Even marketers who did not traditionally sell to them earlier are changing their ways.

Do women rule buying in India, or men?

- P. Shashwat Reddy, Mumbai

Shashwat, this differs from category to category. At the macro level, however, in terms of value of spend, women control 58 per cent of all expenditure. The woman surely wears the pants on decision-making and -taking.

Women take about 60-70 per cent of decisions in terms of spending on certain products and services such as apparel and education (of kids).

The feminine gender side of the economy is a robust one. It is all about taking purchase decisions. Today, the skew is towards women. This has happened over the last 40 years. There is a distinct swing in decision-making favouring the feminine gender.

To this cause, every good company has a gender focus plan. Some are more inclined to women. Even the auto category, hitherto considered a man's domain, has moved its focus now, with the empowered earning woman in the market for every kind of auto, light and heavy duty included. While the Vespa wants to become more macho and accepted by women, the Bolero wants a piece of the women’s market as well. Feminine auto wants men to buy in and macho auto wants women to buy in. Offerings are therefore being modified, as is advertising.

The market for niche fruit-based drink brands such as Frooti and Maaza seems to be growing. What’s the action in this space?

- Shakila Sampath, New Delhi

Shakila, fruit-based drinks such as Frooti, Mazaa, Slice, Appy and more are rocking in their sales volumes.

Take Mazaa. For starters, it is a great brand name. The brand promise is ensconced in the Indian meaning of the brand name itself. Add to it the zing that mango carries in India, and the ability of the brand communication (over the years) to maintain a certain degree of consistency that appeals to the mango maniac at large, and you have a winning combination.

Maaza packs the distribution strength of Coca-Cola and good deep-pockets advertising that is typical of a Coca-Cola company brand. Happily, Maaza in India has become synonymous with the mango variant, despite early launches of other variants such as Pineapple and Orange.

In many ways this single-minded focus on mango has given the brand the edge it has. I do believe re-launches of other fruit variants under the same brand name would dilute the potency of this brand and blunt its edge. Maaza, therefore, rocks.

A subliminal (but wrong) factor working for Maaza in India is also the notion that a fruit-based drink is healthier to consume than a non-fruit based beverage such as a cola. Therefore, in many cases, parents are happier to see their kids choose Maaza over a Coke or a Pepsi.

Maaza in a bottle is still the gold standard, though the PET variant and the carton are dominant offerings. I do believe that the returnable bottle format of Maaza is a killer. Sadly, the focus is elsewhere due to issues of logistics and cost.

On the other hand, Frooti and Slice (wherever you find it) are really the key competitors. Slice has lost out in terms of advertising decibel and creative execution alike. It has somehow gotten positioned as an older person's mango drink. The fact remains, however, that in the mango drink market, if you don't have the kids’ consumption market, you don't have the market.

Frooti, on the other hand, has the kids market, but lacks zing in the adults’ market. To that extent Maaza straddles both segments well. Frooti, though, is considered down-market in imagery. If I were to build a brand image pyramid, at the bottom would be Frooti, in the middle would be Maaza and right at the top would be Slice. But the sad truth is that the top in image terms is a niche. The biggest market lies at the bottom and the middle.

I run a small three-outlet café chain. How do I succeed in this sea of cafés?

- R. P. Mistry, New Delhi

Mistry-ji, this needs a really long answer. Let me make it short though.

The first big thing is the food and beverage on offer. Hygiene and food safety norms will become a big issue in the future. Your café chain needs to invest in this arena. The second key issue is a menu-change frequency that keeps the brand alive and does not get its offerings jaded. A café that serves up the standard sandwich and bread pakoda forever is fated to die a jaded death. The other issues relate to branding, price-sensitivity and the ability to adopt flexible practices rather than rigid practices of control and management.

Manage your single café as a shop. Harvest the hinterland carefully as a local shopkeeper would do. You will do well.

Remember, most café chains manage brands and do not manage the local hinterland. Make that your strength.

(Harish Bijoor is a business strategy specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc. askharishbijoor@gmail.com)

(This article was published on December 20, 2012)
XThese are links to The Hindu Business Line suggested by Outbrain, which may or may not be relevant to the other content on this page. You can read Outbrain's privacy and cookie policy here.