India is now the third largest consumer market in the world, with healthy income growth and an increasingly sophisticated consumer market. Major brands are actively pursuing the Indian customer and they are increasingly likely to customise their products for the specific needs and preferences of the Indian market. The sheer size of the market makes it worthwhile doing so.
India is also becoming a battleground for the competitive struggles of international organisations, meaning that brands are eager to win market share by wooing customers.
Brands that want to engage consumers need to meet them on their terms, which means tailoring both the way they communicate and what they have to offer to meet the customer’s needs and expectations.
As a result of these factors, India is fast becoming the world’s largest market for localisation; the process of adapting a product or service to a particular language, culture, or local market.
Perhaps the critical factor is the sheer size of the available audience. India is large enough that it’s worthwhile taking the trouble to tailor products and services to meet specific audience needs. Although the vast Indian market isn’t homogenous, there are significant segments on offer based on identifiers including language.
India is frequently compared to China, a market that’s comparable in terms of its size and speed of growth. But Indian consumers have greater confidence in local brands compared to their Chinese counterparts.
The fact that a product is made overseas is no longer enough to impress them. As consumers become ever more sophisticated, they’re also demanding products that better meet their needs and expectations. With local brands already able to meet local preferences, overseas brands also need to localise their offering to match domestic competitors.
Selling luxury to the Indian consumer
Some products require localisation more than others; other resist it almost completely. Part of the cachet of luxury goods is that they are uncompromising in their design and aspirational on an international scale, so it wouldn’t be right to adapt them to local needs.
Goods such as Italian leather celebrate the specialist craft skills and heritage of their country of origin, so it wouldn’t be appropriate to manufacture locally when selling to another market.
This doesn’t mean that luxury brands can’t adapt to local tastes. Fendi creates bags specifically aimed at Chinese consumers, such as the ‘capsule’ collection marking Chinese New Year. Gucci took the same approach, focusing on the fact it was the year of the dog.
In India, there’s growing belief that the middle classes may be the ones to drive the luxury market forward in democratic style. One commentator described this approach as “masstige”—a mixture of mass and prestige.
By mixing luxury and premium brands together in top-end Indian shopping malls and offering entry-level goods such as accessories that let consumers start off with smaller purchases, Indian consumers are being gently introduced to luxury retail.
Top-end cars such as Mercedes and BMW have successfully taken this approach in the Indian market by offering entry-level models with financing schemes tailored to the local market.
Luxury cars are also manufacturing locally; something that helps them offer more options to the customer and bring vehicles to market faster. Localised manufacturing is also important in keeping the price as low as possible and protecting it from currency fluctuations. That’s important in this market where car buys are extremely price-sensitive. Although Indian consumers value luxury, they also like good value.
Where localisation matters most
The area where brands are most challenged to adapt their offering is the food sector. India’s approach to food is unique and brands such as Kelloggs have struggled to find their feet here without making some significant changes to their approach.
Whilst Maggi instant noodles found favour with its Masala spice noodles, Kelloggs had less success with lines such as cardamom flavour breakfast cereal. Indian consumers tend to favour hot foods and milk is generally consumed hot.
This didn’t help Kelloggs succeed in the market. Sandwich chain Subway adapted to this expectation by creating hot subs for the Indian market.
Food brands trying to penetrate India’s unique food culture really have to be prepared to localise aggressively. Coca-Cola stated this year that it plans to localise two-thirds of its products for this market.
What’s significant about its approach is the fact the massive global brand intends to localise at state-level. The company intends to identify popular local drinks unique to each of India’s states and ethnicities, as well as identify a unique fruit in each state in order to produce drinks localised to the region.
Coca-Cola’s approach may seem extreme, but India is already the world’s sixth largest market for the brand. The company already holds a big share of the drinks market, owning popular local brands such as Maaza and Thumbs Up.
Whilst not all of its state-localised new lines can be expected to succeed, it’s well worth investing in this market by localising for India’s huge audience of thirsty consumers.
Why app localisation matters
India is a major market for app localisation services. Already the fourth largest market for app downloads, growth in smart devices is colossal. But local app makers are already succeeding in this space. Localisation is the key to global players winning market share and competing against domestic ventures.
Winning audience share in India’s app market is significant because mobile commerce apps are among those most frequently downloaded here.
With Indian eCommerce – particularly mobile-first eCommerce – expected to grow apace in the next few years, getting your app in front of consumers may unlock significant eCommerce opportunities for brands.
Localising apps for their intended market helps drive download numbers and increases engagement. It can be a complex and time-consuming process, but the Indian market is large enough to make it worthwhile localising apps even for more than one of India’s audience segments.
It seems the value of localisation extends to every aspect of a brand’s presence in this promising market.