Friday’s annual India Business Forum hosted by London Business School was called India: Beacon of Growth and this year explored learnings from established companies like Symphony Ltd. selling water cooling devices, disruptive brands such as ZoomCar which is changing the way that Indians are driving in major cities and tech-based innovators like Dr. Velumani who founded Thyrocare Technologies.
A young country, with 65% of the population under 35 means that the Indian consumer is changing. The discerning and demanding millennials are just like in any other part of the world. They’re looking for brands that they can resonate with and that resonate with them, that provide services that fit in with their lives and that provide a statement about the lifestyle choices that they make. A delight for marketing and PR professionals no doubt.
What is new is the emergence of mainstream, high-end brands that are putting ethics, sustainable sourcing and consumer wellbeing at the heart of their brand storytelling and apparently, their practices. The CEOs of both Forest Essentials and RAW Pressery presented their businesses; the former, a luxury ayurveda skincare products range, the latter India’s first cold-pressed juice company. Both spoke of the dawn of the new consumer, one who wants to know the provenance of the products that they buy and the goods that they consume and who aren’t shy about paying for a quality product.
With Raw Pressery, the Indian consumer is ready to believe that “healthy is the new sexy”. When it comes to juice consumption, Indians are the biggest consumers in the world. That’s in the unorganised sector, the street vendors and the like, the organised sector however, is full of carbonated and sugar-based products. Seeing a gap in the market, Raw Pressery is providing juices, smoothies, soups, nut milks and waters fully sourced in India, for the health conscious and those that don’t want to buy from the sometimes hygienically dubious, street stalls. Forest Essentials is grounded in the five thousand years of Indian ayurvedic teaching and history. It proposes catering for a way of life for those that again, are concerned with the provenance of the products that they use and are happy to pay for it. Both brands are appealing to the young, the hip and the affluent.
Though both Anuj Raykan and Samrat Bedi talked about working with farmers, placing quality sourcing and securing their supply chains as crucial to their operations and their consumers, neither business’ website talks transparently about what they’re sourcing, from where, under what conditions or for what price. Raw Pressery starts it process with the fruit reaching the manufacturing plant not from the farm, and Forest Essentials has a nod to CSR and talks ambiguously about sustainable agriculture, empowering women and job creation. I don’t doubt that these products are great however, to be a purpose driven brand, the credibility comes from what lies beneath the glamorous branding, celebrity endorsements and awards. Brands that do well with purpose driven messaging are those that demonstrate what they do, the change and impact that they create and value of the business in the broadest terms across the value chain, from grower to the consumer and beyond. The evidence supports this - people want to buy from, work for, invest in and partner with businesses they believe in. To quote Simon Sinek (and Anuj Raykan on Friday), it starts with the why.
The agriculture sector in India is not without its challenges; funding for development has been slow, the country is one of the worst in the world to be effected by climate change and there are operational disparities across states. Farmer suicide rates are also at a depressing level. For brands to commit to sourcing locally, providing consumers with natural and healthy products whilst working with farmers to sustain livelihoods and ensure socio-economic benefits for rural communities is a clear differentiation in the marketplace. And in India, a much needed one. Letting your consumers know what lies beneath the catchy slogans should be an integrated part of any brand and corporate communications strategy, otherwise like many who have had their campaigns unpicked, the stigma of green washing is often hard to clear.