Category Archives: Marketing strategy


Quality Healthcare.

This word is such a misnomer. But how often have you heard it bandied about by providers of clinical care and solutions? Far too many times for this to even register as an anomaly, correct?

Why is this word so overused in communication by healthcare providers in India?

It reflects a rather weak understanding of patient perception. It’s just like those pesky ads that you see and smirk at! The ones shouting “FREE OFFER” or “BEST PRICES” or “SALE”.

When patients approach a healthcare provider, it is because they know they will be betting the best treatment, hopefully within their budget. Spelling it out as “QUALITY HEALTHCARE” reeks of either condescension or ignorance on the part of healthcare marketers.

In the competitive market for clinical services and solutions in India, what sells is proven competence, a consistent success rate, best in-class treatment facilities, patient-centric care and transparent billing. All else is just noise. Or like we Indians like to call it, garam hawa (hot air).

At Cobblestones Consulting, we help providers of healthcare solutions and services deliver consistently profitable and sought-after programs by following our advice E.A.R.L.Y.©. We tailor these programs around how clients consider and choose a healthcare provider.

At the most generic level, we get our clients to highlight the following in their brand communication and healthcare delivery:

E – Easily accessible healthcare facility

A – Affordable care – insurance-friendly, practical (need-based, not billing-based) and care-driven (not caregiver-driven)

R – Rigorous clinical protocol followed in every case

L – Legal in terms of compliance with norms of the government, local area corporation, statute and insurance

Y –  Yearly cost-benefit organizational review of performance, processes and people centred around patient satisfaction criteria

The key to succeeding in the healthcare market in india is simple. Keep your communication direct, keep your healthcare delivery low-cost and world-class, keep your billings transparent and don’t underestimate the native understanding and jugaad-tendency of your target audience.

Sure, you offer ‘QUALITY HEALTHCARE”. Got that. But if you need to say it out loud, then you’ve already lost the war for the client’s consideration even before you sounded out the battle cry!

Sounds like something you’d like to do for your organization?

Reach out to us.

You will be helped to move away from a supply-driven health care system organized around what physicians do and toward a patient-centered system organized around what patients need. We will help you shift the focus from the volume of services provided—physician visits, hospitalizations, procedures, and tests—to the patient outcomes achieved.  Our final goal is to help you become a leading local health care provider with a system in which services are concentrated in your health-delivery organization, in the right location with the necessary conditions to deliver high-value care.

– Priya Ramachandran, Founder & Principal Consultant


Mugdha Gulavni Nirmal,
Partner & Consultant



Rise & Slay

Retaining customers in the digital age is literally a walk in the P.A.R.K.

Its actually that simple! 

At Cobblestones Consulting, we work with clients in fields as diverse as healthcare, B2B, nanotechnology and B2C to offer them strategy insights based on robust market research.

Our P.A.R.K. model of customer engagement helps our clients leverage their business strengths to attract-retain-monitor-measure and amplify carefully selected customer segments.

The model in a nutshell is as follows:


If you want to be a resource to your customers instead of a sales pitch, reach out to us in the comments section to this post. We’d be glad to serve  you!

**A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all **

PM Modi’s Fourth Marketing Mantra – REALIZE

Driven by several hundred million young women and men, India’s consumer story is one of the world’s most compelling in present times. While India is the fastest growing major economy in the world today, companies are still struggling to enter this market or to stay afloat here.

My previous posts spoke about how you could not just survive, but also thrive in Indian markets, by taking a leaf out of the Marketing Manual of India’s best marketer, Prime Minister Narendra Modi  (read posts here:,, and ).

As a business owner in the Indian market, you need to stay profitable. To do so, you need to source locally and sell via e-commerce. This is where your competitive advantage lies. Just as you are digesting this rather unsettling fact, here comes another one – in India, more than just profitability, what is more important strategically, is how you REALIZE profitability.

Realize Results - 1

A common mistake many business owners looking to play the Indian market make, is to apply Western business metrics that work best in homogenized settings, to measure marketing effectiveness in a country as diverse & complex as India. As a business owner, do recognize that the Indian market is still an indigenous (swadeshi) market that is extremely cost-conscious, fiercely competitive, one that is dominated by disruptive start-ups, where consumers have low disposable incomes (do not be fooled by rising statistics for this indicator – family & business in India are still notoriously tightfisted when in comes to spending) and are easily adaptable to low cost technology. So how you measure your business’ success in the Indian market is something that requires careful thought.

Realize Results - 2

Yeah, no one said this Indian ride would be easy! But I assure you it is worth it. You can actualize profit through three focussed marketing strategies.

