Last winter break, I took a three-day Global Modular Course in Mumbai called Marketing to the Indian Consumer. The aim of this course was to help Wharton students understand Indian consumers better. Having been born and raised in Kolkata in India, I have always been interested in learning about Indian businesses, and I therefore jumped at the opportunity to register for the course. Taught by Professor Raju, the class had about thirty students most of whom were MBAs and executive MBAs. As the only undergraduate enrolled, I had a lot to learn.
With lectures, guest speakers, case studies and site visits, we had a packed schedule during the 3 days. We covered topics ranging from Distribution and Retailing in India to Marketing to Indian Women. I found the session on Marketing to the Rural Consumer the most interesting. The large rural population of India makes it an attractive market for many consumer goods companies but the low literacy rate presents a challenge for marketers to convey their message effectively to this audience. Having grown up in a large city, I was unaware of how many Indian businesses employ different business practices to better adapt themselves to their rural customers. We were fortunate enough to learn directly from our guest speakers from some of the most successful business in India, such as Cadbury, Godrej, Bharti-Walmart and Hero MotoCorp.
What I learned from this course is that marketing in India can be complex and challenging. With a median age of 25, India is young and making strides in economic growth. The large urban population is spending like never before, and the emerging middle class represents a potent buying force. At the same time, rural India cannot be ignored. Women are becoming more liberal and the population more modern. However, Indian consumers are still traditional and close to their age-old value system, evolving only gradually. Thus, business cannot simply copy or tweak global strategies to succeed in this market. They must employ local strategies to cater to the local population. I found the course to be very valuable and would encourage everyone to take a Global Modular Course for an opportunity to travel abroad and learn about unique, local business practices.