A JWT India-commissioned, seven month-long ethnographic study of the Indian family unit has revealed that there are 'eight core, underlying truths about Indian consumers that significantly influence their attitudes and behaviour'. The agency has just made some of the findings of the study - titled 'The Great Indian Family: Juicing change' - public, and here are some fundamental observations. 'The importance of being entrepreneurial', 'speed and lightness in all aspects of life', 'enjoyment', 'religion and spirituality', 'the family as a brand', ''nowness' of life', 'manipulation and power play for family harmony' and 'getting more out of less' have emerged as the most significant drivers of Indian consumer psyche.
The study - conducted by Research International - was initiated by the planning team at JWT India with the aim of understanding the impact of macro-level influences on consumers, and how consumers respond to these influences. "Although there are reams of data available on consumer attitudes and behaviour, we felt there was a need to look at a larger and more detailed picture," says Kamal Oberoi, president, JWT India. Warming to the subject, he elaborates, "There is a lot of research that has been done which is brand- or category-specific, but there's very little on the consumer's outlook to life. Also, most research has been done at the individual level - that too in controlled environments like focus groups - so it was important to understand the collective mindset of consumers. Which is why our researchers stayed in the homes of respondents for an entire week and interacted with them in every possible detail to get real insights into their lives."
Explaining the reason for observing the entire family - as opposed to an individual - as a 'respondent', Oberoi says, "We Indians behave in a collective mindset, and ours is not an individualistic society. Also, change is collective here, and the basic collective unit is the family, which is why we focused on the family. The family continues to be a great influencing factor in the decisions we take, so we wanted to study all the dynamics of the Indian family." For the record, the study was put together after conducting over 96 'in-depth interviews' across 24 families, selected to represent the emerging consumer types in India. The respondents were drawn from a cross-section of Indian metros and small towns, and the chosen families were from different socio-economic strata, at various life-stages and belonged to different family types (nuclear, as well as joint).
As already mentioned, 'the importance of being entrepreneurial' is a key emotional driver for urban Indians. 'The value of being self-made holds more importance than ever before, with increasing emphasis being laid on this quality as an assertion of ability and, thus, worth,' the study observes. 'The age of the entrepreneur is emerging, with the belief growing among Indians that an enterprise, no matter how small, carries dignity and pride and denotes the realization of a dream.'
'Enjoyment' is another modern-day consumer truth. 'More than the need for a product or service, it was found Indian consumers today lay greater emphasis on the experience and enjoyment that come with it,' the study notes. 'Enjoying the simple pleasures of life; working to earn that enjoyment; and enjoying the small dreams that come true with the help of brands, new products and services, are the top priorities among Indians.'
The study also points to 'an increasing penchant for 'lightness' among families, be it in terms of being more casual than traditional, seeking lightness in the kitchen through convenience foods and ready-to-use masalas, and looking for lightness in terms of convenience-purchase through supermarkets and home-delivery systems'.
Given the pressures of a fast-paced lifestyle, today's consumers 'are turning to spirituality and religion for serenity and balance in life', reveals the study. And interestingly, 'there is a growing trend among Indians to project a specific family image, with the family increasingly being treated as a brand.' "Despite a rise in nuclear families, there is a strong sense of belonging to the family, even in terms of outlook," says Oberoi. "And this is something that is mirrored in Indian movies and television."
This is also an era of instant gratification, the study shows. "For today's generation of consumers, everything has to happen now and here," Oberoi explains. "For instance, today's young executive is not interested in how much he will earn five years from now. He is interested in what lies in store right now."
'Manipulation and power play for family harmony.' While the word 'manipulation' might set the ethical alarm bell going, Oberoi explains that this has no negative connotations. "It's not a negative manipulation. It's about playing small psychological games to keep the family in good humour. Like a child gauging the mother's mood to get his way. It's not as if this sort of manipulation has never happened before - it has. But the difference is that today, it is practiced and accepted in all fairness - often with a smile."
Oberoi clarifies that the findings of the study can manifest in various ways, "depending on how the findings are translated for specific brands. For instance, 'lightness in life' can be interpreted as a desire for convenience as much as a desire to be healthy. There has to be expertise in interpreting the insights to brands and categories."
The last of the findings, however, doesn't call for any highbrow interpretation. 'Although people are willing to spend money, their expectations of return from every rupee spent are much more than what they were earlier,' the study says in no uncertain terms. 'Consumers today are seeking better deals and better bargains, and are looking to get more than they bargained for, not just from a product but also from the entire experience.'
When quizzed about how brands could benefit from the findings of the study, Oberoi replied, "The proper interpretation of the study could help us understand the consumer better so that we come up with better connects in our communication efforts. The findings could also serve as pointers when it comes to launching new brands or brand extensions." © 2003 agencyfaqs!First Published : April 22, 2003