Friday, February 10, 2012



David Buss, an evolutionary psychologist at the Michigan University, concludes in his study, ‘Tactics for Promoting Sexual Encounters’ that men prefer the direct approach. But women find men with a subtler approach sexier. So lines like ‘I really love you’, or ‘I care about you deeply’ might work better, he mentions, than flatfoot statements conveying the need for physical relations. Aggressive tactics shown in most Hollywood movies, he again suggests, are unlikely to help.

Perhaps. Or, on second thoughts, perhaps not so in India.


1991 was certainly a watershed year in the annals of Indian economy. The nation took the first diffident step towards freeing the economy from the clutches of socialism. Unconnected, but as if on cue, KamaSutra condoms were launched the same year focussing not on planning the family but for enhanced pleasure. The year divided the market into BC and AC eras – before consumerism and after consumerism. Post 1991, social austerity did not anymore remain a virtue.

Now, we have ‘First World’ hospitals, shopping complexes, resorts, schools, spas and condominiums in ‘Third World’ India. You can buy any car here. India belongs to the so-called Internet and Global Village. The similarly titled technical revolution seems to have been ushered in. Men spend hours and small fortunes in salons and spas. Seafood sampler with pickled beetroot chutney or corn pea cake served with tomato compote is what you get to cleanse and rejuvenate your body. Chefs are on a health mission, serving to the wellheeled a detox diet. Age – both on the lower and ageing side – is no bar to visit parlours and gyms. Everyone is fighting age with cosmetics, surgery, potions and lotions, and protein shakes; each one is reinventing himself.

Money has acquired a sensuous quality. Greed is good; actually it is God. Epicureanism abounds. According to a media report, the three food habits we are likely to see in 2012 will be home cooking based on exotic ingredients, consumption of ethical food which has to be tasty as well, and visits to the celeb restaurants like Le Cirque and Hakkasan. Instant Nirvana, new age spirituality, fad diets all are new rage along with the reining alternative therapies like Reiki or Feng Shui. Such are the things that excite consumption saturated Gen Xers and Yers.

To have physical relations is no longer under wraps – at least not as it was before. The age of innocence metamorphoses into adulthood sooner now. Live-ins are more de rigueur than same sex relationships – which also seem to be catching on quite fast. An aspirational society is offloading traditions.

On the plus side, of course, there is a new kindling of the can-do mentality in a nation dictated by Kismet and the sense of fatalism. Young India is proud of the country and things Indian. Optimism and the ‘feel good’ factor are getting stronger. The future is even brighter for marketers too.

An IDBI Capital study suggests that the middle class population will grow up to 583 million by 2025 (up from 50 million in 2005) with a significantly increased average real household disposable income. 70% of the household money will be spent on discretionary purchases. The working age population will go up from 65% (2005) to 68% (2030) with more than 39% of the people being below 25 years and 87% below 60. The numbers are truly staggering as far as future potential consumption in concerned.

Well, actually what I wish to highlight is this fact: As Buss simplifies things (read the research at the start), even if sacrificing the intergroup differences, so do the above remarks about the emerging consuming class. But oversimplification is fraught with risk.


While a marketer prefers a single prototype, since it makes his job of communicating and selling a single product easier, stereotyping is always laden with dangerous overtones. Not every male is using caviar creams or undergoing laser treatment for hair removal. Nor for that matter have sarees been abandoned or red wine become the preferred drink for the fairer sex. No doubt, the androgynous sartorial style popularised in Dil Chahta Hai has its loyalists. But the muscle rippling dresses of Salman Bhai have a great degree of acceptance too. There is no single psychographic profile that can claim to represent the whole market. Broadly speaking, Indian males fall in four categories, Conformists, Hedonists, the Janus Faced, and The Evolving Ideal.

A Conformist is driven by traditional values, loves his family, and is shorn of ostentation. He likes value for money brands, and is unlikely to ‘dress up’. He finds debt as an abhorring burden. So sell him the mass marketed brands which reach out to him with images celebrating the man in control (over situation or woman in his life). Platina, Peter England or economy in Gillette shaving gel are likely to succeed with this tribe.

A Hedonist, the second type, belongs to the ‘I, me, myself’ genre. He is driven by status and status symbols. Unlike conformists he is a risk taker and pleasure seeker. Situated in metros and tier-1 towns he is perhaps single. He equates best in the class with the concept of value. Dandy looks are very important to him; in fact he is obsessed with his appearance. Credit card is something he frequently swipes. He aspires for a Harley Davidson, but sell him at least a Pulsar, an Allen Solly andthe brands of the ilk on premiumness and hitech imagery.

