In a recent product design engineers’ forum, product champions presented their product design challenges that were faced during the process of entering emerging markets like India.
One key result from the conference rang out true and clear, “When a good idea is refined with a process that incorporates first-hand knowledge of the customers’ needs, the resulting product is a definite winner.”
You would agree that introducing a product for an emerging market can never be a simple task of merely “updating” an existing product and making it to a more cost-effective version.
It actually demands a considerable amount of “disruptive innovation” and needs in-depth insights to get a good understanding of the local customer’s needs. The innovation should focus on discovering customer needs that haven’t been met previously by existing products, i.e. “opportunity gaps”.
The introduction of the “Tata Nano” designed to address the Indian middle class segment that relies heavily on two-wheelers, is a good example of how to convert the unmet needs of customers in the market into a breakthrough product.
The idea and the specifications of this car were based on how a family normally rides on a two-wheeler. The father driving the two-wheeler with his children at the front and his wife sitting behind with the baby engendered the idea of introducing the compact and most cost-effective car that can seat a maximum of five people.
Having emphasized the importance of understanding your customer market, we have seen many organizations jumping over or skipping key activities such as market and technical benchmark studies to understand the existing market and the unmet needs.
The pressure of meeting the delivery schedule and fear of overshooting development costs were the two main factors that pushed many organizations to adopt a product defeature approach rather than taking a frugal innovation approach.
Taking a frugal innovation approach demands an in-depth study of the target market to unearth many customer-centric data such as:
- Who are the customers and to which industry they belong to?
- What are their needs and problems with the current products?
- What competitive products address these needs?
- How will the new product improve upon the existing ones and attract the customer?
- Which product features, specification and appearance will address those unmet needs?
This research needs extensive investment in terms of infrastructure and is not without the risk of failure. This daunting ‘to-do’ list has therefore made many foreign countries to either postpone their decision to enter the Indian market or to drop the idea forever and stay with their existing market.
However, companies that do want to enter the Indian market may not necessarily feel overwhelmed with all this, provided they understand certain critical parameters. These consist of understanding the competitors’ product(s), price mix, product variants, product reach, brand appeal, color and aesthetics, certification and industrial standards, safety guidelines, vendor base and manufacturing capability.
Obviously if the company has to conduct this research by themselves, the effort involved will be huge. And even after this, it will be highly time consuming and painful for the person to understand the Indian market which has varied culture, language, system, government norms and lifestyle which may ultimately result in delaying the project.
To ensure that the product designed for the Indian market doesn’t violate the patent of other existing competitors, it is highly essential to conduct a technical bench mark study to avoid any legal issue that the future might bring. This may call for a detailed study of the competitor’s product from the type of material used to any unique technology invented and patented by the competitor.
For conducting such detailed field studies, one has to invest in the infrastructure and procedures ranging from buying the competitors’ product, allocating storage space for this inventory and facilities for examining and to carry out reverse engineering on the product.
The company may not come forth for such upfront investments considering the risk of failure and hence may prefer to engage in a suitable partnership with an Indian company that would take upon itself to provide a detailed benchmarking report.
Additional factors like registering a local office in order to reach the right people for conducting this market research also need to be taken into account. You being one of the key decision makers in your organization, taking note of these critical areas can help you making the right decisions for your market entry program.
In our last article on Engineering Design for the Indian Market, we talked about the six key considerations that should be taken into while designing your product for entering an emerging market like India. We sincerely hope that understanding the execution issues involved that has been discussed in this article will have given you deeper insights.
The writer is handling the business operations for the European Market and provides engineering and design consultancy for the countries strategizing to enter emerging markets like India. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or the below contact number for any queries.
About the author: Vivek Maladkar is handling the business operations for the European Market and provides engineering and design consultancy for the countries strategizing to enter emerging markets like India. The author has wide experience in the Oil & Gas and, industrial machinery domains and engineering technology verticals.