Monday, July 28, 2008

Hair raising issues

A sachet of Head and Shoulders which I purchased a couple of weeks back threw me a pleasant surprise.On the cover was written the brand name in three local Indian languages, Hindi, Tamizh and another language which I couldn't quite decipher. Of course being a Tamilian it gave me some sense of satisfaction that fellow citizens of my state were such an important customer base for a hygiene related product. Maybe the next time I sit in a local bus, I don't have to worry about how many sweaty heads before me polluted the seat with the latest lice varieties.

However this smug satisfaction was to be short lived, and instead a totally different line of thought set in when I bought the same company's shampoo bottle instead. The first thing I did after I set my eyes on the bottle was of course to check whether the bottle also had writing in the Indian languages. On the contrary , this one had used just one language, English. Did this mean that the shampoo bottle and the shampoo sachet are intended for a totally different customer base? Was it possible that the shampoo bottles were more used by the middle and upper middle classes who were expected to know English, while the sachets were primarily used by people from the lower strata of the economy. If so, it presents a rather interesting insight into the spending patterns of our society.

As we go up the income classes we find that people prefer to spend more in bulk, while in the lower levels people would prefer to buy short term even though if they were to buy the bottle they would only benefit in the long run. Is it got to do with something as complex as the mind set that your growing up environment develops in you, or does it come down to something more basic as the amount of cash people have in hand at any given point of time. Also, given that there is a section of people who buy only sachets and not bottles, do they buy them often and therefore at the end of the day their frequency of washing their hair is comparable with those who buy bottles. If that were to be the case, the country's upper classes would have to give up their self righteous claims of being more hygiene conscious just because of their placing in the society.

However one thing which puzzles me is that why would the company not use the local languages even on their bottles. For one I am sure that doing so will help them to connect better with their Indian customers, however few they might be in comparison to the sachet users. For if there is one thing that companies have learnt over a long period of time in history, it is that the more you appeal to the local populace, the more your chances of success.