“He allowed himself to be swayed by his conviction that human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but that life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.” – Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera.
Business and Economics is always about adjusting to market situations and reacting to market demands. Maybe it is for the first time that both business men and economists have reacted to a situation in the same voice. Demonetization and its after effects have rattled business men and economists alike. Nobody (here it should be read as ‘those who were not big enough to get highly classified information’) knew it was coming and now most of them don’t know how to deal with it. Those who thought this was just another gimmick are now coming to terms with demonetization as a reality but still most of the businessmen I came into contact were divided in their opinion as to how to deal with it.
Yes it is for real. Demonetization has happened. Whether it is good or bad for our business is unpredictable. Alas if market economics were so easy to predict then we would have got lesser number of entrepreneurs in this world. Entrepreneurship would have been boring if there was cent percent predictability in market situations. The first thing to do for any business is to accept the reality. Accept the change in mode of operations. Government is going to push digital transactions like anything, telecoms are going to push their services more, and people are going to use digital transactions more. So stop cribbing about the advantages of dealing in cash and move on.
There is a popular story narrated at most management classes about the Chinese that while the US markets were reeling under the shock of 9/11, the Chinese had already started exporting caps & t-shirts with US national flag elements printed on them. Demonetization is definitely such a catastrophic event in business world which has disrupted the whole market operations. Does that mean everything is doomed? No, there will be opportunities among disruptions. The faster you find those opportunities the better. Especially in an Indian context we have smart business houses who innovate in every way to market their products. Each market within our country is unique and the effects of demonetization are different in each state and even different in parts within each state. The need of the hour is to find out which market is faring better and reach out to that set of customers. Find new markets, new opportunities, out of the box marketing techniques like cross branding and so on.
Yes digitalization is not a future thing but the present thing which has captivated all the markets in the world and it is transforming the way business is done. The earlier you digitalize your transactions the better your customers would stay with you. Already the government has announced discounts & offers for digital transactions and we all know what happens when customers are lured with such bounties. The same customer who sided up with us today, the same guy who hated to use digital payments would ask us why you are not offering digital payment options. The scarcity of POS machines/ swipe machines is not an excuse you can hang upon for long. Customers are more aware of options like internet/mobile banking, paytm, mobile wallets etc. more than before and will be ready to use them more because it is not the customer who is worried about paying that extra tax on billing but the shop owners are. It is not the customer who is afraid about the source of their income while making a purchase but it is the shop owners that are worried about the consequences of under billing or low stock declaration levels. Customer loyalty starts when they get what they expect from a brand and ends when they feel they don’t what they expect. So the day your competitor starts accepting digital payments with offers, your loyal customer will be the first one to leave you. Digitalizing your transactions has its benefits. You get better customer database, can learn on the customer buying behavior and improvise your offerings at a lesser cost than before. So it’s all about adapting to the situation at the earliest and reaping the benefits of digitalization than lamenting about the demerits of demonetization.
As a brand strategist it is interesting to note that most of the times it is good for brand owners to face disruptions. Be it a recession or a demonetization, these are the times to retrospect and reinvent. When the cash flows are over flowing most business houses spend too much on advertising without even caring about the return on their investments in such huge advertising budgets. If there is one thing that we all agree upon it is the fact that demonetization has brought upon us, as individuals & households, a certain kind of accountability, even spend thriftiness, in our daily expenditures. The same applies to business houses. This is the time to relook at your advertisement expenditures. At the same time every business needs to market their products to grow and in these times of cash crunch it is the time to be patient about brand building activities. More importantly it is a time to measure the effectiveness of your expenditure on advertising. Whether your brand reaches out to correct target audience is to be taken seriously and the necessary changes in the medium of advertising is to be made. Gone are the days of mass marketing only through print & TV. Other media vehicles on the Internet like social media, blogs, YouTube are all now part of daily life of an average customer and more importantly we are going to see mobiles playing a major part in marketing your products. Still except from big corporates, we see very little branding activity on those frontiers like mobile apps, mobile games and virtual reality from smaller entities. Make sure your marketing communications break the clutter. Use innovative and creative approaches to your marketing communication. Go back to your basics, call your loyal customers one by one and inform them about the new mode of transactions. Help them if they need help in moving to digital transactions. Forget those days when you had lots of unaccounted money to do mass advertising. Revoke those old days when you talked to your customer directly. Maybe relook your product packaging and renew it with new digital windows like QR codes, bar codes etc. Get online to reach out to new customers.
Use this period to understand your employees and customers. Love your employees more, love your customers more. Make the ambience of your store or appearance of your product more appealing to them. Use this period to build your brand and reach out to untapped markets. If you can come out in good shape after this demonetization period you are well equipped to fly higher.