From the Editor’s desk…EFF Times.
Changing Face of Consumer Durables Industry in India.
Like human society, gadgets and machines and all those button-operated gizmos have a way to evolve. So that more is done in less time. So that there is more to human life. Life has been changing around the planet in its own pace till we became a global village and tools, technologies, humans and resources became a homogenous whole for the cumulative welfare and progress. Well that journey is still on, now at a frenetic pace and nobody quite knows where we are headed tomorrow which is soon to become history. There is a story to it as far as we Indians are concerned and it is a story told linear which an increasingly complex screenplay. So cut to location – India.
Well till 1990, the Indian economy was a closed one. We had indigenous products and just a handful of brands across verticals, which we identified with. In fact the only brands we knew were those. Onida, Weston, Konark, BPL, Kelvinator, Godrej. Ambassador & Fiat dominated the automobile scene. But with the onslaught of liberalization, the Indian market place began to experience a sea change. The concept of retail began to emerge, as products and brands from across the shores began to trickle in and coming from better economies with more attractive packaging and branding, they needed more space to showcase themselves. Gradually the consumer was spoilt for choice. The perception changed and so did the whole idea of what is desirable what is not. Indian customers began to hear and see and experience brands they had never heard a generation before. And the change continues to the day over the last two and a half decades. With special reference to the Indian Consumer Durable Industry, here is how we as a society became consumers and India as a nation became a market place and once an agrarian economy became a market economy.
The decade of 1990-2000 – The 90’s saw the entries & launches of many innovative and technology upgraded products such as microwave ovens, frost free refrigerators, top loading fully automatic washing machines, flat TV’s, split air conditioners etc and suddenly there was a wave of new more advanced technology which promised more comfort, ease and efficiency.
People used to and bored with homegrown brands, with international brands associations such as Sanyo, National & Panasonic etc suddenly woke up to a flood of new brands, which they heard for the first time. Before this era, the buying pattern was through neighboring dealers with a floor size of max 1000 to 1500 sq ft area displaying all products in a mixed up manner and these products had a utility value of 7 to 10 years. Now there was more technology advancement, more features in the products and they were as easy to use as previous ones but offered more comfort and finesse. Suddenly there were all kinds of associations with status symbols, and the Indian consumer awoke to what was foreign technology, which promised to change lives forever.
In late 90’s, the MNC’s entered India with their direct stakes and started expanding. This was also the decade, which saw a major entry of mobile phones and laptops, something which the Indian market had never seen before. The decade saw a major entry of mobile phones and laptops in the period.
The Decade of 2001-2010 – As the economy expanded its wings and began to soar, more goods and brands and concepts began to enter the Indian retail landscape which saw the entry of modern retail, floor size expansion and entrance of big corporates making their presence felt such as Future Group(Big bazaar/ eZone) CROMA, Reliance Digital etc across the country forcing some of the old chain of retailers to expand and match them. Shopping became an experience and malls became big glittering entertainment centers and newfound outlets to unwind, eat and relax. The influx of brands and products began to occupy complete sections and divisions were made to demarcate from washing machines to TVs to refrigerators to other big and small homes appliances. The number of malls and organized retail rapidly expanded across India to make way for a large amount of supply and demanding expectations of the increasingly affluent Indian consumer. Gradually the MNC took over the market and the industry as a result of their easy entrance in the market and volatile demands of the consumer. Easy access, credits cards and finance options were thrown open at the consumer to increase his appetite. The consumers began to see efficient and better technology, simplicity, user friendliness and therefore more gratification and better usage of application and time. So these various products found acceptance, which encouraged business.
With advent of digital technology, gadgets became a way of life for all with ample of mobile phones, laptops, tabs etc which became the backbone of the industry driving cash flows and instigating tough competition. With a rapidly succeeding technology and a whole new way to work, play and function, business underwent a transformation and a lot begun to be done easily in a shorter span of time and technology and its education became indispensable for the common man for his day to day living. Newer rapid technologies began to change the old and with chances of being quickly obsolete made for shorter product life-span which was now reduced to 5 years at the most.
The recent years of 2011-15, re-defined the whole business with the entry and domination of E-commerce. With a modest start in the early years, the E-commerce players virtually dominating few categories such as gadgets and small appliances with plethora of offers and easy finance options came across with a variety of deals and couponing offers to customers across India to cash upon networking with merchants, brands and discount conscious customers. A whole new paradigm of deals and discounts began to dominate the retail industry via the ecommerce platform with many players getting onto the ecommerce bandwagon alluring customers with attractive deals, discounts, schemes and freebies. Investors and VCs began to drive their capital in these ventures as they foresaw great potential in the power of ecommerce.
The media, the market, the consumer and the buying behavior, everything changed drastically with the power of ecommerce & mcommerce. Gadgets became the tools and soft interface became the playground where users could maneuver across India as to which merchant to buy from or which product to buy or where to dine. Overall this began to decide the rules of the game. The modem retail / LFR (Large Retail Format) players were also forced to re-work on their strategy and many opted promoting and developing their in-house brands to fight the e-commerce battle. Some joined the bandwagon with tying up with large ecommerce players, the online knights with shining armours and great power of reach, accessibility and the promise of victory. The market and industry both understood the power of social media playing important role in engaging the buyers. There is a blitzkrieg of brands and products across the consumer electronics and durables sector, so much so that there is a cut-throat battle on for survival and winning the minds and hearts of consumers. The product lifecycle has now reduced to a mere 3 years and nothing is on for keeps for a long time.
In this era of fast changes and the danger of being quickly obsolete and a market economy being increasingly influenced by all kinds of technologies, it would be very interesting to see who would make the rules of the game and who would change them by setting new rules.
Welcome to the times of Here Today, Gone Tomorrow!