Toy Story, Action-Packed
Barbie's getting company, the pricey sort. Last month, the Chennai-based Funskool India launched Furbys-interactive toys that speak two languages English and ''Furbish'', a language, created out of Chinese, Thai, and Hebrew. Ty Asia (India) ushered in Beanie Babies this month and Funskool will roll in Teletubbies, named after a popular BBC cartoon show to be aired on DD Metro soon. Says Raphael Kuriyan, 50, CEO, Funskool India: ''The response to Furbys has been very encouraging, and we are expecting a 20 per cent growth in our revenue.''
There's more action happening in the top-end of the toy market. Mattel Toys India has introduced its high-end Smartonics brand. Says Roshini Bakshi, 33, Vice President, Mattel Toys India: "In the next three years, we intend to move into categories beyond toys to be a full-fledged children's product company."
But selling won't be child's play. On the one hand, Indian parents spend an average of 0.3 per cent of their incomes on toys; in the West, the figure is 3.5 per cent. And the new toys are priced between Rs 250 and Rs 6,000. On the other, there's competition coming from both global brands such as Lego, and cheap Chinese manufacturers. Rues Raj Kumar Dhingra, 64, President, The Toy Association of India: ''People give little thought to quality even when they are spending on expensive toys.''
The silver lining? The Rs 250-crore market is growing at 15 per cent a year. This toy story could have a happy ending.
Stereotypes of the Indian male and female are crumbling. Rising from the rubble instead is a couple that believes in being itself, and is less hamstrung by social mores. That's what two separate studies by advertising agencies HTA and McCann-Erickson reveal.
The Indian woman-traditionally bound by her multiple roles as the dutiful daughter, obedient daughter-in-law, loving wife, and a sacrificing mother-is evolving into a person who still wants to be all this, yet assert her individuality. ''For the first time, the woman has begun acknowledging her own ambition, needs, and dreams,'' points out Santosh Desai, 37, Executive Vice-President, McCann-Erickson.
If Lalitaji of the Surf commercial was the archetype of the 80s woman, then it is the Whisper girl refusing to compromise on personal hygiene who typifies the millennium woman.
The profound change in the Indian woman has put pressure on the male, who himself has become more daring and, at the same time, more of a family man. The Park Avenue commercial about ''starting something new'' and the McDonald's and Maruti Esteem fathers, who are more of a friend to their sons, are meant to appeal to this new Indian male. Points out Bindu Sethi, 40, National Planning Director, HTA: ''While there is a great value ascribed to evolving a new way of life, the traditional roots of the Indian male are still very important and, indeed, act as an anchor for his sense of self-identity.'' We are like this only.
Here's another myth about the Indian market that just got blown away: rural India will soon become the marketer's El Dorado. According to a National Council for Applied Economic Research (NCAER) survey, the number of high income households (with annual income of above Rs 1,40,000) in urban India will soar from 2.7 million to 18.1 million by 2006-07. In contrast, rural India will up its numbers from 1.9 million to 9.6 million.
Also, the urban market for big-ticket durables such as colour TVs and washing machines will be more than double that of rural India (See What they own). In some categories such as bicycles, transistors, and black & white TVs, though, small town India will continue to outstrip urban centres. Says the study: ''It is clear that the structure of rural market is also converging slowly towards the structure exhibited in urban areas, and perhaps would take more time beyond 2006-7 before it acquires a similar shape.''
Yet, the problem with rural markets is not its poor consumption. Rather, it is figuring out how to break into households that have unique needs. And considering that rural households account for 71.7 per cent of all households in the country, they are not a segment that can be ignored. According to the study, which covered 3 lakh households spread over 515 towns and 100 villages, low rural penetration can be attributed to three major factors: low income levels, inadequate infrastructure facilities (electricity and roads), and different lifestyles.
In fact, the study singles out the lack of electricity as the most important factor behind the rural-urban penetration differential. Points out R.K. Shukla, 35, Senior Statistician, NCAER: ''We find that where there are no infrastructural problems, there is more product penetration.'' Now you know why your TV inventory isn't moving in Tekniwas (it's in Bihar).
Eight years after liquor and tobacco companies first got to advertise on television in India, they are set to go off air again.
According to a Ministry of Information and Broadcasting notification issued early this month, cable operators are barred from carrying any advertisement that directly or indirectly promotes liquor and tobacco. That means even something as innocuous as Wills Sport-ITC's apparel brand-will not be allowed to air.
At the moment, the industry is anything but clear about the notification's implications. For one, it does not set any effective date, except saying that the new amendment will "come into force on the date of (its) publication in the Official Gazette".
For another, the notification specifically mentions cable operators and not satellite channels. Therefore, the channels are not clear how the ban is technically feasible. Says Mahesh Madhavan, 39, General Manager, Bacardi-Martini India: "We don't know who the target is: the cable operators or the satellite channels."
As a result, even as this story went to print, some satellite channels were airing liquor ads. Notes Kiran Karnik, 53, Managing Director, Discovery Communications India: ''This is a bolt from the blue, particularly since the industry had stuck to the code of conduct it had informally drafted for itself.''
In terms of revenue, Star TV will be the worst hit. Says Raj Nayak, 37, Executive Vice-President (Sales & Marketing), Star TV: ''Tobacco advertising was minimal, and the contribution of liquor and beer ads constitutes only 7 per cent of the total revenue. It is a loss, but we can live with it,'' he says.
Star's rivals Zee and Sony claim that they will not be hit because liquor and tobacco ads in their case account for just 1 per cent of their advertising revenue. Given Zee's revenue of Rs 533 crore, the loss should be less than Rs 6 crore. Sony would not reveal its figures.
Is the government being paranoid? The industry thinks so. Says Pramod Krishna, 51, Secretary General of Indian Alcoholic and Beverages Companies: ''There are independent studies that prove liquor advertising does not impact market size. It only gives consumers more options.''
The ban is particularly damaging because it comes just a few months ahead of the removal of quantitative restrictions. All the top liquor companies have announced plans to widen their portfolio. For example, Bacardi will add three more brands comprising, and competitor UDV, two. A sobering start to a heady future?
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