April 19, 2006

Waling Villian

From an item of news with the headline "New age gadgets sport 'affordable' tag" (DNA, Sunday April 16):
    Market dynamics are such, say industry experts, that big brands are being forced to address the growing need for cheap yet superior technology.
As opposed to the past, didn't you know, when the need was for expensive yet inferior technology.

Yes, it takes "industry experts" versed in "market dynamics" of "big brands" to tell us that much.


50 paise postcard received in the mail has this handwritten message, reproduced verbatim:
    Wearing of Foot Wear is the reason of Arthritis and Podiatric diseases. (Please compare walking action, area of contact & angle of sole from surface while walking with footwear vs Bare Foot Waling). DO NOT IGNORE "NATURE".
It's difficult, I tell you, this angle business. With every step I take, I bend down to measure the angle of my sole from the surface. I've not managed it yet. My family looks at me strangely, though. And when I get to Bare Foot Waling, what on earth will I do?


Speaking of angles, a recent "Love Actually" column in the Hindustan Times carries these two messages (verbatim except for names):
    Hi Dear: I asked god for a rose he gave me garden, I asked god for a drop he gave me ocean, I asked god for a angel he gave me you. From Vijay.

    Hi Dear: I asked God for a rose he gave me a garden, I asked god for a drop he gave me an ocean, I asked god for a angle he gve me you. From Vijay.
What're you complaining about, dude? You've got yourself an angel and an angle! Me, I'm still working on the angle.

Here's a tip, nevertheless. Ask that angel of yours to begin Bare Foot Waling.


Speaking of angels, a gravestone I found at a cemetery reads (verbatim except for names and dates changed):
    In cherished memory of MARIA FLAVIA
    Dearly beloved wife of Richard D'Costa
    Born 3rd October 1929
    Vindicating her honour
    at Qatar
    on 29th June 1963
    Wrenched from us all, a lily white,
    Unscathed thy soul to God it flew,
    Unconquered 'neath the villian's might
    The Chapter closed - yet opes anew
    in Eden's Vale.
Rest well, Maria, wherever you are.


Rahul Siddharthan said...

What, I wonder, was all that about vindicating her honour and being a white lily under the villian's might?

Sounds like she may have died resisting a rapist, or something... anyway, not something to poke fun at.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Good point, Rahul, and thanks for pulling me up on that. I will change the tone of that right away.

Aditya said...

As opposed to the past, didn't you know, when the need was for expensive yet inferior technology
What they've tried to do in the past is provide cheap, couple-of-year old technology to the developing ground. Moving older technology to the developing word was a well-accepted part of a product's lifecycle... seems like that is changing.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Aditya, actually my focus is on that word "need". Whatever cynical corporations might have done, don't you think we always had a "need for cheap yet superior technology"? I mean, to me that's like saying the sun rises every day.

Rahul Siddharthan said...

Well Dilip -- one can argue about the "need" in other ways. Do we "need" ipods, smartphones, etc? I think the explosion of gadgetry, especially in the Indian context but even elsewhere, is a rather recent thing.

Just glanced at the article in question, and it opens with the MotoRazr which I, at least, don't "need" (granted, if I did need it, I'd like low price and high quality) -- but apparently some people do need it, for some definition of "need". It is that newfound "need" that the market is catering to, and that the article is talking about, I think.

Neela said...

Well, Dilip, I don't see anything wrong in that - in the past, the consumer had to choose between expensive and superior technology or cheap but not-so-great technology. Not too many mareketers (esp Big Brand marketers) thought you could offer both (although everyone wants world peace in 8 pence, as a VP Marketing I know of used to say).

But now the consumer is in a position to demand both (and at least in many areas, we have Indian entrepreneurs to thank for this!). And yes, big brands have to think afresh - because they are the ones that have primarily relied on the expensive yet superior technology route.

And while this might sound simplistic when written about in newspapers, prompting you and many others to ask "what is there is this that industry experts should be called upon topronounce judgment" its not that easy to spot consumer trends and create an offering. Otherwise, a behemoth like HLL would never be caught offguard by Nirma in the detergent market.


P.S As you would have realised I HATE it when you write about marketing in this contempuous vein ;)

Rahul Siddharthan said...

Neela, you're absolutely right: when companies can get away with charging high prices, they do. Consumer demand for low prices is not enough until those prices can be satisfied by other suppliers.

A classic example is diamonds: why are they expensive, when they're plentifully available in many places in Africa? Because the worldwide trade is controlled by a cartel set up by the De Beers company. They did this in 1934 precisely so that prices wouldn't crash, and to this day they'll go to great lengths to protect that monopoly.

Another example is airlines -- look how prices dived once the skies were opened to Air Deccan et al. The same thing happened in Europe in the 1990s with EasyJet, RyanAir etc, and earlier in the US in the 1980s with Southwest etc. Before that, airline prices were ruinously high everywhere.

Aditya said...

don't you think we always had a "need for cheap yet superior technology"
Dilip, My answer to that is not necessarily. Superior technology is useful only if there is an ecosystem to support it. For instance, the latest 3G phone from Japan would be quite useless in India because we don't have the 3G networks (yet) to deliver content. The "need" for technology arises from the utility that users can derive from it. If you replace the word "need" by "demand" in the original sentence, it reads more clearly I think. Technology firms in particular don't have the option of being cynical. If Motorola won't meet a market need for example, Nokia will: the power of competition.

veryconfuzed said...

As opposed to the past, didn't you know, when the need was for expensive yet inferior technology

I am not sure if it's so much in the past or if it is only limited to technology, but people do want things which are expensive just because that makes them exclusive. And they don't necessarily have to be 'superior' or more useful than cheaper alternatives. The example of diamonds that Rahul brought up is an obvious one. MS Windows may be another :)