Godrej: Setting the bar for BoP innovation in consumer marketing?

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Image of Godrej Chotukool from the WSJ

Distracted by the coolness of the product, I overlooked the real story developing in the Indian consumer market. New ways of distributing, new ways of creating and meeting demand, in ways that proffer dignity to members working to solve the last mile connectivity problem are the real innovation in the saga that is the BoP.

Microfinance institutions are getting involved in Indian retailing, using their networks to reach out to end users in villages and small towns across India. The perfect mashup, the win win partnerships provide a reason for the microcredit being offered.

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Rukmini Adsule (left ) and Anita Mane, from the microfinance fold, sell
Godrej & Boyce’s nano refrigerators and Hindustan Unilever’s water
purifiers, among other products, in Osmanabad, Maharashtra. Adsule
earns Rs 3,000 a month as commission.
(outlook india)

Young school educated women are selected from the end user communities to be trained as product cum financial advisors, for sales is not that simple among the BoP. You have to educate them on many things first, before they can begin to appreciate the value of your product or service, thus lowering the barrier to their purchase. Ironically, its perhaps the most transparent sales and marketing channel of all. All the patterns of behaviour of BoP consumers, from their high bullshit meter to their need for proof of performance before they shell out, are covered in these new channels.

Innovation, it seems, means overturning the rules that govern the design of supply chains and distribution networks, sales staff and marketing communications. These are emerging BoP ventures, either as brand extensions of wellknown behemoths or category creators who are baking their own pies.

By what criteria do we now evaluate "design for the 90%" now? 

From this interview of Adi Godrej with Forbes India yesterday,

Bala Balachandran, one of the longest serving members of the Godrej
Consumer board and a professor at Northwestern Univerity’s Kellogg
School of Management, recalls a strategy meeting that led to this
reorientation towards rural markets and low income housing. Asked what
they think Godrej Consumer’s main product was, most executives came up
with Cinthol or Godrej No 1. But Adi Godrej, who is known around the
office for his punctuality, said it was something more, including the
brand’s connect with the customer and its distribution system. “All the
focus on rural and the segment that he concentrates come from the
‘customer centric culture’ of GCPL [Godrej Consumer Products],” says
Balachandran.

Usercenteredness, I don't hesitate to say, is a critical starting point for BoP and rural market development strategy, and an emphasis on the bottomline tradeoff between cost of serving this customer and ensuring that value was being delivered to the bottom of the pyramid market. Zoroastrians aka Parsis, like the Tata clan, the Godrejs are not unknown for their socially responsible businesses and charitable activities.

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