“Beyond Expectations”

We live in very dynamic environments these days. Come to think of it – each moment of our existence and each activity that we do within those moments, are faster than experienced 10 years ago! Like it or not, our action and reaction times have come to be weighed in nano-seconds! Instant call receiving, responding and forwarding, instant sending and receiving text messages, instant responding browsing and responding on internet and esp. on social media platforms,  instant delivery and service expectations for all the products and services we buy, etc. are just a few examples.

This “nanosecond existence” could be attributed to drastic impact of technology on our lives in the last few years. As a result perhaps, our general attitudes and expectations from life has changed too. We tend to expect “more” in terms of speed, efficiencies, rewards, conversions, etc. Our gadgets continue to deliver better by each passing quarter, exceeding our expectations. Newer silicon chips continue to offer more than you’d perhaps need within your lifetime! Newer cameras offer more megapixel, newer phone models offer more speed, more features, more connectivity options, and what not!

Not surprisingly therefore, we too have come to expect more and more of everything, every time –  something that goes beyond our expectations – so that we’re comfortable in exclaiming “It’s awesome bro!” or “It’s fabulous dude!” or “It’s incredible pal!” or “It’s phenomenal, gal!”. A cursory attention to the conversation of young people , would give you these phrases in abundance.

Likewise, perhaps some of our institutions have also followed suit. Even though it’s not a very new phrase that you hear from them, yet all the regular institutions – schools, colleges, business houses, manufacturing units, marketing firms, etc. have caught on to this more virulently than ever – asking for “instant”; asking for “more”! You would listen to some oft-repeated clichéd phrases frequently in these places:

  • “We want your child to exceed our expectations…”
  • “Your son need to break all records…”
  • “We expect this year’s growth to exceed all records….”
  • “The production must outshine the averages of the past 8 months…”
  • “We must see this launch breaking all past product launches…”
  • “Your sales team’s performance must exceed our expectations…”

No wonder that the hiring process in these institutions too should speak the same language! It’s very common to see the online and offline recruitment postings clearly seek out profiles that look for preferably “extremely talented” or “extremely smart and outgoing” or “ready to exceed target expectations” or “ready to outperform market trends” etc. etc.

One common reason given by Economics pundits for this kind of “more” and “instant” expectations is “growth”. It’s true that we definitely need to keep moving forward, and only thing that seems to keep the momentum intact, is to keep on expecting more each time, and that too faster! In some ways, that’s a natural phenomenon!

However, shouldn’t there be a corollary too? Shouldn’t there be reverse expectations in each sector and scenarios we mentioned above? How many times have we heard a school management telling the parents:

“We don’t expect anything from you; we’d  ensure the best possible ways to transform your child!”

How many times (except in fiction and films) have we heard the companies say:

  • “We’d make sure that you exceed your career expectations here” or
  • “Don’t worry, our offer will exceed your expectations” or
  • “We have exceeded your service expectations”

I’m sure very few of the readers would find these answers practical, because our whole system and existence patterns have been scripted to “expect more” and “promise less”. That’s one way traffic! A customer cannot keep on expecting more and more instantly, unless and until he/she is ready to pay more! Similarly, one cannot keep on expecting more out of any person or service unless there’s a reverse promise too.

Further, this very script goes beyond the laws of nature. If one expects to draw out more and more from a farm-land and that too faster, one has to offer fodder, fertilizer and improvements in farming methods. Likewise, if any company or institution wishes to expect something beyond expectations, then it also needs to first make sure that it’s ready to shell-out something equal in exchange. For example, when a company offers a package that’s little beyond the candidate’s expectations, a reverse process triggers in within the candidate, which encourages him to give out that extra effort every time.

Even the new social media, which has become an inseparable part of our lives, too follows the nature’s democratic laws. Unless one gives in form of “LIKEs”, “Shares” or “Comments” upon any content produced by a fellow user, one cannot build long-term credibility and followers online. One needs to genuinely offer comments, encouragements, references and help first, before one gets reciprocated. This behaviour cuts across people, groups, companies and institutions too.

The future businesses will be increasingly dependent on technology and its characteristics – especially in form of speed, flexibility, quality and quantity expectations of the people who would run them. These people are the ones who have grown with these characteristics, and as such would deliver better when get something first before giving something more in return!

Therefore the next time you come across a situation where you’re on the tip of demanding something beyond ordinary, pause and do your best to first offer something that’s simply beyond the receiver’s expectations – even if it’s just a small honest promise!

Identifying 5 demand classes in India

Marketing in an emerging or a developing market is often an uphill task; particularly if its population and literacy rates are on the negative scale, or the economic data is either of bad quality or is limited to make any meaningful trend analysis.

Thankfully, India as a country is an exception to some extent. Its robust comprehensive census is one of the most respected census operations worldwide, even though the benefits of such a colossal amount of data have been under-utilized for development, by the political system.

Recently I came across some rather interesting facts and / or observations from Rama Bijapurkar, on consumerdemands in India, which are worth noting – especially for developing the foundations of new marketing campaigns:

(image source: insightinstore.com)

  1. India is primarily an “Individually Poor” but “Collectively Rich” country, since proportionally higher consumption takes place at far lower-income levels. Therefore currently “volume” consumption holds more importance than the value consumption – particularly in case of FMCG category and to some extent in case of “fast moving consumer durables”, e.g. mobile phones, footwear, garments, etc.
  2. Indian Consumers could be broadly recognized as 3 broad segments – Premium, Popular and Discount. By volume, these segments roughly represent 10%, 30% and 60% of the population respectively. However, in terms of value, each of these segments are roughly equal to each other.
  3. Thanks to some socialistic trends prevailing till the late eighties and early nineties, the “unorganized sector” and the “unorganized small-scale buyers” have continued to drive consumption to a larger extent. As a result, despite the post-nineties liberalization of Indian economy, the “organized large-scale buyers” – the dream of every retailer – are still far lower than the small-scale unorganized ones.
  4. Indian consumers have successfully bucked the traditional consumption upgrade patterns – i.e. moving from “Popular” products to “Premium Products”. Instead it’s common to see that the premium segment customers gradually “down-trade” to popular products (esp. FMCG), while the popular segment customers, start looking for “premium-quality” products – though not necessarily “premium-priced”. Premium-Popular-Discount segments do not necessarily represent the Rich-Middle-Poor segments respectively.

It’s no surprise then, that the market structure of India is likewise defined in terms of “consumer classes” or groups and not their disposable incomes or other similar metrics. Known as the “Consumer Classes Framework” model developed by NCAER, the 5 broad categories of Indian consumers are:

A)     RICH – consumers of cars, PCs, ACs, etc., particularly the premium and luxury goods.

B)      CONSUMING CLASS – consumers of utility durables and bulk of FMCG products

C)      CLIMBERS – consumers of at least one major durable, and main consumers of popular consumer goods

D)     ASPIRANTS – new consumers / new entrants to consumption; hence have very basic watch, radio, phone, etc.

E)      DESTITUTES – who consume practically nothing; living hand-to-mouth perhaps

Finally it’s also very interesting to note that while any one product might be consumed across multiple classes, the performance price points however within each could be multiple. As a result a Nokia phone might tend to be consumed across the first 4 classes, but each class would have it’s own price points for the brand.

Marketing in India with its myriad layers could be as mysterious as its people, culture and its economy. It’s therefore wise to carefully weigh each available statistic and explore possibilities before taking a campaign decision.


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