Realize Results - 3

To learn how you can  create these focused strategies to actualize business profits in India, reach out to me on my  website at or leave your coordinates in the comments section below.

Realize Results - 4

How can you incorporate all this in your business plans and actions? Do you have the market knowledge and marketing expertise to handle treacherous Indian market conditions? Can your business gain with the help of professional & trustworthy business advice and/or hands-on tactical help?

Feel free to reach out to me at for Market Research & Business Consultancy advice. I’ll be happy to serve you.

PM Modi’s Third Marketing Mantra – CREATE

You have decided to enter the Indian market, much encouraged by the initiatives of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government. You have engaged the consumer, segmented the and market and now stand poised to take the next step, when media gets buzzing with the GST bill. In the fast changing Indian markets, this is just a reminder to you.

GST = Get your Strategy Together!

A very important third step in Modi’s Marketing Manual is CREATE. Read about it more at

Create like Modi - 1

Case in Point:

The Prime Minister is a firm believer in the power of technology. Since taking office in May 2014 the Prime Minister has sought to increase the usage of technology in the working of the Government. He launched the Digital India initiative, an all-encompassing programme, to invigorate the working of the government with latest technology and provide solutions to people’s problems through the power of technology. The Prime Minister has started a unique initiative PRAGATI, a technology based multi-purpose and multi-nodal platform where projects are monitored and people’s problems are addressed. On the last Wednesday of every month, the Prime Minister himself sits down with top officials during the PRAGATI sessions and covers substantial ground in a wide range of sectors. This has made a very positive difference in the lives of many Indians.

Like PM Modi, do you have an  Automation, Technology & Engagement Strategy (A.T.E. Strategy) in place to capture a large market share?

Here are a couple of pointers to get you started:

Create like Modi - 2

It is common knowledge that the proven channels that helps businesses top the ranks in digital marketing ROI and which offer them a cost-effective way of reaching out to customers are, email marketing, closely followed by social media listening. Automation technologies for data storage and sharing as well as for measurement & analytics can help businesses perform better and deliver results no one expected.

Do you have an integration mechanism ready for this in your marketing strategy?

Create like Modi - 3

Navroz Mubarak, peeps. May this New Year be filled with success, prosperity & happiness.


PM Modi’s Second Marketing Mantra – Segment


This is the magic marketing  mantra used by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to rack up his impressive wins at home and abroad. You can read about it here –

MODI hands up

Source: Google Images

In this post, I will introduce the second syllable in this mantra. S= SEGMENT.

Segment to succeed

For companies looking to win in the Indian market, given the geographic spread, cultural differences and price sensitivities at play here, segmentation is a sound basis for developing targeted and effective marketing plans. Furthermore, analysis of market segments enables decisions about intensity of marketing activities in particular segments. A segment-orientated marketing approach generally offers a range of advantages for both, businesses and customers.

To get you started, here are nine questions you can answer. If your answers are not convincing enough or if you aren’t sure the answers are correct, do not hesitate to undertake Market Research. It can make all the difference between your market credibility and market disappearance!

For any Market Research activity in India, and consequent strategic marketing advice, please do not hesitate to contact me. Visit my website for more details.

9 Modi-fied questions

Remember, in the relationship-based Indian market, success is relative. More success, more relatives! Stay safe and have a good weekend, peeps. See you on the other side.

Do You Understand The Pulse Of The Indian Market?

Forget what you learned in B-School about marketing and selling. Demand = Sales is an equation that doesn’t work in India. Sure, to succeed in India, you certainly require a sustainable business model, great execution, and something in reserve to avoid being derailed by bad luck or a shift in business environment.

But is this all that is needed to succeed in India? I think not. Just ask Hyperlocal grocery delivery start up PepperTap, which raised over US$50 million, including a US$36 million series B round led by ecommerce player Snapdeal in September, 2015, LocalBanya, which raised US$5 million, or GrocShop, founded by IIT Bombay alumni and selected by Google for mentoring. All of them floundered and bit the dust in spite of hedge funds and VCs falling over themselves to back these internet businesses in India. Same is the case with edtech start-ups like iProf & Purple Squirrel, used car marketplace Zoomo (earlier called GoZoomo), Getit Infoservices, the parent company of ecommerce marketplace AskMe, on-demand laundry start up Doormint, FranklyMe and Murmur,  well funded food delivery startups like TinyOwl, ZuperMeal, BiteClub, Zeppery, iTiffin, fashion ecommerce start ups like Fashionara & Ladyblush, fashion rental companies like Flyrobe, Liberent, Elanic, SwishList, Klozee & The Clothing Rental, logistics-transportation-delivery start ups like Parcelled and TruckMandi, the marketplace for building materials in Delhi NCR – Buildzar, the mobile app to enable an entrepreneur to send a pitch to an investor with a single click-Shotpitch, mobile auto-hailing app Autoncab, and finally, the heartbreak of India’s first Tinder, Cogxio, shutting down.

