Don’t discount India’s value

Your feature “Passage to India” (MW October 20) might mislead companies thinking of entering Indian markets.

Yes, there are vast numbers of people with middle-class aspirations, but it is a mistake to target only those who live in Bombay, Calcutta, Delhi or the 20 other cities with more than a million inhabitants.

The important point is that India is the size of Europe and each region has its own local competitors, media and distributors – as does, say, Germany or Spain.

Yes, the urban population has grown since the end of the Eighties, but by 25 per cent, not 75 per cent (from about 200 million to 250 million). Hindustan Lever (51 per cent owned, not 49 per cent) says its success is due to broad demand, fed by a spread of wealth into the countryside and its close attention to rural, not just urban, distribution.

Yes, the number of TV channels is growing fast; but so is the choice of press media, which may be sharper instruments – with strong women’s magazines and financial publications, for example.

Success will depend on understanding Indian markets. But that will not be as hard as it sounds – the article underestimates the strength of the market research industry in India. It is a large one, dominated by at least a dozen major agencies (not just three) with offices nationwide, and it has been doing well for 15 years.

I became the first foreign member of the Market Research Society of India in 1989, and have been to half a dozen annual conferences. These are always lively affairs, attended by between 200 and 300 professionals whose standards equal those of researchers in Britain. They are serving plenty of the names mentioned elsewhere in the same issue of Marketing Week, such as BT, Cadbury, BBC, Daewoo, Nestlé, Reebok, Thomas Cook, Hewlett- Packard, EMI and Gillette.

Michael Ashfield


India Research Group



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