Wanna decipher India? Here's how.

Marketers around the world note, this is your best bet at understanding the complexities and paradoxes that ravage India and its markets. Follow the Indian elections. Its your chance at making sense of what otherwise seems an unexplainable, non-decipherable maze.

Let me point out something that I've understood. The Indian elections in all probability will throw up a fractured mandate. In fact we can safely bet on that. The fractured outcome points to a phenomenon that has deep relevance to marketing products and services in India.

Socio-cultural settings play a very important role in influencing purchase. Its this setting that drives and reinforces human identities. Identities for people as people and as consumers. Its these very same identities that will dictate voting patterns in India too.

Note that Socio-cultural environments throw up reference groups that influence. These groups encircle the consumer and weigh him with their persuasive powers. The further away an entity is in the encirclement, the lesser its impact is. For example, the closest to the consumer is his family. What follows is friendship groups, then social class, subcultures and the end's rounded up by culture. What's interesting to note in this set-up is, sub-cultural influences are stronger than cultural ones. That is, identities are driven more by a sub-culture than culture. This is true in the consumer sense as much as it is to voting patterns. That is, consumers engage in purchases that match, propagate and reinforce a sub-cultural identity. Similarly what gets the Indian vote is a region-centric (read, sub-cultural) issue than a pan-national one. The implications to this is a fascinating study, as much as the need to adhere to its fall outs.

Want to take a product to someone in Tamil Nadu? The product and its language has to turn tamilian. Remember, there are exceptions. But one thing's for sure, if the masses is the target, local-centrism is the way to go. Wanna woo the tamilian voter? The language and the issue better be Dravidian. Pan-Indian political parties are on the wane as they can't represent local people who identify more with parties that have sprung from native soil. Again, if region-centrism is true for products and services, it has to be true for political parties too. Parties wanting to tap into the local populace must espouse issues that are local. That's the only way to connect. Of course this is a dilemma. How much to localise and that too in a manner where it doesn't affect the core character of the brand?

India as a country throws up dilemmas in plenty, for the marketer and for the wannabe leader. Its how both parties balance the pull of a region with the tempering influence of a nation that will dictate either's fortune.


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