UNDERSTANDING The Indian Consumer Market with Shantanu Deshpande

In this latest episode of Figuring Out Podcast we are in conversation with Shantanu Deshpande, Founder and CEO of Bombay Shaving Company

UNDERSTANDING The Indian Consumer Market with Shantanu Deshpande

The key idea of the video is that entrepreneurs in the Indian consumer market should focus on building relationships, creating unique products, and understanding consumer insecurities to build successful and profitable businesses.

00:00 Indian consumers prioritize work-life balance, value social capital, and are addicted to success, leading to positive changes in cities; they prefer personalized airline experiences for luxury and comfort.

  • 22-23 year olds prioritize work-life balance, wealth is not just about money but also about how people treat you when they know you have it, India doesn't want American investments because they come with conditions, men in India are marrying women who are considered out of their league and are taking better care of themselves, women compliment each other on their appearance while men don't.
  • The speaker discusses various topics related to consumer businesses and markets in India, including strategies used by large brands like Coca-Cola, and promotes his new book that covers topics such as building social capital, making money, and building a personal brand.
  • Smaller cities in India are experiencing the benefits of larger cities, such as malls, good schools, and hospitals, and it is fascinating that there are dustbins every kilometer and public washrooms at major squares, with the example of Indore's marathon participants cleaning up the trash, making the city look debilitated after the event.
  • The speaker discusses how the Indian consumer market has changed, with people becoming addicted to success and striving for cleanliness and status, leading to positive changes in cities like Tharohar and Chappa.
  • Flying business class or charter flights is preferred by Indian consumers because of the comfort, shorter wait times, and better service compared to commercial airlines.
  • The speaker discusses the preference of Indian consumers for personalized airline experiences, with individuals justifying their desire for luxury and comfort by gradually upgrading their travel preferences.

12:57 Founders should focus on their unique superpower, connect with people outside the company, over-communicate with their team, and spread positive energy to achieve success in their respective fields.

  • The speaker is an advisor to a firm and spends a few days each month with clients, and in the video, he mentions following Ashish from Mackenzie and being impressed by the Oyo guy.
  • Every founder has a unique superpower that they should focus on and hone in order to achieve success in their respective fields.
  • Founders like the speaker bring value to their company by connecting with people outside the company, such as investors and experts, to bring insights and expertise to their team, while also acknowledging the need for the team to have breathing space away from the founder.
  • Founders should over communicate with their team through various means, such as writing regular musings or holding Town Halls, in order to ensure that the team feels the same energy and is aligned with the company's goals.
  • Over-communicate and have vulnerable one-on-one chats with important people in the company to establish a consistent message and spread your aura, which is more powerful than your physical presence.
  • The speaker emphasizes the importance of positive communication and being mindful of one's actions as a founder, as small signals and stress can have a significant impact on the team, and over-communicating is crucial to avoid assumptions and misunderstandings.

26:20 Entrepreneurs should balance optimism with skepticism, celebrate small achievements, and be logical and practical to avoid overlooking important details and hinder their ability to evolve and adapt quickly in the ever-changing business landscape.

  • Launching products at wacky prices and assuming a fundraise would go through without realizing the complexity of decision-making put the company at serious risk early on.
  • Entrepreneurs should balance their optimism with skepticism in order to avoid overlooking important details and to prevent making personal mistakes.
  • Celebrate small achievements and remember the journey, as history defines the future and great outcomes are a result of continuous contributions.
  • Successful business founders need to be logical, practical, and realist rather than irrational optimists, as optimism can lead to self-harm and hinder the ability to evolve and adapt quickly in the ever-changing business landscape.
  • The speaker became an entrepreneur by choice, influenced by successful entrepreneurs and having a privileged upbringing with parents who had different but incredible influences on him.
  • The speaker discusses the journey of airtight networks, a company that started in a garage and grew to develop wireless security devices used in sensitive locations like the Pentagon.

39:05 India's consumer market is driven by ambition for money, power, and fame, with entrepreneurship, politics, and content creation as avenues for success, emphasizing the importance of leverage, humble beginnings, and providing for family.

  • India's consumer market is driven by a shift in ambition from stability to money, power, and fame, with entrepreneurship, politics, and content creation being the main avenues for achieving these goals.
  • Every successful founder is privileged, but not every privileged person is successful; wealth is not about the money itself, but about the opportunities it brings and the impact it has on others.
  • Building leverage and reminding people of your humble beginnings are key to success in the Indian consumer market.
  • The speaker discusses the concept of baselining and how people's perception of their past experiences can impact their future trajectory.
  • The speaker shares personal experiences of financial struggles and the desire to provide for his parents without worrying about expenses, emphasizing the importance of giving his mother the freedom to spend.
  • Sponsoring children's activities not only ensures they are taken care of, but also brings joy to parents who appreciate their child's ability to afford such experiences.

