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Quali or quant?

So I’m still grappling with why these guys here at my current company don’t believe in qualitative consumer research – not one bit. And each time I bring it up as something that’s worked for me in the past, they think it’s more a function of India than of my previous company where ‘know your consumer’ was the mantra.

It’s true, the Indian consumer is different in so many ways from the US consumer. But my belief is in fact that we need to do things the other way around – in India qualis are far, far more unreliable than quant. That’s because the Indian market is so much more heterogeneous. Here’s why:
(A) India’s population has an income gap that is much, much larger – not in terms of the numerical range, but in terms of weighted range i.e., the lower income groups of India are large in number and have such low incomes that they can barely afford anything.
(B) Attitudes to spending are dramatically different. My dad proudly says ‘I’ve never borrowed a cent from anyone all my life’. I think he’s therefore missed out on so many positive NPV projects. Open capital markets, which came about in the ’90’s, have only recently started changign middle-India’s attitudes toward cash flow.
(C) So many regional brands!

A black, single mother in Atlanta is likely to eat the same brand of cereal as a wealthy old WASP man in Boston, use the same brand of paper towels and even have the same brand of cell phone. Their lives differ not in form or content but in scale – e.g. they buy clothes in a similar way, just the clothes cost $2000 – $20,000 for the latter vs. $20-$200 for the former per month.

A Dalit Tamil maid-servant in Madurai is very, very unlikely to any large brand intersections as a wealthy Gujarati business-owner in Mumbai. Their lives are dramatically different in structure, form, content and scale. The Dalit Tamil maid servant probably gets hand-me-downs, and buys her clothes once a year on Sankranti. The Gujarati businessowner is likely to buy a few clothes each quarter and a wardrobe for a wedding in the family.

And so on.

How is this related to feminism? Feminism in India cannot, should not take the same course as in the United States, where flagship blogs like Feministing and Pandagon are representative of ‘feminists’ who now fight other fights with a lot more passion, apparently since the need for feminism is long gone. In their ignorant but strongly held belief about the overwhelming importance of intersections of other -isms – racism, poverty, etc. – they’ve conviniently ignored their own age-sim. In their vocal desire to sit out an Oppression Olympics, they’ve awarded the medal to the chavunists automatically. By not standing up stridently for women’s rights and parceling out feminism into different categories -black feminism, well-dressed feminism, immigrant feminism, evangelical feminism – they’ve subsumed any hopes for feminism to win the battle to set out to win. They supported Barack Obama so much because he ‘transcended race’ – which is fine, if you’re running the Black Monitor – not if you’re running Feministing.

These women and men, in their quest to be seen as equal to all, have forgotten they have a movement to run, a revolution to foster in order to bring that equality. Like the Indian family of the 80’s, they’re so internally focused that they’re been busy decorating and cleaning their own house all day – the filth on the streets be damned.

In India, where there are ten groups that can be carved out for every one in the US – geography, caste, language are such huge descriptors, for a start, as big as any racial differences – Indian feminists canNOT afford to miss the forest for the trees.

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