Learning from Gillette’s experience in India

From Business today:

Until 2010, Gillette India had been following a strategy of marketing cheaper-end US-developed razors. However, low-income Indian customers who could not afford Gillette’s premium price relied on the outdated, but traditional, double-edged razor shaving systems. An estimated 400 million customers not happy with existing market offerings provided a promising growth opportunity for Gillette. Thus, it focused on understanding its customers and the challenges they faced, which required spending hours visiting and interviewing consumers in order to understand the role of grooming in their lives and their needs.

The company realised that apart from affordability, customers also valued safety and ease of use. Those customers’ needs would not be satisfied by Gillette’s existing offering - most lacked running water, had to manage longer facial hair and sit on the floor while shaving. Nor were they satisfied with the existing double-razor solution as they caused frequent cuts.

This example is not new but provides two good learning points. Just selling a cheaper version is not always enough. You need to go back to the mystery, and the mystery in this case is shaving. Gillette is not a new company to shaving . However, they had the humbleness to understand that this was a new context and they had to start afresh. The question in their mind was _”what do 400 million Indian men in villages, towns and urban slums in India care about their shaving?”. _Innovation starts with people.

Once you start there then using human centred design techniques and looking at the job to be done is a starting point of understanding value for this customer.

A new production process that has less parts, focussed on one blade and other improvements are needed to create value.

And to capture value, there is a clear need to figure our marketing, pricing very differently, and then scaling it.

That’s a way to create a new business model and you have to develop the five characteristics of the innovator to do that.

Main learnings:

  • Revisit the mystery, even for things that you have known for a while if you are serious about innovation
  • This is definitely important if the context changes
  • For that, you need to start with people
  • Understand their context and outcomes for them
  • Create value which satisfies that context (no running water, low price etc)
  • Focus on capturing value after this


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