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Doing business the Indian way

The Indian industry is slowly realizing that to succeed, a business needs to employ “local” tactics and techniques rather than emulating a Western practice. You have to understand and accept that India is a different market and to do well here you need to think like an Indian and deliver what this market needs.

I had this wonderful experience that set me thinking last weekend when my husband and I set out for Commercial Street, Bangalore. For reasons that all Bangaloreans are intimately familiar with, we decided to take an auto rickshaw from MG Road to Commercial Street. We found one willing to transport us albeit with a caveat.

He stated that this was a marketing auto and was attached to a famous clothing store. His requirement was that we spend some time at this shop, post which he would drop us at our destination. In addition, there was no compulsion to purchase. He was quite clear in stating his conditions and there was no coercion or persuasion in any way. We reluctantly agreed to this condition preferring the unplanned stop to braving the Bangalore traffic especially since we had some time to kill. Our proposed five-minute stop at the clothing store turned out to be an hour of unintended purchases. The whole experience was enhanced by the customized service with one sales person assigned to us and taking us through the entire store.

We were curious about this whole arrangement and spoke to the owner about it. It turns out that this store hires 50 autos over the weekend and they are strategically placed in attractive locations in and around Commercial Street. The goal of these autos is to attract as many footfalls as possible to their store. It was clearly a promotion drive as we did not have salespeople forcing us to buy. However, I’m sure there are many visitors like us who addressed that part with their unplanned purchases.

It struck me that that this whole excursion reeked of Indianness – enticing prospective customers with a free auto ride, ensuring conversations in Kannada along with the promise of shopping and ensuring customer satisfaction with personalized services. I was totally impressed with this whole package as it demonstrated a thorough understanding of the customer and what they wanted.  Rather than dump lakhs of rupees on unheeded advertisements, this was a creative, low cost yet effective way to draw more footfalls.

A takeaway for me from this experience was that Indian businesses need to trust their own market understanding and business acumen to draw up their plans. While it is essential to be aware of what is going on around the globe, however, it does not pay to blindly mimic Western models and practices. Success in a western market does not automatically ensure success in India. Be Indian in your thinking and execution.

The icing on the cake, mind you, the auto driver finally dropped us off at our original intended destination!