To understand how to win in the Treacherous Indian Market which is littered with folded-up companies, business owners can learn from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Marketing Manual. This is a man who wins election after election, each more convincingly than the previous one by using a simple Marketing Mantra – E.S.C.R.O.W.

To know what this is, read my blog post at

Using Modi’s Marketing Mantra, you can also succeed in Indian markets.

I will tell you something you don’t hear in B-Schools or read of in scholarly course material. To sell to Indians, what is needed the most on the part of the business firm is Empathy & Compassion for the customer. This has to come through first, above all else. Its time to unlearn your Marketing knowledge, folks. In India, we are like this only!

Any company wanting to engage consumers in India with their market offering must be seen as Empathetic and Compassionate. Indians describe Empathy as the capacity to ‘see from another’s point of view’ and Compassion is the capacity to ‘feel with the disadvantaged and less fortunate members of society’. These twin qualities are at the heart of what makes us Indian. This is our DNA. These are the two strands that wind around each other like a twisted ladder, giving us Indians a unique and distinct identity. Think of Empathy as the red coloured oxygen atoms and compassion as the blue coloured nitrogen atoms in our DNA helix.

In India, power is vested with the Prime Minister. Since 1947, when the modern Indian nation state came into being, till date, Indians view their Prime Minister as the ‘Ruler of the Land – A Karma Yogi’. The main reason why PM Modi is able to hold on to and improve his popularity ratings among Indians at home and abroad is that he is able to embody this most crucial aspect of Ruler of the Land. He is perceived to be a Karma Yogi – one who lives out the tenets of Karma Yoga. In Indian philosophy (which is a living, breathing, everyday construct in the life of the average Indian), Karma Yoga is a technique of performing actions as a duty without any expectation of rewards. The concept of duty arises in relation to others and an absence of desire for rewards implies an altruistic motive. Thus, the actions of a Karma-Yogi are necessarily altruistic.

To illustrate this point, one has to only see the recent exercise of Demonetization that PM Modi unveiled on November 8th last year. Demonetisation is unlike other policies, it has benefits but also pain built into it. Black money in India is like a cancer. It has spread all over the country, almost like a parallel circulatory system for our economy. The use of currency notes is a big part of it. Black money stalls growth, kills efficiency and keeps the economy sub-optimal. To that extent, to cure black money, the government justified demonetization as a treatment that resembles chemotherapy. The Demonetization step is, therefore, welcome. However, what is not acceptable to Indians is the government (or its fanboys) gloating over the brilliance of their idea to do a chemo, and being unwilling to look at or address the ugly side effects that come with it. No doctor gloats after giving a patient a chemo. They work to lessen the pain of the patient and limit the impact on good, weak cells. This is what PM Modi was perceived to have done. He understood that for India’s poor, all it takes to make them descend in a negative spiral of abject poverty is one brutal blow – daily wages lost for a few months, savings wiped out because no bank took them, a job loss as their employer shut down, an industry downturn or a hospital turning them away – and they can never get back on their feet again. The chemo of Demonetization could do that. To ignore that would have been both insensitive and irresponsible.

No matter how brilliant the solution, the execution here was vital. PM Modi was roundly criticized by the media, the pundits and the Opposition parties for his government’s execution of the Demonetization exercise. They said he hadn’t done it as well as he could have. That we still don’t have enough notes, banks have queues and people are being inked for taking out their own money. Policies are changing on a daily basis. That the finance guys sat at the meeting hailing this plan, and nobody invited or heard logistics professionals, who were needed to make this happen.

