Consumer Buying Behavior

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Toilet soaps are part of the growing tribe of cleansing and beautifying products available across the country. There are scores of brands and an even greater number of variants making for a bewildering range. The Indian market has over 1100 million people living in more than 4500 towns and cities and in excess of 580,000 villages. Products must cut through several price points and fragrances to satisfy everyone. Toilet soaps are marketed through 5 million retail stores of which 3.75 million are in rural areas, the penetration rate of the toilet soap is around 97 percent in urban areas and 89 percent in rural areas. But, the per capita consumption of toilet / bathing soap in India is very low at 800g whereas it is 6.5kg in the US, 4 kg in China and 2.5 kg in Indonesia.

The market size of the Indian soap industry is around Rs.7129 crores. It can be classified into four categories namely premium, popular, economy and carbolic soaps. The "Premium1 category includes Dove, Mysore Sandal, Pears and some international brands. Brands in the "Popular' category include Cinthol, Santoor, Rexona etc. Likewise, Fairglow, Godrej No. 1 etc. come under economy brands. Carbolic brands include Lifebuoy and Nima bath soap. Over the years, the "popular' segment has witnessed rapid growth and has been the category driver. Consumers shift from the premium segment as and when they see better value in the popular category. At the same time, consumers upgrade from the economy segment due to increased in tune with the increasing disposable incomes in both urban and rural areas. As a result, the industry has witnessed a fifteen percent growth in premium brands.

The market is flooded with several, leading national and global brands and a large number of small brands, which have limited markets. Competition amongst the MNCs has intensified, leading to shrinkage of margins. The leading players in this market are HUL (Dove, Pears, Lux, Lifebuoy, Breeze), Nirma (Nima), Godrej Soaps (Cinthol, FairGlow, Shikakai, Nihar), Wipro (Santoor), and Reckitt and Benckiser (Dettol). The rest of the market is highly fragmented, with companies having strong presence in select segments or regions. In the toilet soap industry, positioning of the product is very important to attract the customers.

Review of Literature

To have an in depth understanding of Indian consumer, and to analyze the factors influencing his purchase decisions, one has to conduct studies in relation to his environment, his demographic factors, culture, and level of exposure. In this backdrop, some important studies conducted in the areas of consumer behavior and perception in relation to non durable goods and FMCG in India are briefly reviewed. It is seen that positive attitude of consumer towards advertising of a particular brand is very useful in purchasing that brand (Dr Dharam Sukh Dahiya, 1996). Consumers perceived that the information received from WOM sources is reliable and advantageous in making the purchase decisions (Prashant Mishra et al, 1996). At the same time, Indian middle class consumers are willing to pay a premium for better quality products rather than getting satisfied with generic products with inferior quality (Srinivas Shirur, 1999). They tend to define themselves as well as compare with others in terms of symbolic value of their possessions (Shekhar Trivedi et al, 2000). People belonging to different lifestyles have different interests in shopping (D.P.S. Verma et al, 2000). There is a price threshold at which consumers make decisions to stockpile the products for the future (Arindam Banarjee et al, 2001). At the same time, gender of the celebrity significantly influences consumer perception about the product irrespective of consumers' gender (Prashant Mishra et al, 2001). Similarly, they develop risk reduction strategies to help them act with greater confidence in making product purchase decisions (Debashis Bhattacharya et al, 2002).

In the FMCG sector, the...
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