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 http://wp.me/p6tQjj-3o
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’.
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
- I hesitate to do what is expected of me∗ (negative).
- I willingly do whatever task is assigned to me, even if I do not enjoy it.
- I am aware of my obligations to society.
- I willingly perform all duties, which are expected of me.
- I feel it is my duty to contribute to society.
Scale for Karma-Yoga: Absence of desire for rewards
- I work only in order to get some personal benefits∗ (negative).
- While working, I keep thinking about success or failure∗ (negative).
- I expect to be rewarded for good work done∗ (negative).
- I often dream of becoming very successful∗ (negative).
- I am disappointed when the outcomes of my efforts do not yield the results I expected∗ (negative).
- 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 http://cobblestonesconsulting.com
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.