Cutting through the noise, Indians saw empathy and compassion in this act. They saw Demonetization as PM Modi’s generalized disposition to engage in altruistic helping. Here was a man who came from humble beginnings; he knew first hand, the compromises that ordinary Indians make every day just to put food on the family thaali (plate) and out came the empathy and compassion of ordinary Indians, mirroring their ruler’s attitude. They patiently stood in long bank queues, surrendered their small savings in old currency at bank counters, put up with a daily and weekly ceiling on their cash withdrawals, tolerated ATM’s running dry and watched on with wry humour, as people who had no stake in their welfare blathered on about how ‘ordinary Indians were being inconvenienced’. Using social media, digital platforms and electronic & print media, PM Modi convinced ordinary Indians that Demonetization was necessary chemotherapy administered by the government to root out the cancer of black money. That managing the side effects and showing empathy to the patient was top priority for him now. After that, he would take steps to ensure there’s no relapse. Indians bought into this premise. They saw Demonetization as necessary and laudable. The painful treatment was worth it. PM Modi would do his best to ensure the carcinogens, the stuff that caused the cancer of black money in the first place, were eliminated too.

The recent assembly elections in five Indian states were seen as a referendum on the government’s Demonetization move. PM Modi won in four out of the five states.

Question:       Why did PM Modi succeed so spectacularly in the recent assembly elections?

Answer:         He is seen to be Empathetic & Compassionate. Sure he has definite motives to accomplish. He is not completely altruistic. But by his actions and his public engagement strategies, he is able to mould public perception in his favour. He comes across as Empathetic & Compassionate.

In the eyes of most Indians, only when an individual has genuine empathetic concern for others can he/she be sensitive and be aware of his/her duty. Empathetic concern and role-taking with respect to individuals affected by one’s actions constitutes moral sensitivity, which is the first step towards moral development. This is what makes a person a Karma Yogi and a ‘ruler of hearts’.

Empathy 2


So what can you learn from PM Modi as a business owner? First, engage your customer, don’t start selling straightaway. Use content to drive dialogue and automation to enhance your reach. Second, spend time, effort & money creating a strong connection between your customers and your brand. You can do this by creating programs that serve their needs and address their biggest pain points. Third, demonstrate compassion for your customers by creating marketing programs that are informed and driven with empathy.

In my previous post, I had triggered thought in the minds of business owners by posing a set of questions. Answering these questions honestly will trigger an empathetic & compassionate mindset among business owners that will serve them well in the Indian market.  Empathy is reflected through a company’s ethics, leadership, internal culture, brand perception, and public messaging via social media. A company’s singular quality to be accepted by Indians is to be perceived by them as being high on empathetic concern for their customers and low on personal distress in their marketing effort. Such businesses are thought to be more likely to take actions for the benefit of their consumers rather than for their own benefit.

To be a market leader, your company (i.e. YOU – the owner) must be perceived by consumers to be a Karma Yogi. To give you a small exercise, rate yourself of the following Empathy-Compassion scale. This will tell you how much of a Karma Yogi you are.

Scale for Karma-Yoga: Sense of duty or obligation towards others

  1. I hesitate to do what is expected of me∗ (negative).
  2. I willingly do whatever task is assigned to me, even if I do not enjoy it.
  3. I am aware of my obligations to society.
  4. I willingly perform all duties, which are expected of me.
  5. I feel it is my duty to contribute to society.

Scale for Karma-Yoga: Absence of desire for rewards

  1. I work only in order to get some personal benefits∗ (negative).
  2. While working, I keep thinking about success or failure∗ (negative).
  3. I expect to be rewarded for good work done∗ (negative).
  4. I often dream of becoming very successful∗ (negative).
  5. I am disappointed when the outcomes of my efforts do not yield the results I expected∗ (negative).
  6. I strive to be selfless in whatever activity I undertake.


Are you a Karma Yogi? How can your company be seen to be Empathetic and Compassionate? Write in and let me know.

If you require professional assistance in doing this, please contact me on my website at

Like Daniel H. Pink said, “Empathy is about standing in someone else’s shoes, feeling with his or her heart, seeing with his or her eyes. Not only is empathy hard to outsource and automate, but it makes the world a better place.” To this, may I add that in India, this can make all the difference between market longevity and market disappearance!

In tomorrow’s post, we will discuss the second Mantra in Modi’s Marketing Manual – Segmentation.



PM Modi’s First Marketing Mantra – EMPATHIZE

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been ranked among the 10 most powerful people in the world in a list by Forbes magazine. This comes as no surprise to his fellow 1.3 billion Indians among whom he remains hugely popular, well into the middle of his first term as Prime Minister. Deflecting any anti-incumbency sentiment that besets every politician across the world, PM Modi is often touted by young Indians under the age of 35 years (who form 60% of India’s humongous population) as their best Prime Minister till date!

In India, Modi is the mood of the nation.