51:20 Indian consumers prioritize upgrading their lives through consumption rather than saving, creating opportunities for upstart companies with differentiated propositions, such as in the hair removal market, while small startups have an advantage in being consumer-centered.

  • The majority of Indians come from resource-poor backgrounds and are unable to enjoy the luxuries that their successful children can afford, leading to a mindset of frugality and a desire to protect their wealth.
  • Indian consumers have a different mindset towards spending and saving compared to previous generations, with the current generation prioritizing upgrading their lives and finding joy through consumption rather than saving, which is seen as necessary for India's growth and development.
  • Big companies like Gillette can be broken by upstarts with a differentiated proposition, as shown by Dollar Shave Club, due to factors such as slow innovation and men becoming more conscious of their appearance.
  • Hair removal is a large market in India, with a significant percentage of Indian men having hair on their backs and chests, and there is a lack of products and awareness for removing unwanted hair in these areas.
  • The speaker discusses the idea of creating a women's shaving product that does not require water and covers large surface areas, highlighting the importance of understanding the differences between men's and women's shaving techniques.
  • Large businesses focus on their mode and distribution, while small startups are consumer-centered, leading to higher volatility and talent arbitrage in small companies.

01:07:31 Large brands like Colgate and Maggie focus on brand image, Unilever marketed tea as healthy; Huel is successful in FMCG; consumer trust and being consumer-centric are important; brands tap into emotions and culture; investing in large markets and founders with resilience, curiosity, astuteness, and strong values is crucial; trust and good friendships are important in judging someone's potential for success in business.

  • Large brands like Colgate and Maggie focus on creating a strong brand image and recall value, while Unilever successfully introduced tea to the Indian market by marketing it as a healthy drink.
  • Huel is the most successful FMCG company in India, with brands like Surf and Excel creating the detergent powder market.
  • Every morning, billions of people trust and use products made by institutions like Colgate, highlighting the importance of consumer trust, and for aspiring entrepreneurs, the key attributes of a good idea are being consumer-centric and having desirable features.
  • Brands have evolved from focusing on features and benefits to tapping into emotions and culture, as exemplified by Red Bull's success in owning the adventure and sports culture.
  • Investing in large markets and founders with resilience, intellectual curiosity, commercial astuteness, and strong value systems is crucial for success in the Indian consumer market.
  • The speaker emphasizes the importance of trust and maintaining good friendships when judging someone's value and potential for success in business.

01:22:42 Entrepreneurs in the Indian consumer market should focus on building relationships, creating unique products, and understanding consumer insecurities to build successful and profitable businesses.

  • The speaker discusses a conversation with their dad about the importance of building relationships and the speaker's confidence in their future.
  • Consumer shift and infrastructure are two important factors in the Indian consumer market, with examples including men's grooming and creating platforms for more online sellers.
  • The speaker emphasizes the importance of having a unique selling proposition (USP) and creating products that can be shown off to others, while also mentioning that even unexciting businesses can have attractive financials, using the example of targeting the insecurities of middle-aged men in India.
  • Consumer brands in India are driven by factors such as insecurity, sexual wellness, and unique product features, with Mysore sandal being a successful brand that has maximized market share through its fragrance and form factor.
  • Parachute coconut oil, initially a cooking oil, became a successful personal care product in India due to consumers using it for their hair, despite the fact that it was not marketed as such in advertisements.
  • Entrepreneurs building consumer brands need to have patience and a clear understanding of their core margin profile in order to build a successful and profitable business.

01:40:26 Founders should have a clear monetization plan and start liquidating a small percentage of their holdings after year three for financial stability; success requires dedication and continuous effort; building a brand in the Indian consumer market takes around 10 years; education and lending are big opportunities; focus on consumer/viewer pulse, mentoring, and content quality; be a good listener, take care of health, and there is potential for successful consumer brands in India.