We also have the Janus Faced consumer who is constantly striving to project a politically and socially correct image. He is always conscious of others’ opinion about him (a Blackberry 9900 or Apple i4S) and conducts himself accordingly. For him success equates both money and recognition. He is paradoxically individualistic and yet approval seeker. Therefore he is unlikely to breach social norms. Ads built around loss of face or social ostracism are likely to be on spot for this category. It is for these people that Maruti is introducing its SUV which is actually a cross between a car and a true blood 4x4 off- roader, since he wants to set himself apart and get noticed but not very radically. So, truly innovative category creators are not for him.

Finally we have the Mr. Male of the future – The Evolving Man. He believes in tending to his kids (Nivea Man) and the family. He shares the household work with the wife, gives her the morning cup of tea first thing when she wakes up (now, which ad was this!). He is neither overly conformist nor a rebel against all things traditional. Young, professionally educated, he has a progressive outlook.

Purchases are decided and made jointly. He rarely buys on impulse and plans a lot. Naturally he is game for household gadgets, family oriented consumption items, and, when single, productivity enhancing devices. He is driven by quality and buys rationally. He truly epitomizes the Raymond’s complete man. He would like to drive a diesel sedan which is neither too flashy nor too dowdy.


Having said it all, however a word of caution. Instead of segregating the Indian males and then targeting the specific groups, a better strategy would be to find synergies between different groups. For example, both the traditionalists and the evolving are family oriented, while both the hedonists and Janus faced are selfseekers. Develop your products and communication strategies accordingly.


Friday, February 3, 2012


The year was 2005. I was consulting with a company incubated by two ex-HCL directors. It was not delivering. In the prediagnostic phase the directors proudly proclaimed that the employee turnover at the organization was a piffling less than 5%. Intrigued, I wondered whether there lay the nub: had the employees reached the trough of their inefficiency? Further probing revealed that this was one cozy joint family like set up headed by condescending patriarchs rather than task oriented bosses. Recommendation went out from me: do away with the deadwood as of yesterday and change your own leadership style. Loyalty and long tenure are not necessarily something to strive for by the HR department. See how the Government of India functions with its bunch of ‘committed for life’ pool of manpower!

The other polar extreme is, however, the CIL case discussed in the present issue of Theory i Management. A quick turnover and high attrition rate are equally jaundiced and worrying situations. This may result partly from the mercenary like attitude of the Gen. Y hires, partly due to misplaced career expectations, but in no less measure also due to the preplacement spiel being dished out by the potential employer to the graduating batch. Within the first 2 years of joining nearly 10-20%. MBAs opt out of the companies they were placed in. This has massive direct and indirect cost implications for the employer.

MBAs nowadays are loyal to their profession, not to an organization. Many quit because they are given assignments that do not seem to add value to their careers. In a growing economy like India, myriads of opportunities are available, especially for premier B-School alumni. Indubitably money acts as hygiene and a motivating factor at least up to a level; many of them resign because they feel that the job content does not match expectation or the promise made in the PPTs; disaffectation sets in early. Or the compensation package may be designed in a manner that CTC is shown to be stratospheric. But upon disaggregation the net sum realized by the young joinee falls below the threshold. So perhaps instead of recruiting the ‘crème’, HR head should look for students with the right mental fit. The company can always tap the talent in the right way while keeping them excited about their job. Or, the company can possibly structure recruitment in different tiers and visit A plus, B grade, and even B minus category institutes. Most important, the recruiter must avoid raising expectations beyond what they intend delivering; else very soon a disconnect will be created leading eventually to parting of ways.

Many MBAs anyway lack the right attitude, are unwilling to learn, and want only high visibility jobs. This cannot possibly match each profile the company has in mind for future inductees. So the companies should not only articulate what they offer, but equally, what is not there on the menu. If you are not the best paymaster or offer ‘less’ glamorous profiles, be upfront about them. Instead, balance these negatives by (even if intangible) gains that a future employee can hope to enjoy in the event he decides to join in.

Even B-Schools can play a proactive role in avoiding future alienations by ensuring that the students opt for the specialization based on individual strengths and weaknesses, and not (as is generally the practice) on such frivolous considerations as which jobs are ‘hot’ nowadays! Meaningful summer internships go a long way in enabling a student to know what kind of career he should opt for. And even rotation among various departments in the company allows the new hire to form an idea as to where his predilections lie. His competencies may be mapped and then he may be guided about the profile most suited for him.

Attrition management adds to the bottomline of the company, remember.