India, being numerous countries inside one country and further divisions of regional, religious, cast and sub sect makes a indefinite complex social pyramid structured social positioning which is tough to avoid for brands that seeks consumer attention, visual impact and indigenous usability. The visual representation of one’s social position is very important in this subcontinent which gets reflected right from the clothing, architecture, political posters to the grass root day-to-day customs. The so called “big fat Indian marriage” is nothing but one’s exhibition of social class and positioning. The belonging to certain spiritual, religious and political parties are also a display of one’s class and “otherness” from the mass.
Certain brands or products fail to understand this situation and enacts in a way that India is a “utopian” super-flat democratic society where everybody is visually equal and has the urge to speak/ exhibit of what they are / wants to be or with whom they wants to belong to. The problem broadly exists with those brands who unfortunately doesn’t understand that their products are actually an asset in stead of consumption. The western brands once imported in India with high import duty and currency conversion, certainly lifts to the higher market segment but fails to understand its high impact on how the brand should be portrayed in India.
For example, the vision of Nano car was to replace the two wheelers which it failed to address due to the social pyramid of consumption and perception of product value. A car is considered as an assent among mass India and they will not compromise with the “look” of the product because an asset is supposed to be “exhibited” to enrich the status quo of the owner (first generation riches, mostly). Nano failed here due to its fragile non-classy “dumb” look. It would have been great if Nano appeared as “cool car” among the youth in India where the cast / class doesn’t matter but “desi coolness” is counted (say, Nano offers cool colors, funky decos, add on accessories and appears as a “consume and dispose” car rather than “own” a car concept!).
Interestingly, Social media is an active tool / social platform where class doesn’t exist but one’s intelligence to interact, instant humor, story telling capacity and PR matters. The Facebook is an excellent example on how this social media is literally diminishing the regional, religious and cast barrier in India (at least virtually) which, I believe will have a long lasting influence in offline social division to restructure our society in a new frame.
Facebook provides equal space for everybody to display his/ her photos / works etc. and share the thought in Wall. The discussion is open and anybody from the friend’s list can comment on any topic (no social / political king pins dominating the discussion). Anybody can like the photos but, it has no dislike option!
But, mobile is not as socially flat as social media! This product has become the symbol of class division from the very beginning of its introduction in this subcontinent. There are the brands for “haves” and “have-nots”…for example, today Nokia is the brand for “have-nots” where as “Blackberry and iPhone” are for haves…unfortunately Nokia does not understand this and trying to become the brand for the other class. This “other class” represents not more than the one third of this population! Hence Nokia actually has a better segment to cater, which they are not focusing!
Social media is also a place which is not having gender barrier or age barrier.
Though it will take decades to bring this ‘flat society” concept in India unless the perceived division between the haves and have-nots exist and both of them are very conscious of this existence to showoff their “otherness”!