  • Founders can create value and eventually make money through the sale of their equity or IPO, but they should also have a clear monetization plan and start liquidating a small percentage of their holdings after year three to ensure financial stability and success.
  • Successful individuals in various fields, such as sports, music, and entrepreneurship, are obsessed with their work and dedicate countless hours to achieving excellence, which is addictive and requires continuous effort and inspiration.
  • The speaker discusses the backlash he received for his comments on working long hours, explaining that the context was misunderstood and that he was referring to founders and ambitious individuals, not forcing employees to work excessive hours.
  • The key attributes for building a brand in the Indian consumer market are habit creation, making the product feel good to use, and effective distribution, which can take around 10 years to establish a thousand crore brand.
  • Education and lending are the two biggest opportunities in the Indian consumer market, with a focus on transitioning from unorganized to organized sectors, and in order to improve a podcast, the key areas to focus on are the pulse of the consumer/viewer, mentoring and coaching entrepreneurship, and increasing the quality and quantity of content.
  • The speaker discusses the importance of being a good listener, the qualities of a CEO, and the need to take care of one's health, while emphasizing the potential for building successful consumer brands in India.

Key Insights

Branding and Marketing Strategies

🔥 Your aura, created through consistent communication and vulnerability, can be 100x more powerful than your physical presence, allowing you to have a significant influence even when you’re not physically present in the office.

💡 “The moment the world starts revolving for you, not around you, you then get tremendous degrees of freedom to do many cool things.”

🤔 Every consumer-centric brand goes through a journey of understanding their target audience’s unique needs and preferences, which contributes to their success.

🤯 The recall value is one of the largest modes for Coca-Cola, as seen with the creation of Santa Claus as a co-creation with the brand, becoming a part of Christmas and bringing happiness.

💰 Red Bull’s success as a 15 billion dollar business is attributed to owning adventure, sport, and an emotional culture, rather than focusing solely on features and benefits.

💡 The success of a brand like Mysore Sandal, which has managed to maximize repeats and maintain a 5% market share, is attributed to its unique fragrance and form factor that consumers love.

💡 The insight that stood out is the story of how Parachute coconut oil, originally a cooking oil, became a personal care product in India without explicitly marketing it as such.

Business Growth and Success

💪 Addiction to success and striving for good things can be a powerful motivation, as long as it is pursued ethically and without harming others.

😅 “Entrepreneurs are bloody optimistic by Nature…that optimism is amazing 8 out of 10 situations. There’s a shitty thing in this kind of situation. You should never be optimistic about a Huntress yeah never thanks it’s really motivating you think about it.”

📈 “Great outcomes are always drop by drop and then all at once.”

🇮🇳 Consumption is crucial for India’s growth, and it may be what is needed to propel the country forward in the future, rather than relying solely on foreign investments with their associated conditions.

🏗️ Building infrastructure in a specific industry or category can lead to exponential growth and the creation of more opportunities within that sector.

🏆 “Excellence is addictive… 99 to 100 is where true human pursuit comes in.”

Consumer Behavior and Preferences

🎯 “We’ve also talked about what do large businesses like Coca-Cola and Colgate does in Logan is that every year people are not able to beat them.”

💼 The speaker shares that traveling business class allows them to skip long lines and feel more efficient, making the overall travel experience more enjoyable.

💡 The largest Delta Creator in the Indian consumer market is the removal of unwanted hair from the body, including areas like the back and chest, which is a common concern for many Indian men.

💡 “Three and a half billion people wake up every morning and the first thing they do is use what we make here, their first act is to trust blindly what we make here.” - Shantanu Deshpande


Q1: What are the core business strategies to understand the Indian consumer market and build successful consumer brands in India?

A1: To understand the Indian consumer market and build successful consumer brands in India, it is crucial to employ core business strategies. These strategies can be learned from large brands like Coca-Cola and Colgate. Key strategies include:

  1. Market Research: Conduct thorough market research to gain insights into consumer behavior, preferences, and trends specific to the Indian market. This will help identify opportunities and target the right audience.
  2. Localization: Customize your brand and products to cater to the cultural, social, and linguistic nuances of the Indian consumer market. Adaptation is crucial for connecting with consumers on a deeper level.
  3. Competitive Pricing: Set competitive prices that resonate with Indian consumers. Consider factors like affordability, value for money, and competition while determining the pricing strategy. Launching products at wacky prices should be avoided, as it may not be well-received by the market.
  4. Consumer-centric Approach: Prioritize customer-centricity by understanding the needs, desires, and pain points of Indian consumers. Tailor your branding, messaging, and product offerings accordingly. Successful small startups often find their own space by being consumer-centric.
  5. Differentiation: Stand out from competitors by emphasizing unique selling propositions (USPs) and creating a strong brand identity. Incorporate differentiation strategies that highlight how your brand addresses consumer needs better than others. This could involve addressing insecurities or building innovative products.
  6. Marketing and Advertising: Craft compelling marketing campaigns that evoke emotions and connect with Indian consumers. Utilize various communication channels, both traditional and digital, to reach your target audience effectively.