Source: Press Trust of India

Describing Modi’s actions in 2016, Forbes took note of the demonetisation drive announced by the PM and wrote, “In November 2016, he unexpectedly announced plans to eliminate India’s two largest bank notes in a bid to reduce black money laundering and corruption, creating nationwide frenzy to swap out the bills.” In spite of the inconvenience this move caused to the general public and being reviled for it by the intelligentsia, both at home & abroad, PM Modi  registered widespread support for the government’s demonetisation initiative and surgical strikes in Pakistan occupied Kashmir.

The recent assembly elections in five states, especially in India’s heartland of Uttar Pradesh, bear testimony to the Prime Minister’s popularity surge.

A recent Pew Research Center report has found that 87% of Indians have a favourable view of Modi, including a strong majority (68%) who see the prime minister very favourably. And among all respondents – men and women, the young and old, the urban and rural populations and members of the three national political parties – a majority holds very favourable views of the prime minister.  So strong is the Modi magic in India that it has swept the Indian National Congress party, the principal opposition party, to India’s political fringe.

Every business owner dreams of doing a Modi in his chosen field of work. Like PM Modi, being a competent business person is not enough to win in India’s markets. What is needed is dominance. A quality Modi has.

To do this, you need to employ his marketing mantra of E.S.C.R.O.W. (read more about this at

The first letter E stands for EMPATHY. In today’s blog post, I will explain how a business person can employ Empathy like Modi does, to telling effect.

Empathize means to understand and share the feelings of another.

Modi sees voters not just as poll constituents who are to be sermonized & then be taken for granted later. He is able to create a strong connection between his audience and his personal brand. He does this by creating programs that serve the audience needs and addresses their biggest pain points. And he creates these types of programs by informing & driving them with empathy.

Case in Point:

Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) is among the most successful social-sector projects of the Narendra Modi-led government. The program has achieved its target to give cooking gas connections to 15 million families in 2016-17. The scheme is followed by the success of ‘Give it Up’ campaign launched by the petroleum ministry through which 10.5 million people gave up their LPG subsidy.

Gathering impetus from PMUY scheme, the government has added 20.5 million LPG customers this year. In the past two-and-a-half years, the government has been successful in adding 60 million LPG connections, while in the 60 years before that, only 130 million connections were added.

Numbers apart, this program is a latent exercise in social engineering in a country notorious for its social inertia. By freeing up women from back breaking kitchen chores and dependence on firewood as cooking fuel, the Prime Minister has not just emancipated the female gender in rural India, he has given Indian women what they most yearn for. Dignity in the kitchen and time of their own! How could PM Modi do this? He empathizes with women. As a young man, he would often help his mother in the kitchen and he knew the difficult time women endured in there, for better part of the day. By providing poor rural women FREE cooking gas in their own homes (many of whom could not even dream of such a ‘luxury’), he has earned a place in their hearts. Like many women in India say, “Humein Modiji se lagaav nahin hai. Hume unpar shraddha hai (We are not ‘fond’ of Prime Minister Modi. We repose our ‘faith’ in him)”. Who do you think will win the women’s vote in the polls? Duh!! With half the voting population rooting for him, this is stupendous market coverage! And remember, women are past masters at Word of Mouth marketing.



Source : Pinterest

To replicate this success in business, entrepreneurs have to be relentlessly consumer focussed. How many times have you heard this before? How often do you do this?

Modi-fied questions businesses need to ask themselves:

  • Do you understand your audience? Can you create a profile of your typical customer?
  • Can you connect with them on a deep, intuitive level? Can you translate that connection in terms of money?
  • Do you really know what your customers want? Do you really know what your customers need? Do you know why?
  • Do your marketing efforts strongly project an innate understanding of your customer? How do you measure such marketing successes?
  • Will your perfect client/customer come to your website and say, ‘Hey this guy is talking to me?’ Will your mobile business app be adopted by her?

Write out your answers to these questions. Be brutally honest with yourself. Or else, your customers will be! Revisit these questions every quarter. And learn from your customers, like PM Modi does.

If your answers are not convincing enough or if you aren’t sure the answers are correct, do not hesitate to undertake Market Research. It can make all the difference between your market credibility and market disappearance!

For any Market Research activity in India, and consequent strategic marketing advice, please do not hesitate to contact me. Visit my website for more details.

There was a time when strong, sexy ad campaigns would move Indians to buy from their ego place. But today, most Indian consumers have to be careful with their spending and only a strongly demonstrated understanding of their feelings and life/business circumstances will inspire them to pull out the wallet.  As businesses learn to embrace these right-brained, empathy-driven marketing tactics, consumers in India are also learning; they keep their eyes open for the brand that understands them the best.

This is why Modi wins the ballot even before the votes are cast!




