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HindustanTimes Thu,02 Oct 2014
Samsung plays the coalition game
N Madhavan, Hindustan Times
March 24, 2013
First Published: 23:37 IST(24/3/2013)
Last Updated: 17:53 IST(25/3/2013)

It was a fun afternoon last week at the Google Big Tent event, not so much because of what I heard Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt say on the Internet and all that. Seriously, most of what he said was not new to me.

But what was more interesting was that Schmidt said he had a BlackBerry and also an iPad. One would have expected him to be talking of a Google-backed Android phone or tablet, but he did not. Clearly, as a Hindi proverb goes: The elephant has different teeth to show, and different ones to eat.

Chew on that.

Now, Tata group's chairman emeritus Ratan Tata can move around in a Jaguar, but you don't expect him to ride a Nano, do you? Not unless he is posing for the local press.

Clearly, technology, like automobiles, seems to have a caste system of sorts! Perhaps that's where the opportunities lie for innovators. We often confuse our own tastes with those of the market, which is huge and diverse as can be.

Last weekend, as I took time off to watch Australia play India in the cricket Test, I noticed an abundance of Samsung Galaxy phones in the stands - and that included some in the hands of schoolgirls. From a distance, they looked like iPhones - and that's perhaps where the trick lies.

Cricket is a common aspirational ground in India, in which the rich and the not-so-rich sections come to cheer a common team. To me, the smartphone looks like another common aspiration. Nobody wants to be left behind, but nobody really can afford the high-end gizmos.

What Samsung has done is to create a common but differentiated aspirational framework with its Galaxy range -and like cricket, it is a great leveller. Perhaps it is justly named because the Galaxy has many stars, big and small.

Now, the message is clear. If  you want to win the Indian market, it is like winning an Indian election and forming a coalition government: you have to be appealing to a coalition of tastes and budgets, but serve a common aspiration!


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