Choice the buzzword, as consumers pampered like never before (2010 in Retrospect)

December 25th, 2010 - 3:48 pm ICT by IANS  

By Priyanka Sahay and Rohit Vaid
New Delhi, Dec 25 (IANS) Choice was the buzzword for the Indian consumer who in 2010 was mollycoddled like never before, with companies offering a range of products, from mobile phones to cars, tailored to one’s taste rather than seeking to unload what was thought as best.With the economy on the recovery path putting more money in people’s pockets and competition too flaring up, not a month passed without some new launches in virtually every segment of the consumer market — from ready-to-eat snacks to high-end automobiles.

“As the lifestyle of the Indian consumers is changing, their needs and wants also change and grow with time,” said Eric Braganza, president of the Chinese consumer products giant Haier’s India operations.

“This has been a year of choice for the Indian consumers,” Braganza, whose firm makes “white goods” like refrigerators, washing machines and television sets, told IANS. “We launched more than 30 products this year to give a variety of choice to consumers.”

This was also evident from the sales numbers. According to leading industry lobby, the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham), the $6.5-billion market for consumer durables grew 30 percent this year and will expand 40 percent next year.

“The consumer durables sector is characterized by the emergence of multinational firms, exchange offers, discounts and stiff competition to attract the growing middle class in India,” said chamber president Dilip Modi.

“Around 35 percent of the total sales of consumer durable products come from rural and semi-urban markets, which will grow by 40 to 45 percent in the near future,” he said, adding mobile phones, LCD TVs and music systems are the high growth areas.

In the mobile phone market, where India has been adding some 15 million subscribers each month to touch 700 million subscribers, as many as 500 new models were launched, many in the sub-Rs.1,000 category with a built-in FM radio receiver to target the hinterland.

In the consumer electronics segment, LCD TVs, which once cost upwards of Rs.25,000, were available for less than half that price for Rs.12,000, while prices of air-conditoners dropped further to around Rs.12,000, with companies shifting to volumes than margins.

Then in the auto market, as many as 78 new models were launched during 2010, across all the segments, including what is touted as the world’s most expensive and fastest car, the Bugatti Veyron. Mercedes itself unveiled 18 new models and variants in a single year.

But what also spelled the coming of age of the Indian consumer and the growing respect from companies is how they are now being pursued for their opinion before some product launches so that they are tailor-made to their needs.

Alfa Laval, for example, launched a range of mobile phones with “ABCD” key-pads, instead of the common “QWERT” key-pads, targeting the population in rural areas. Hyundai added a chauffer-side vanity mirror on its i10 model, when some women drivers demanded them.

Similarly, Nestle launched a whole new range of varieties and flavours for its 25-year-brand of Maggie noodles based on customer feedback, while Panasonic made changes in the popular rice cookers as customers wanted to use it for other purposes as well.

“Based on customer feedback, we launched a new range of refrigerators with more fridge space,” said Ruchika Batra, Samsung general manager for Southwest Asia. “Our ‘Inspira’ range now comes with 23:77 freezer-to-fridge ratio as compered with 31:69 ratio.”

Looking ahead, analysts predict that the trend set in 2010 — products that deliver value for money, together with functionalities that are suited to an individual’s taste — will continue through 2011, with more focus on semi-urban and rural markets.

Here are some milestones in the Indian consumer market in 2010:

-Volkswagen and Toyota enter mid-size car segment with Vento and Etios, both of which were specifically designed for India.

-Bugatti launches the world’s fastest and most powerful car Veyron.

-Videocon launches India’s first touch screen microwave oven with a wide price range.

-Panasonic unveils in India the world’s largest 152-inch 3D full high-definition plasma TV.

-Italy’s Paggio announces re-launch of iconic Vespa scooters in India.

-Godrej came out with its mosquito repellant coils that are smokeless after customer feedback.

-Canon launches 22 digital imaging products (cameras) at one go.

-Tata DoCoMo comes out with unique pay-per-use and pay-per-second plan for mobile phone services, leading to a major dip in tariffs.

-India’s Olive Telecom launches country’s first 3G Android tablet.

-India’s Wynncom launches first dual Hindi-Qwert keypad.

-Bangalore’s EC Media launches India’s first eReader to take on Kindle.

(Priyanka Sahay and Rohit Vaid can be reached at biz@ians.in)

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