PM Modi’s Marketing Mantra – How He Does It and How You Can Too


Prime Minister Narendra Modi is trending big time! Across the world. There is much we can learn from this man who has single-handedly changed the political narrative in India. He has not just changed the narrative but the entire political paradigm across the world! In recent times, PM Modi is the only politician who can fill up an entire stadium and have people hankering for more. All this without losing his shirt (à la Premier Putin) or his sense of humour (like President Trump).  This is brand building, brand conversion & brand evangelization at its finest.  Modiji is so good at Marketing and Product Delivery that ordinary Pakistanis want him as their leader!

Aaj Tak Modi

Source: So Sorry: India Today Group’s innovative politoons

In the wired world we live in, consumer lives are both incredibly nuanced & pervasive. Businesses need to design products & services and deliver better experiences, at the speed of Wi-Fi. This requires reinvention and reinterpretation of the market offering against the backdrop of conflict resolution. Businesses will do well to emulate PM Modi who has both the experience and ability to breed focus and consistency through governance. And orient the commitment through his clarity and voter responsiveness. The manner in which he transforms experiences using marketing media, marketing channels, discourse and personal connect is laudable.

Any business organisation’s ability to Modi-fy the market with its brand will create the only possible differentiation in the easy-to-imitate age we live in. How can businesses do this? Unfortunately, there is no one giving an answer to this question & that’s where the problem lies when it comes to Indian Markets. As a business owner looking to start your venture in the deceptively simple Great Indian Bazaar, you want winning mantras.

Look no further. I am unveiling today, Modi’s Marketing Mantra for your quick reference.

ESCROW – meaning place in custody or trust until a specified condition has been fulfilled.

E.S.C.R.O.W. = Empathize. Segment. Create. Realize. Obliterate. Win.

To understand how Prime Minister Narendra Modi uses this mantra to rack up his impressive wins is interesting. But to understand how YOU can use this mantra to succeed in slippery Indian Market terrain – now that is putting your money where your mouth is!

In tomorrow’s post, I will unveil Modi’s Marketing Manual – how he uses this mantra to succeed and how you can use it.

PM Modi says it for me “Hum wade nahi, irade lekar aayien hain (I come, not bearing promises, but carrying intention)”.

Stay tuned, peeps. This stuff is impressive.

Marketing to Indians – The Indian Way (Part II)

In my previous post (which you can read here –, I had introduced the Indian principle of SAMVAD – a most useful marketing tool to reach and keep customers. The term “samvad” is a Sanskrit word signifying the idea of “dialogue.”  For marketers, what this means is, use your activities in India to ENGAGE the consumer; do not monologue with her about your market offering. Talk to your Indian audience, not as you would to discrete data points in bookkeeping transactions, but as a body-mind-intellect-spirit complex. This is what I’ve christened “The Samvad Principle of Market Engagement”. SPME is the acronym.

In today’s post, I will introduce you to the first tenet of the SPME

For your product, service or brand to occupy a distinct position, relative to competition, in the minds of your Indian consumers, it must engage with the individual first and then society as a whole. It must do so on four distinct levels – body, mind, intellect & spirit.

Individually, at each of these four levels, the product, service or brand must embody a set of core values that can help it emerge as a winner. I have identified these core values based on how intrinsic they are to our genetic make-up as Indians. These are the pulse points to capture the hearts & minds of your Indian audience.

I know what you must be thinking now:

You:    This is a rather tall mountain to climb…..Indian mumbo-jumbo?

Me:      Nope. This mountain can be summitted. It can be done. I can show you how. And the rewards of doing this well is ‘profits in plenty’.

You:    Why is everything about India always this ridiculous?

Me:      Because India does not lend itself easily to Western paradigms. Indians confuse you and it is easy to label what you do not understand as ‘ridiculous’. Yes, India is a land of ‘ridiculous’… – we are a bunch of ordinary people living extraordinary lives.

You:    But…..if……so……..

Me:      To survive in the Indian market, leave alone thrive in it, you have to suspend obstructionist thinking. Like I say to my Western clients, you cannot adopt linear logic with people who gave the world the concept of “zero”. Do you know why we Indians consume products and services?

You:    **The Indian Headshake**

Me:      Because, as Indians, we prefer to fill our life with adventures, not things (the latest Amazon ad shows this well – see it here- We prefer to have stories to tell, not stuff to show (Amazon again – see the ad here – Remember, we are a society that places a higher premium on community spirit as compared to individualism.

You:    Can you prove this?

