afraid to cause discomfort to people who are not young. His work on the latter helped him crack the insight of how money in India is used as emotional currency.

"Every transaction in this country is enveloped in emotion, be it doling out 'aashirwad' (blessings) to a grandchild in the form of Rs 101, or bribing someone with a gift," he decodes.

A plethora of books on consumerism in India already exists in the market. What sets Sinha's Consumer India apart from the rest? According to him, existing books either describe how India is emerging as a super power, giving a macro perspective that helps understand the evolution of India, or talk about how India is different from western advertising and marketing paradigms.

"These do not give marketers any actionable insight about what to do with a brand or category on ground," he asserts, adding that his book talks about new sensibilities that consumers are coming up with today, and the new visual language that Bollywood is throwing up of late.

Sinha's favourite authors include Malcolm Gladwell and Paulo Coelho, while he cites his boss Santosh Desai as his inspiration to write. "I've learnt planning under him," he says plainly.

Though this is his first attempt as an author, Sinha has written extensive insight papers for ESOMAR (an Asia-Pacific insight forum).

When asked whether more books are in the pipeline, he says, "Yes, I would imagine so. Writing forces one to think deep. In advertising, one gets used to pithy, 'power pointing' writing; a book offers a lot more space than that. Authors don't need to capture everything in a single line."

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