Retail guru Paco Underhill on selling to the modern Indian woman

The modern Indian woman is wife , mother and bread-earner. She is multitasking to save time and money
— Paco Underhill

A behavioural researcher and consultant, and author of Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping and What Women Want, Paco Underhill is the founder of Envirosell, a New York-based retail and marketing consultancy. t2 caught up with the global retail guru over email about India’s retail evolution and the purchasing power of the Indian woman, on the eve of his masterclass at the 16th CII Brand Conclave in association with The Telegraph.

How has the retail landscape changed in India?

India makes the world’s best steel and plastic and educates some of the world’s most accomplished software engineers. But India struggles with its basic retail infrastructure. In the 15 years I have been visiting India, it has gotten better, but still the Indian consumer deserves better. Better prices, better selection, less wastage of food, all delivered in a cleaner, safer and better-lit setting. Why is it easier to get something from Mumbai to London than Mumbai to Delhi?

Women the world over have more purchasing power than they did a decade ago. What are the key changes you see in consumerism in India with respect to this?

We only have to look at the news reports to see that the Indian woman is still struggling for basic rights. We know globally that it takes two incomes to support a middle-class lifestyle. Thus the modern Indian woman is wife, mother and bread-earner. She is multitasking to save time and money. She is caring for her children and often her parents. She either controls or influences how much of the family income is spent.

What do you feel is unique about the Indian market?

Indians seem to like a certain level of chaos. I love visiting the old markets with their sensual overload. I could never shop there every day as it would drive me crazy, but once in a while, it is part time-machine, part movie set.

If you had to sell a car and an apartment to the modern Indian woman, how would you do that?

Cars for women need to be sold not necessarily on image or prestige, but on safety, ease of driving and reliability. Modern women tend to do their car-purchasing homework online. I recommend that a car dealership employs women sales staff so they can sell to other women.

Housing for women are sold on a combination of image or romance and practical details. Is it easy to clean? Is there natural light? How close is it to the job or the children’s school? Does it lend itself to family gatherings and extended family living? What is the price of upkeep and how modern are the kitchen and appliances?

Text: Anannya Sarkar

What: 16th CII Brand Conclave in association with The Telegraph

Where: The Oberoi Grand

When: November 17, 9am to 5.30pm

Expect: Global retail guru Paco Underhill to hold a masterclass on topics relevant to the Indian retail structure in the global context.

Organiser speak: “Paco Underhill has redefined the global retail industry, and at the Brand Conclave, he will undoubtedly bring a fresh perspective on buying behaviour,” said Siddharth Wanchoo, chairman, CII marketing & retail sub-committee; executive vice-president (marketing), ITC.

“Brand Conclave is a unique confluence of practitioners and academicians and we are privileged to bring this to Calcutta,” said Peeyush Gupta, co-chairman, CII marketing & retail sub-committee; vice-president-steel (marketing & sales), Tata Steel.

Entry: Register at www.brandconclave.com


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