Me:      Sure, visit Facebook or Instagram and check out what we Indians are doing there. Or see the way we eat our food, watch our films, celebrate our festivals, spend time with our family & cast our votes. See our streak of adventure in all this?……….. Our story telling abilities? ………….I rest my case.


Illustrator : Kavita Gopalakrishnan

Now that we have sorted out any mind bugs you may have, let me show you how to engage Indian consumers at the most basic level. I call this the ‘The Body Level”. To engage them in your market offering you need to leverage the core value of Valour.


Value Descriptor (Meaning) Product/Service/Brand engagement that embodies this The SPME in action
Decisive Titan Watches Raga Indian women were a patronized lot, shorn of the power to decide the course of their own lives, leave alone their careers. But in the India of today, women are tackling their issues head on and starting a discussion, if not shattering common stereotypes. This is reflected in the TVC’s, run by Titan Raga as part of the ‘Her Life Her Choices’ series which shows progressive Indian women of today and has the most contemporary expression of Indian men.

This ad starring Nimrat Kaur tells the story of a modern woman, who is passionate about her work, comfortable in her identity and not willing to conform to societal norms. Decisive.

Watch the advertisement here:

Not seeking permission for acting Tata Tea Jaago Re Jaago Re, is a metaphor for physical waking up/awakening in society. The ad shows the current reactive nature of Indians. It shows how people tend to rally for an issue once it has happened. The way they take to on-ground and social media after something bad has already happened. This ad urges the audience to do away with waiting till things go wrong or till crisis strikes.
“”Why do we get comfortable with reacting and not pre-acting on issues? Why react once the tragedy has happened? “ is the basic question that the film is addressing. It urges Indians, “Let’s act when it matters the most. Let’s be Pre-Activists”.Watch the advertisement here:

Fight for what is right or one’s own Havells Appliances Coffee Maker The masters of tongue-in-cheek commercials, Havells, have beautifully portrayed the ‘Respect Woman’ theme through their latest campaign.  It’s almost taken for granted, in India, that the woman in the house will do the job of a home appliance. The Havells TVC shows that there are appliances to do that job. The campaign almost pokes fun at Indian society which expects women to do work which can be done by anyone using a home appliance.

In a firm, unobtrusive but assertive way, the ad serves as reminder to respect women. She isn’t a kitchen appliance! Havells can do this job just fine.

Watch the advertisement here:

Prove might without resorting to injustice Bajaj V – Vikrant The Invincible Bajaj Auto’s TVC for V, the motorcycle that is forged from the metal body of India’s pride, the legendary and now decommissioned INS Vikrant warship, poses an important question to the viewer: Why should the mind evoke national pride only on select days of the year, only to be forgotten for the rest of the days?

The ad reminds Indians of the sacrifices and victories they’ve made as a nation, and today they can celebrate that pride everyday with V. This is the core thinking for this TVC. Strength is not resorting to injustice. Might is true, honest and pure.

Watch the advertisement here:

Avoid inappropriate emotional surges SBI Life Insurance With a tagline of “With us, you’re sure,” the TVC for SBI Life Insurance touches an emotional chord with its target group, which essentially comprises 30+ males. The clear message in this campaign is never let money come in the way of expressing your love. That SBI Life is the best to manage your money so that you don’t have a care in the world in your old age.

In a restrained but compelling manner, this ad speaks to 25-35 year old Indian men, for whom pension does not figure as an investment option since they think they are too young for it. Their world essentially revolves around their families. They often compromise on investing for their future because they are so busy saving for their families. This ad communicates to the viewers that they should start investing early so that there is no problem later in life. Using the emotion of love, without the syrupy overflow, this TVC communicates the value proposition quite effectively.

Watch the advertisement here:


Very few businesses have got this combination of Valor right. But the companies that have done so are reaping rich rewards in the Indian markets. ITC Limited, Britannia Industries Limited & Parle Agro are case in point.

So as you foray into the Indian market, do keep in mind the Code of Valour. It is stability, not of strategy and tactics, but of courage to play the market game in India by our rules and the soul to serve Indians as profitable customers. The Great Indian Market is always about hope. It is about compassion, excellence and valour. And always, valour is superior to number.


For any assistance on how to use this body level SPME in your business, please reach out to me at  I would be glad to serve you.

Have a relaxed and safe weekend. See you on the other side.




