Thursday, December 11, 2008

Marketing in Recession

In my earlier post , I had pointed out some strategies for marketers to counter the recession. I think that Indian firms have realized that there is going to be a significant slowdown in the coming quarter.

Auto companies have taken a proactive step by reducing the prices. Most of the auto giants like Maruthi, Hyundai, Tata etc have reduced their prices by a significant amount. This move was further aided by the Central Government reducing the excise duty. These companies hope that the price reduction may boost sales.

But there is a limit to what a marketer can do inorder to tackle the slowdown. The marketer have limited option of reducing prices , increasing promotions etc . But these actions will not be sufficient to tackle the systemic issues that created this meltdown.

I am not an economist and hence I may not be able to give a detailed economic view of the current crisis. For that you may check out Harvard University Professor Greg Mankiw 's blog ( warning : its full of economics ) or IIM A Professor Jayanth Varma's blog ( warning : its full of finance ).

I am presenting my view about the larger issues that both the industry and the policy makers should be addressing. I am talking not as a marketing academic but as a middleclass consumer.

The current crisis that we face in India is different from that of USA. We currently do not have the sub-prime crisis . Although there is a real estate bubble, our banking system is sufficiently protected ( I hope so !) . But we face the ripple effect from the global crisis.

Indian Government has been proactive in its steps to ensure liquidity and providing confidence to the consumers and industries. To that extent, things are moving in the right direction.

I think that we have failed to understand the real issue behind this slowdown. The real problem is the slowing down of consumer demand and not the liquidity. Many marketers are pressuring governments to allow liberal credit to the consumers. That means banks will be offering easy credit to consumers which will then boost demand.

It will be suicidal to boost demand using cheap credit. The US market suffered because most of the growth was based on cheap credit.

I think that the consumer demand is going to go down more rapidly in 2009, because of the negative news spreading ( that includes this post also). If you examine the reason behind the eroding consumer confidence , there is only one - Job security.

When people lose jobs, they stop spending ( common sense). When the news of lay offs spreads, everyone stops spending and starts saving. The more the job losses, the more the fall in demand.When demand drops, companies cut jobs.....This is a vicious cycle

So when firms cut jobs, they are contributing to the bigger mess. This problem has a bigger magnitude in Indian context. Unlike USA, we don't have social security and most of the companies also doesn't provide one.

When Barack Obama talked about protecting US jobs and creating new jobs, I think he is moving in the right direction to tackle the fundamental issues.In India also , Prime Minister had made an appeal to corporates not to cut jobs ( there are political reasons for that since elections are around the corner).

It is time for the government to think about a broader social security plan in India. The National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme is one of such initiative but not enough. I am not sure whether government is in a position to create a social security system , but some thinking has to be done in this direction.

Instead of social security , India have a provident fund system which has been made mandatory by law to certain class of employees. When economy was in a boisterous mood, we do not think about any of these things. Concepts like long-term growth, life long employment, loyalty all became old fashioned. I think this is the time where we have to revisit those old values.

Consumers tend to spend lavishly when he feels secure. Jobs offer him security. India saw a consumer boom when there was plenty of jobs. When the jobs started losing, demand also came down.

Any move to ensure easy credit without creating stable jobs will have serious repercussions. It would take an effort from both the employees and owners to start building a new culture .

I don't know whether this post make any economic sense ?... What do you think ?


Related Post

Marketing During Recession