What does the Indian consumer search for? What are the legitimate needs of the Indian consumer?
Is it titillation at an affordable price? Is he looking for crutches to cross over from the dark ages of everything being available in some other country but not here? Is he just nervous that unless he buys he might be left behind with crawling back into his shell as the only viable alternative? Is he looking to be gifted the courage to go beyond the obvious choices?
When I posed these questions to Specky, my wife, she simply said, ‘All of these because all of them matter. But he is happy so long as the tag of ‘latest technology’ is attached to the product.’
‘Aha!’ I replied, ‘and where does he think he will get all this converging seamlessly?’
‘Online’, she said, ‘and the offline stores are still to wake up to making shopping a fiscally-viable happening experience to the trend-seeking Indian shopper.’
Well, Specky also called her online shopping experience stupendo-fantabulously-fantastical, a hybrid phrase that she had borrowed from the Dance India Dance choreographer’s Twitter profile. I mean I always see a part of her peering into the laptop screen and the other part assigning me various tasks to be done at home, and I know you won’t find this odd as this is quite normal for all good husbands! So we always have the courier guys making a beeline for our house as everything is done online.
A couple of days after this discussion, my brother-in-law drove down from Chandigarh to meet us… well, the truth was that he wanted to finally shift from the button-wala dark-age phone to get on the smartphone caravan.
‘So you’ve driven from Chandigarh to buy a smartphone?’ asked Specky.
He smiled sheepishly and said, ‘That’s the truth. I am not sure what to buy and from where.’
I handed Specky her laptop because I knew that is what she would anyway have asked for… and she immediately logged on to her Flipkart account and said, ‘What’s the problem? You just have to log, browse, understand, compare, choose, pay, and wait for the delivery. Shopping is as simple as that.’
‘Yes, but I don’t know what to buy.’
‘What is it that you need a smartphone for?’ asked Specky.
‘To call,’ said my brother-in-law, ‘and to whatsapp.’
Before this became a workshop on what all one can do on a smartphone, I added, ‘To take good pictures and to write all that you need to do. To draw, paint, and sketch. To check emails and reply. To have conversations on google hangout. To use google maps to find the way. To record interviews. To use the inbuilt calculator. To see videos and to listen to music. To read books and to play games. Right?’
I knew he was still trying to assimilate the list of things I had mentioned but he saw from the corner of his eyes the way his sister was glaring at him, and so he nodded his head vigorously and said, ‘Yes. All this. Yes. Also Facebook.’
‘There you go,’ I said happily, ‘the entire social media is waiting for you to update.’
Specky let out a rather long sigh and said slowly, ‘So you will need a smartphone that has a good camera and has all possible connectivity options.’
‘The SIM card in my phone has 3G activated,’ he said.
I looked at his phone and knew it was my turn to let out a long cold sigh… but I said, ‘The phone needs to be 3G or 4G compatible. The service provider needs to have the option. The geographical region needs to have the service activated.’
‘Yes,’ he said.
A simple word like ‘yes’ puts an end to any discussion that shows signs of graduating into a harangue and this is what really moves things forward and not bring everything to a standstill.
The strobe-lights of technology are lighting up every heart today and we are all searching for the right phone for us. So I asked him, ‘Why didn’t you just go to any store in Chandigarh and buy one smartphone?’
‘I didn’t want to,’ he said, ‘they are always trying to sell me what they want to sell and it makes me terribly suspicious of their intent. They are all like insurance agents who come, sell some redundant policy, and then disappear. I know I will want to buy online.’
He paused for a while, peered into Specky’s laptop, and said, ‘Probably Flipkart.’
‘They’re fine,’ said Specky, ‘you can compare brands and search for discounts too. There is an offers zone on the portal which helps.’
‘I know,’ said my brother-in-law, ‘but I wanted to finalise my purchase in your presence.’
‘And once you have bought your smartphone,’ said Specky, ‘you can even have the Flipkart mobile app installed. Buy on the move.’
We smiled at this. By the way, we also informed him of the possibility of finding the right gadget or device on Flipkart as rather high… from a feature-filled Moto G3 to a handsome Lenovo P1M to the show-stopper Asus Zenfone Laser to the practical Moto X Play and to the newest addition from snooty and otherwise expensive Samsung, their cheaper On5|On7 phones. Yes, everything is there on Flipkart… and my brother-in-law finally smiled.
Well, we smiled for entirely different reasons. He smiled because he was excited. Specky smiled because flipkarting always made her smile. I smiled because Flipkart did not only take care of the legitimate needs of the Indian consumer but was also a stupendo-fantabulously-fantastical experience not worth missing.
21 December 2015