Remember, these strategies serve as a starting point, and it’s essential to adapt and refine them as you gather more insights and experience in the Indian market.

Q2: What are some common mistakes founders make, and how can they be avoided?

A2: Founders often make mistakes throughout their entrepreneurial journey. Here are two common mistakes mentioned in the video and some suggestions on how to avoid them:

  1. Not being price-conscious: Launching products at wacky prices can be detrimental to the success of a brand. It is essential to conduct market research, analyze competitors’ pricing strategies, and understand the perceived value of your product or service. Avoid setting prices that are too high or too low without a valid rationale. Instead, strive to find the optimal pricing point that aligns with the target audience’s expectations and the value provided by your offering.
  2. Assuming a fundraise will go through without understanding the decision-making process: Obtaining funding for a startup is a critical aspect of its growth. However, assuming that a fundraise will automatically be successful can lead to costly errors. Founders should take the time to thoroughly understand the decision-making process of potential investors, including their criteria, expectations, and due diligence procedures. Building relationships with investors, demonstrating a solid business plan, and showcasing traction or proof of concept can increase the chances of successful fundraising.

By being mindful of these common mistakes and actively working to avoid them, founders can increase their chances of building successful and sustainable businesses.

Q3: What factors should be considered when investing in inexperienced founders?

A3: When investing in inexperienced founders, several factors deserve attention. Here are key considerations mentioned in the video:

  1. Large markets: Investing in startups operating in large markets provides more room for growth and a higher potential for success. Large markets offer a broader customer base and more opportunities for scaling a business.
  2. Resilient founders: Look for founders who demonstrate resilience and the ability to handle setbacks and failures. Resilient founders are better equipped to navigate challenges and adapt their strategies when necessary. They possess the determination and tenacity needed to overcome hurdles.
  3. Curiosity: Founders with a sense of curiosity tend to be better at identifying market opportunities and adapting to changes. Curiosity helps drive innovation, continuous learning, and the exploration of new ideas and solutions. Such founders are more likely to remain intellectually acute and remain ahead of the competition.
  4. Sensible value systems: Consider the values and ethics of the founder. Investing in individuals with sensible value systems ensures that they will make responsible and ethical decisions. This includes considerations of sustainability, social impact, and overall business ethics.

Additionally, when considering an investment, pay attention to consumer shifts and whether there is supporting infrastructure being built in areas the founder is skilled at. Assessing these factors helps mitigate risks and increases the likelihood of a successful investment.

Overall, investing in inexperienced founders requires a comprehensive evaluation of market dynamics, founder traits, and the potential for growth and adaptability in order to make informed investment decisions.

Q4: What are the keys to brand building, according to the video?

A4: The video highlights three keys to brand building, namely habit creation, emotion, and differentiation. Let’s explore each key in detail:

  1. Colgate toothpaste is an example of a brand that has successfully created a habit among consumers.Habit Creation: Building a successful brand involves creating habits among consumers. By delivering consistent and quality products/services, you can establish a habit loop wherein customers repeatedly engage with your brand. Brands should focus on providing products or services that fulfill a specific need or desire, making it easy for customers to incorporate them into their daily routines.
  2. Emotion: Eliciting emotions from consumers is crucial for building a strong brand. Brands that evoke positive emotions or resonate with consumers on a deeper emotional level are more likely to create a lasting connection. This can be achieved through storytelling, creating relatable narratives, and showcasing the brand’s values and mission. By fostering an emotional bond, brands can cultivate loyalty and advocacy among their customer base.
  3. Differentiation: To stand out from competitors, brands need to differentiate themselves in the market. This involves offering unique value propositions and distinguishing factors that set them apart. Being distinctive can be achieved through various means, such as innovative product features, superior customer service, or a distinct brand personality. By focusing on what makes the brand unique and communicating it effectively, brands can carve out their own space in the market.

These three keys to brand building work together to create a strong and successful brand. By creating habits, evoking emotions, and being differentiated, brands can build a loyal customer base, increase brand awareness, and achieve long-term success in the highly competitive consumer market.

Note - This content is generated by AI, we believe it is accurate, but we don’t claim any liability of inaccuracies in the AI generated content.

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