Just recently, an uncapped fresher Sameer Rizvi bagged a colossal 8.4 crore rupee contract in the IPL. Thus, initiating a brand new reservoir of talent to the deeply competitive India team slots and T20 franchise leagues. Remorseless supply exceeding steadily increasing demand is a truth beyond Cricket, it extends to the ample universe of consumer brands.
In the caste system of Cricket, the topmost tier belongs to the national team, although the IPL entities are now competing closely, quite like the nation-club equilibrium in Soccer. But given the constraints of calendars and diverse formats, the opportunities at the top are limited. Rotation protocols, by desire or injury, have broadened the base, unlike the restricted old days, but mammoth confusion reigns. Especially for marquee ICC tourneys, when selectors have to constantly choose between the established past and the alluring future, both sufficiently proven in the coliseums of the present. Demand clearly being bamboozled by supply, as if an unplayable googly.
In the arena of brands, inspired by multiple waves of liberalisation ( JAM trinity and ONDC the latest), the scenario is startlingly similar. India’s direct-to-consumer (D2C) market, which is likely to reach a size of $100 Bn by 2025, has grown exponentially, with Lifestyle startups accounting for the largest share. Such brands aim to capitalise on the growing appetite of Indian consumers for innovation and waning loyalty towards traditional players. Biryani topped Swiggy’s charts as it was the most ordered dish on the food delivery platform in 2023 for the eighth straight year. India ordered 2.5 biryanis per second in 2023. Bangalore was the "Cake Capital" of the country, with 8.5 million orders placed for chocolate cake alone.
Truthfully, the consuming class is also expanding rapidly, albeit not yet at the pace of choice enhancement. According to a mint-fresh Goldman Sachs report, 100 million Indians will be affluent by 2027, up from 67 million in 2023. ‘ Affluent’, as defined by an annual income of $10,000 and above, is about Rs 8.3 lakhs in today’s money. Spending on credit cards is up 2.,5 times since 2019 and SUV sales growth has outpaced overall car sales substantially. In fact in Real Estate, Durables and parts of Personal Care, there is an increasing contribution of ‘premium’ customers to the overall pie.
Equally interesting, a large chunk of consumption is coming from non-metros and even rural areas, upgraders who have skipped multiple generations of evolution to rise rapidly to the topmost end. The E-commerce market share of Tier-3 cities grew from 34.2 % in 2021 to 41.5% in 2022, while that of Tier-2 cities rose from 19.4% to 21.4% during the period. At the same time, the market share of Tier-1 cities dipped from 46.4% in 2021 to 37.1% in 2022. Starbucks has a target of 1000 outlets by 2028 and like Domino’s Pizza, the new territories are sufficiently placed in tier two locations.
The Sameer Rizvi Syndrome is clearly about exaggerated high-quality supply in the context of less-racy demand patterns. Importantly, the origin of new customers has moved beyond the usual suspects and brands must be prepared for this. D2C Food and Fashion are two ample cases, followed rapidly by auto, healthcare, personal care and education. As per recent reports there has been a 50-100% increase in overseas students and education loan applicants from the smaller towns. The Justdial Consumer Insights report of 2022 suggests that the surge in demand for consumer durable goods was led by Chandigarh, Jaipur, Lucknow, Ludhiana, Agra, Surat, Varanasi, Vadodara, Patna, and Ranchi.
For businesses, the challenges are many and often appear without adequate precedence. Post covid, customers are willing to experiment more than ever before so the security of loyalty is becoming elusive. Therefore, for existing successful brands, customer lifetime values have to be redefined and a constant stream of new customers must be attracted efficiently. For newbies, past industry patterns of generating business may be utterly invalid as newer paths must be forged to win and grow. In either case, driven by obsessive customer centricity and lesser degrees of manufacturer perceptions.
The new age premium customer is often seeking the advantage of smoother experiences for himself as opposed to the flaunting motivation of traditional upgraders. There are no showrooms in the world of online commerce so the experience creation is rooted in convenience and choice. Aggregation, seeking similarities in customer behaviour, must precede the conventional path of segmentation, as operationally we are becoming category-agnostic.
Brand narratives need to be rooted in ‘India’ insights with a handshake to globalisation and not the other way around. UPI means a gradual demise of ‘cash’, thus a greater degree of ‘white’ transactions. Experimentation is now an emerging habit and not a freak disruption and how we treat our careers is a large indicator of how we interact with brands.
Most importantly, the journeys of the new-age customers are considerably different from the conventional upgrades. For many millennials and their successors, Nehruvian limitations are purely anecdotal, with trust and stability less relevant. Those in villages have jumped straight to first-world markers and have no backlash of cynicism. Nobody is signing up for long-term allegiance as switching behaviour becomes the abiding norm. Brand narratives have to be more functional and filled with empathy, to add credibility to time-tested storytelling. Pure-play differentiation is dead and gone, instead sticking to a foundation of ownability and weaving tales will lead to success. E-commerce and its ally, the mobile phone, will often lead the way for the next round of revelations and not just be transacting tools.
In cricket, the Sameer Rizvi syndrome will possibly mean shorter career tenures for players as well as an increase in the width of opportunities - the global T20 franchise leagues acquiring higher stature. In business, the equivalent will be shorter loyalty tenures for customers and an enhanced role for occasional visitors - the active consideration set replacing absolute loyalty as the gold standard. In both cases the mindset of the Supply delivery system must change dramatically, as Demand networks evolve at their own pace.
Barriers have melted and there is room for everybody with talent and commitment. As long as our heads and hearts are rooted firmly in persuasive reality and inspiring imagination.