A Matter Of Indian Taste

India is one vast mercantile ore.

According to the latest data, the size of the retail market is estimated at more than $200 billion, and is dominated by more than 12 million mom-and-pop shops. Aware, foreign firms have begun mining it for their own gains. Soon after the world’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart, took the covers off its first big-box store in India, in May 2009, others rushed in.

But after snaking through labyrinthine regulations and surmounting bureaucratic red-tape, when they eventually, arrived in the marketplace, they realized that selling to Indians was far tougher than they’d expected.

That’s not because India’s bulging middle class doesn’t have the purchasing power. Money is aplenty. But cash doesn’t always translate to taste. The average shopper, who’s mostly undiscerning, gets confused between the two shoe brands: the Indian-made Woodland and the American-made Timberland.

Strangely enough, though, they’re seldom baffled when it comes to picking a holiday destination or a honeymoon spot. Try selling Shimla, a beautiful, mountain town, draped in rhododendron forests, visited by seasonal snow that was the erstwhile summer capital of the British Raj in India.

Perhaps because it lacks any scintillating eye candy, a rich, metropolitan Indian would chose to spend time and money outside India. In fact, one seldom hears an Indian speak fondly of a trip to a little-known island, a landlocked paradise, or an obscure, non-touristy holiday resort. They’re all fond of gaudy pleasures.

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