Being Indians, we all realize the ‘value for money’ syndrome that plagues us, well everywhere. Ingrained in us, inspite of all lifestyle products entering our homes is this ‘paisa vasool’ mindset and marketers vouch for its profound existence even in the current scenario.

From a street hawker who gives free ‘dhania-mirch’ on purchase of vegetables and hi-end shops that put big discount posters, to combo meals served in theatres and the free pizza coupons, Indian consumers have the knack, or the obsession with ‘value for money’ deals. An Indian consumer buys a Rs. 50,000 phone but haggles with the shopkeeper to reduce Rs. 50/- for its cover and a shopper at Big Bazaar picks up cartons of Real juices but thinks twice about buying Nestle milk cartons.

One of our studies pointed to the fact that more than 3/4th of Indians surveyed would rather spend time and effort on searching for a good deal than settle for a more expensive purchase even though it might be quicker. If you are an Indian reading this, I can feel you nod in acceptance. As Indians, it makes sense to us and why not? But for the curious minds out there, the real important question is, but why?

Historically, Indians have a long tradition as buyers and sellers with foreign countries. This has led Indians engaged in business to have a “trader” mentality. In other words, we are tough negotiators and love bargaining. Some might even argue that the philosophy of Gandhi is still deeply rooted within the Indian sentiment across all socio economic categories. Excessive, ‘unnecessary’ spending is still frowned upon by many middle class households, which is a stark contradiction with the inner need of aspiring consumers to display conspicuousness. The fine balance between restraint and conspicuousness is a particular challenge which leads to the unforgiving phenomenon of value paradox.

From an economic perspective, another study conducted indicates that Indian consumers have become firm believers in striking a good bargain to evade expected price rise in the future. The consumer buying decisions, according to the research, are more driven by expectations of a worse future with higher prices than by a buoyant mood to spend with a positive future outlook. Psychologically, bargaining simply makes one feel ‘smart’ and ‘in control’.

This value paradox is what makes each citizen of this country sail in the same boat – a phenomenon that has been globally realized. We see global giants changing their strategies and tact when it comes to the Indian market. We recently saw Apple Inc. place iPhone ads in national Indian newspapers offering interest free payment plans, trade-in offers, and discounted service agreements. The same reason that BMW has a diesel version in India!

There maybe a number of factors that drive this phenomenon. From our historic mind set as traders to Gandhi-giri, from saving oneself from a future economic meltdown to a cognitive need to feel ‘smart’ but we surely see a lot of folks getting post purchase satisfaction from making a great deal rather than from actual consumption of their buy! The words ‘save’, ‘free’, ‘discount’, ‘sale’ and the like rings a familiar bell in every Indian DNA leaving us with no choice but to answer the call. Being a closely held cultural value, this attitude is here to stay, at least in the midterm period.

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