Sunday, November 25, 2007

Adjectivised markets

There isn’t such a thing as consumer sovereignty

Diwali is probably the felicitous indicator of the transformation that the Indian consumers have experienced in the past decade. Not very long time back, with a mere fifty rupee note, one could procure a bagful of crackers and what’s more, one could pick and choose among the loose assortment of crackers. Try asking for some ‘loose’ crackers today (and with the same meager amount of Rs. 50); the least one can expect is a scornful gaze from the vendor. It is not just with crackers, this phenomenon has become ubiquitous across all forms of market.

All in all, we have given birth to an all round ‘adjectivised’ markets, wherein the buyers, sellers and even the products are all ‘adjective’ driven. Decoding this economic phenomenon clearly indicates the fact that our buying motive is primarily determined, preceded and qualified by descriptives like – brightest, largest, biggest, flattest, lightest, coolest, sleekest, etc. This phenomenon, which is idiosyncratic of the first generation ‘mid- affluents’ is characteristically governed by the ‘not having enough’ syndrome and the constant insecurity of falling into the bracket of ‘have nots’! This continual fear, coupled with rising disposable incomes has further propelled this reshaped phenomenon, which in turn is changing the whole market dynamics. Indeed it is interesting to observe that the sale of flat television category is galloping by more than 40%, whereas the sale of ‘not so flat’ television is doleful, at the same time. The same holds true for almost every other category in consumer durables. Take the case of washing machines, wherein the sales of ‘fully automatic’ ones is growing by almost 15%, whereas the ones which are ‘not so automatic’ are growing only at 5% to 6%. The 300 liter plus variant of frost free refrigerators are growing by 20% plus, whereas the sale for the ‘smaller’ counterparts are heading south. And hold your breath! – sales of split air conditioners are growing at the rate of a mind-numbing 90%!

In this given environment, to augment sales in an invariable fashion, the firms are leaving no stone unturned. Visit any outlet and one realizes that the promotional drive is inherently proportionate to largeness/bigness (denomination) of products. They brazenly might claim to offer the product portfolio in its entirety but then the fact is that most of the outlets do not even have knowledge, space and service facilities for products of smaller denomination. Consider the case of basic household grocery: one might find a 5 liter can of edible oil, 2 kgs of packed tea leaves, 5 kgs of rice, 2 liters of beverage, but it would be arduous to locate a 500 ml can of edible oil or a 50 gms sachet of tea or 500 gms of rice!

As a result of all this, we now boasts of a huge consumerist class as its market base (and its resultant growth) other than astoundingly neglecting the poor. The problem and paradox is such ‘adjectivised’ markets, create unnecessary barriers for the poor, as then it does not offer enough. For an economy that has pioneered the concept of ‘sachet revolution’ way back and taught the same to the West, the present practices are indeed regressive and invalidating. The rich consumers off late have been increasingly claiming their sovereignty; without letting the poor a chance!


No comments:

Post a Comment