Marketing To Indians – The Indian Way (Part I)

So, you are all set to enter the Great Indian Market.  Congratulations! You must have done your market research, got your finances in order, adhered to all government regulatory requirements, set up your logistical & organization edifice and now look forward to reaping rich market rewards. In spite of all the brouhaha over the recent De/Re Monetization, the Indian economy is still top of the charts as a stand-out world economy. Driven by a favourable population composition and increasing disposable income, Indians are buying products, services and brands and experiences more than ever. So whether through online shopping, at glitzy supermarkets or in traditional markets, your product, service or brand stands a bright chance of doing well.

This is usually where the plot unravels for most businesses, ‘desi’ or ‘phoren’ (meaning: local or global). With your business offering, you look at market, suavely saying, “Love me baby. Love what I’m offering you”. And the market smiles back coyly at what you are offering and privately thinks, “That sir, is the commercial version of period cramps”.

End of fairy tale. Welcome to reality. In India, there is a difference between who we love, who we settle with and who we are meant for! And our shopping habits reflect this thinking.

Markets in India are not elegant, well structured transaction spaces. They are amorphous, organic and oftentimes messy spaces that thrive on relationships. This is why marketing theories fail in India, more often than they succeed. What works in European & North American markets cannot ‘be made to work in India after suitably tweaking it’. Please do not belittle yourself in our eyes by doing so.

In India, you cannot base your marketing efforts only on neat divisions like geographic criteria, demographics, psychographics & behavioural categorizations. You have to go a step ahead and take have a holistic view in your positioning effort. One in which you first engage the individual and then society as a whole. Like any Indian will tell you, “Don’t tell us, don’t sell to us, and don’t charge us. Instead, Engage Us”. This in a nutshell, is the Indian principle of SAMVAD – a most useful marketing tool to reach and keep customers. The term “samvad” is a Sanskrit word signifying the idea of “dialogue.” In transaction-based Western economies, show-and-tell monologues work. But in relationship-based Asian economies, you need to first build rapport before what you have to offer can be accepted. Else, you will be deceived by well-meaning consumers who will look and what you have to offer and walk right past you, without so much as a pause!

How can you “dialogue” with Indian consumers, in whom the debating spirit is quite strong? Their focus is to see your market offering from all angles, oftentimes to your detriment. To engage the consumer first & the Indian society next, you need to talk to them, not as you would to discrete data points in bookkeeping transactions, but as a body-mind-intellect-spirit complex. In the posts to follow, I will decode for you, the science behind what I’ve christened as “The Samvad Principle of Market Engagement”. SPME is its acronym.

I know the conversation we are having right now goes something like this:

You:    Oh, what a load of hooey this is.

Me:      It most certainly is not, I assure you.

You:    Who has become successful doing this in India, huh?

Me:      Look no further than India’s most recognizable brand icon after PM Modi (yeah, our PM nailed SPME like no other, but I am not talking about him). The hirsute, 50 year-old yoga guru-turned-tycoon Baba Ramdev aced the marketing game using the SPME.

Baba Ramdev entered a highly competitive FMCG market in India, where he was up against well entrenched MNC players with deep pockets. By following the SPME, he set up a red-hot pace of growth, peddling everything from shampoo and toothpaste to biscuits and noodles, and rice and wheat to honey and ghee.

Patanjali Ayurved Ltd, the consumer products company Baba Ramdev set up in 2006, posted Rs.5,000 crore (that’s 5 followed by ten zeroes!) in net sales, in the business year that ended on 31 March, 2016. Next stop: Rs.10,000 crore in net sales, in the year ending next month. In comparison, Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL), the local unit of Anglo-Dutch consumer products giant Unilever Plc., which has been around in India since 1888, hasn’t even touched one-third of Ramdev’s target. In the year to 31 March, 2016 HUL posted net sales of Rs.32,482.72 crore.

Baba Ramdev’s target is a 20-fold increase from the Rs.5,000 crore in net sales that Patanjali posted in the business year that ended on 31 March, 2016. This target represents a third of the size of India’s entire packaged consumer products market at present, estimated at about Rs.3.2 trillion a year and projected to grow 12-15% annually over the next five years, reaching Rs.6.1 trillion in 2019, according to a September 2015 report by industry lobby Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) and advisory firm KPMG.1

This is how effective the SPME truly is.

Marketing in today’s India calls for a radical change in attitude. Conventional markets are fast disappearing as Consumer India nears the end of its third decade. Its time marketers kept pace with evolving consumer needs and devised innovative strategies to reach and keep their Indian customers.

It’s time we challenged outmoded conditions of marketing groupthink no one wants to challenge. Allow me to show you the elephant in the room!


Illustrator: Andy Murphy; Melbourne, Australia

You can reach out to me at my website

Let me know what you think. Leave your comments below. Reading them is something I look forward to.



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