In 2004, Chris Anderson, the former editor of Wired magazine, introduced the concept of the long tail. It has shown that as long as the distribution channel is large enough, low-demand products can collectively constitute a market share equal to or greater than the market share of a few bestsellers.
For example, on Amazon you will find many books that are not available in offline bookstores. These not-so-popular books are part of the long tail strategy. Perhaps the collective sales volume of these books would be greater than the sales volume of some of the popular books on the platform.
Likewise, on YouTube you will find many short films that are part of the long tail. The collective views of these shorts might be more than the collective views of some of the blockbuster movies that are part of the lead.
If you look at the Indian business world, thousands of big companies can be considered part of the head. On the other hand, millions of MSMEs (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises) can be seen as the long tail. Now let’s do a little exercise. Start at the head of the demand curve and move towards the long tail. During this trip, mentally write down the marks that come to mind.
Maybe at the start of your journey you will come across brands like TATA, Reliance, and HDFC. As you move further afield, you might come across brands like Nirma, Raymond, and Dabur. Going further, you might come across brands like Balaji Wafers and Wagh Bakri Tea. But don’t stop there, keep moving, and you might come across brands like Nalli Sarees. If you keep moving forward, brands like Karachi Bakery might come your way. Go further and you will come across brands such as Haji Ali Juice Center from Mumbai and Maganlal Chikki from Lonavala. Don’t hesitate to go ahead, as the list of exciting companies in India is endless.
Of all the marks in my head, perhaps the most books are written around the TATA Group. Unfortunately, it is difficult to find a lot of literature on many admirable brands present in the head. You might think that so many books are written around the TATA group due to its popularity. But you can’t deny that these books and stories would also have contributed to the immense popularity of this group. It always surprises me to think that Indian brands have a rich history, so why is there not substantial trade literature about them available?
Long-tail companies do not have the resources like large companies. Yet, they continue to innovate in their business models, processes and marketing strategies to attract and satisfy their customers. For example, the Mumbai dabbawallas don’t have any resources available for Swiggy or Zomato, but they deliver tiffins with excellent accuracy. Arunachalam Muruganantham, a dropout, did not have world-class resources. Yet he developed the world’s first low-cost sanitary napkin making machine and enabled women in rural India to create more than 1,000 brands of sanitary napkins.
By now you have realized that India has an unlimited supply of enterprising stories from both the beginning and the end of the curve, but you might have your readership doubts. Let me introduce you to some of the target audience.
Adolescents: Most parents want their kids to think big and achieve better things in life. However, many children remain busy watching YouTube videos and movies. In addition, social media dominates the reading time of children today. Our content consumption habits define our thoughts and our thoughts determine our actions. Yes real world business stories are part of the reading habits of teenagers, they will get acquainted with many inspiring trips and original ideas. If the seeds of inspiration and ideas are sown, a day will come when flowering and fruiting plants will emerge.
Young adults: Many young adults interested in business join e-cells (entrepreneurship development cell) in their colleges or opt for MBA programs. Unfortunately, not all college e-cells have access to the right set of entrepreneurs. Examples of international brands dominate the MBA program in India. Every market is different. The way a brand is created and thrives in a developed market like the United States cannot be replicated in a developing and diverse market like India. Moreover, the way brands were created in the era of pre-liberalization of India cannot be the same as in the digital age. If the students’ study plan contains a greater share of Indian business literature (biographies and case studies on new age brands and business issues), their maturity to deal with real world issues will improve.
Entrepreneurs: Growth-oriented entrepreneurs are always on the lookout for best practices in business models, supply chain, manufacturing, marketing and talent management. They may have the vision, but they may not have access to the best advisors and resources like large companies do. I think local brands can take inspiration from a national brand. They would relate better to the stories of local and regional brands, which would have grown up with limited resources.
Employees: An entrepreneur can achieve growth when he has motivated employees with the right ideas and the right skills. However, as the consumer evolves, competition increases and business issues become deeper. Previous employee experiences become a bit impractical. Employees need access to stories with problem-solving approaches and best practices from other companies to think outside the box. Without a doubt, there are some trade magazines and newspapers in India that do a fantastic job of covering such stories. However, if everyone is looking at the same limited examples, how will the ideas of differentiation and competitive advantage arise? I think we need a bigger pool.
Every month, a large number of people are added to the Indian labor market. To create opportunities for these people, we need more growth-oriented businesses, more entrepreneurs and more enterprising employees. To accelerate this change, we need more head and tail business stories. The combined effect will create a growth engine and make India shine.
The writer is the author of the book “Booming Brands”. The opinions expressed are personal and do not necessarily represent the opinions of a company.