The dilemma of 'customisation' in global markets

Jaguar in the Tata stables is surely something we can collectively be proud of. It is in a way the coming of age of Indian corporations.

But I do not agree with Santosh Desai when he uses this one event to paint a picture of 'India having entered a new phase in its engagement with globalisation'.

Two swallows don't a summer make. India Inc. still has along way to go. Most Indian corporations still operate in amateurish modes, driven not by world class systems but by individuals; their mindsets dictating the order of the day and the order for the future. Miraculously such corporations survive and thrive, at least for the moment. Incompetent, sycophantic attitudes still prevail. I admit, there are a few, at least the corporations at the top, who have processes in place that result in world class outcomes. But remember, they are few and far in between.

The Tata Group is one such corporation. If any one's ready to operate within the globalised world, they are. Having started my career with a Tata Group company, I can stand testimony to their world class systems.

Having added a global brand to their line of brands, its a new game they now have to play. Again as Santosh says this would require them to 'account for what consumers across very diverse contexts want from their lives and from the brands being marketed'.

The paradox that the Tata group will have deal with is that, as much as diverse sets of consumers around the world may want customised products, when it comes to the 'Jaguars' of the world, the universality of desires may actually require minimal changes to be made to the original.

Consider what Theodore Levitt wrote in his book, 'Marketing Imagination'.

'Boorstin wrote: "The converging forces of everyday experience are both sublingual and translingual. People who never could have been persuaded to read Goethe will eagerly drive a Volkswagen...Technology dilutes and dissolves ideology."

Commercially, nothing confirms this so much as the booming success of McDonald's everywhere from from the Champs Elysees to the Ginza, of Coca-Cola in Bahrain and Pepsi in Moscow, and of Rock Music, Greek Salad, Hollywood movies, Revlon cosmetics, Sony Televisions, and Levi Jeans everywhere. Thus 'high touch' products are as globalised as high-tech. Indeed, globalisation goes even further. The Princeton sociologist Suzanne Keller notes that everywhere that's touched by industrialisation and urbanisation is characterised by rising divorces and two paycheck marriages, declining birth rates, and a generation gap in sexual mores'.

The original or the localised original? That's a dilemma that global markets throw up. A dilemma that the Tata Group now faces. Good luck to them.


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