Aishwarya Ramesh

Demystifying the modern Indian consumer

, It makes perfect sense that Kishore Chakraborti, ex-vice-president of consumer insights and human futures development at McCann Worldgroup India wrote a book on consumer insights. With over three decades of experience in the field of advertising, his newest book is titled ‘Denial, Desire, Immersion: Evolution of Indian Consumers’’. His time at McCann and his experience as a visiting professor at various business schools in India and abroad exposed him to various consumer insights giving way to this book. His experience has allowed him to paint a detailed picture of the Indian consumer in his book — from India’s pre-globalisation days to India’s present day digital scenario.

"The textbooks we use to teach students are very amateurish and the knowledge they impart is of no use to anyone. They teach case studies from Harvard University and none of what is taught, are our definitions of advertising," he told me over the phone.

Kishore Chakraborti
Kishore Chakraborti

I asked Chakraborti, why he chose caste as a starting point for his book. He explained that in a historical context, when India became a liberalised economy in 1991, it became important for companies and marketers to understand the Indian consumer and their mindset. When companies first came to India post-liberalisation, the biggest challenge they faced was that the Indian customer did not have a consumerist mindset. Whether it came to reusing restaurant takeaway packages or old plastic and paper covers, it was in their DNA to reuse things.

"They had to create that mindset with the ads. Whether it was an ad that showed a father sending his son to the shop so he could enjoy the AC… It’s a new world that wanted consumers to open up and spend. What marketers realised is that the Indian middle class family is richer than the average American middle class family. The only difference being that in India, we have a mindset that doesn’t really allow spending. This was the first challenge for companies entering a newly liberalised market,” he disclosed.

“It’s important to listen to how people are changing and brands need to play on consumer’s imagination. It’s important to think of your consumers as moving targets. It helps you keep up with the new challenges of the market,” he said. He took Ariel's ‘Share the Load’ campaign as an example of an ad that has adapted to changing times. Chakraborti opined that this is an ad that's kept up with changing times and tried to fight against the patriarchal society.

In his book, Chakraborti has set aside an entire chapter to understand millennials. “This is the case of terminology getting enlarged. First, it was referred to as ‘young audience’, but now, most millennials are middle aged and Gen Z has arrived as well. Gen Z is the digital generation, but nobody is doing justice to millennials...” he added.

“We’ve created an environment of affluence for them since we don’t want them to see the struggles that our parents saw. Now, we blame them for not being responsible enough. We’ve also set impossibly high standards for them. Even 99 per cent marks are not enough to guarantee admission into college. This creates a never ending cycle of performance and achievement. If they do get admission, they might end up neck-deep in debt,” he stated. Chakraborti feels that this generation may no longer be influenced by a celebrity brand endorser, and may tend to trust an influencer.

In the age of social media and two way conversations between brands and consumers, he believes that people’s opinions are more important than ever. “Even if a user is not a consumer, it’s important that a brand not to rub consumers the wrong way. Companies are in a tricky position as we are now seeing a completely different consumer mindset,” he warned. Chakraborti also stated that it’s crucial for companies to be genuine in whatever cause they’re taking up as consumers are aware and can see through you if you’re not.

His book also has an entire chapter dedicated to the working woman and how she has changed the economic dynamics of a household. “The way that everybody else has changed, is purely a reactive change. The way that a woman has changed after liberalisation, is quite drastic,” he suggested. “Previously, new parents used to live in joint families where they had help. Now, the families are nuclear and beyond her partner, the woman of the house is forced to look for a floating joint family of sorts in her neighbours, office co-workers and so on,” Chakraborti said.

“We need to understand the modern woman’s nuances and characteristics better,” he pointed out, explaining that this book was his attempt at demystifying not only the modern woman, but consumers at a large and what they desire.

Chakraborti’s book has been published by Bloomsbury India and is available on Amazon and Flipkart, priced at Rs. 387.

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