New Delhi: In recent years Bihar has emerged as an attractive destination for setting up of industries. In order to promote balanced industrial growth and ensure prolific contribution of industry in economic development of the State, the Government has adopted a number of attractive industrial policies. As a result the economy of the state has improved substantially. The state government is taking numerous measures to promote and develop infrastructure for industries by the construction of better roads, drainage system, and improved water and power sectors. At the same time it is also supporting entrepreneurs to set up industries and is helping create an investor friendly atmosphere in the state. Transportation is better and therefore infrastructure and the overall development of the state is looking up.

Socio-cultural dimension

Shapes of things are changing rapidly in Bihar. Gone are the days when the socio-cultural dimension of the state was lagging behind. Today the Biharis can give competition to the people from any part of the world. Thanks to the ongoing development and changes in various sectors. Better infrastructure, job opportunities, opening of educational institutions, rise in per capita income of the people and large investment from both foreign and domestic players are some of factors affecting the socio cultural life of the people of Bihar. Not only the lifestyle but the overall outlook of the people has transformed drastically. Major shift has been registered in the thinking and investment pattern of the people of the state.

The attitude of the consumers in Bihar has undergone a major transformation over the last few years. The Bihari consumer today can be divided into a number of categories: some want to lead a life full of luxury and comfort and for some investment is need-based. But most importantly the consumer wants to live in present and does not believe in saving for the future. A major and contemporary development in Bihar's consumerism is the emergence of the rural market for several basic consumer goods.

Middle class people

The middle class in Bihar has provided a big boost to the consumer culture during the recent past and it is expected that their buying behaviour will continue to change in the coming future. The rapid growth of the service sector has led to the increase in the per capita income of the people. Another factor which has led to the emergence of middle class is the shift in the occupation of the people. People are today more conscious about education. They want a job which can provide them security as well as a decent standard of living. A fast shift has been registered from agriculture to the services and industry sector where growth prospects are reasonably high.

“No one wants a life where there is no economic security. The students today are preparing for government jobs and banking services. They are also interested in management and computer programmes which provides high packages”, says Kripa Shankar, who is taking tuitions from a management coaching institute in Patna. His father is a farmer in Begusarai district of Bihar. A number of youth from purely agricultural background are opting for both government and private jobs in hope of better salaries so that they can lead a comfortable life. Youth like him are representative of the upcoming culture of the state that is influencing the consumer behaviour substantially.

Improving law and order

Bihar is witnessing improved market sentiment primarily because of better law and order in the state. “There is a significant change, a lot of things are driven by quality of life. Money was never a problem, law and order was. If you feel safer and happier, you are bound to spend more and indulge,” reasoned Purnendu Kumar, VP, Retail and Consumer Goods, Technopak Advisors. The consumption pattern of the people of any state depends largely on economic policies, buying habits of the younger generation, financial independence at a young age, increase in number of nuclear families and increase in media exposure of the people. The tastes and preferences of the current generation are changing rapidly. The current generation does not mind paying extra for better facilities and ambience. The increasing reach and penetration of new technology and mass media has given birth to a composite culture in Bihar.

Infrastructure facilities

Infrastructural facilities like improved power supply, railways and roadways have helped the people living in both urban and rural areas
confront these new technologies and agents of mass media. People are now aware of the importance and use of new products.

The market for luxury products is also climbing at an astonishing rate as compared to a decade ago when it was almost negligible. Not only the basic consumer goods like television, refrigerator, washing machine etc. but the items like personal computers, laptops, mobile phones, digital cameras, which were once considered luxury items are quite in demand in the market.

The market has also registered a tremendous increase in purchase of homes, cars and two wheelers. The reason for this is the steep rise in the purchasing power of people. The Bihari consumer is highly aware about the product, price, quality and the options available to him. A product is purchased keeping all these factors in mind. Today, price is not the only consideration as it was a few years back when prices played a major role in the buying behaviour. Marketers are trying hard to capture these consumers using attractive offers and deals.

People in Bihar are strongly attached to their culture, tradition and values, as a result a number of companies both foreign and domestic have been forced to give a regional touch in order to succeed in Bihar. The companies also focus on the features of the products while marketing them. A major share of consumers in Bihar come from rural or semi-rural set up. These consumers are also showing signs of change. They prefer having all the modern amenities at their home and their standard of living is fast improving. The rural households have earned huge money due to price rise in real estate. They are also shifting towards industrial and service sector which has led to the increase in their purchasing power. These changes are visible in their living  standard and possession of goods.

Reach of mass media

Due to the penetration of mass media, the buying behaviour of the consumers hailing from middle class is being influenced by the western trends. The Bihari consumer has become open minded and experimental trying for new products.

“Camera phones are a good option today. Everyone wants to have a camera, and mobile phone has become a necessity. And a number of companies are manufacturing mobiles with good cameras. So it is easy now. You can now carry your camera in your pocket”, says Arun Kumar, a medical student studying in Darbhanga Medical College of Bihar. He shows his mobile phone which has 3.2 megapixel camera and also the photographs taken from it. His father is a clerk in bank and he cannot afford to have both. But thanks to the new technology and more importantly its availability that has nabled him to get what he wanted. There are many others like Arun who have been targeted by the market forces and investors. The state in recent years has registered a substantial growth in the use of mobile phones. Almost all the mobile phone manufacturers and subscribers are investing heavily in the state with lucrative and user friendly policies. Top mobile brands including Nokia, Samsung, LG, Spice, Motorola and Lava have adopted strategies that suit the people. They have come up with mobile phones having strong battery backup and better cameras.

Huge market for mobile phones

“Bihar is an impressively growing market for mobile phones. The net mobile subscriber additions in last year has been exceedingly well and far beyond many estimates,” said Shashin Devsare, Executive Director, Karbonn Mobiles.

The relatively low mobile penetration in the state, makes it one of the most promising market today. “People in Bihar especially prefer multimedia phones. They go for phones with long battery life and large screens. With an urge to do well in life and emulate the prevalent urban culture, multimedia-rich mobile phone handsets are doing extremely well in that market,” said a senior marketing manager at Airtel.

Category leaders like Samsung are also pepped up about Bihar. “Bihar has been one of our better markets, over the years. It not only offers volumes but a healthy mix to our sales basket. Contrary to general perception, people of the state actively seek and buy medium and  premium level smart phones. Samsung's uptake in mid-segment and early-level smart phones is really good,” said Asim Warsi, GM- Marketing (Mobiles), Samsung India.

Not just for mobile phones, similar strategies for automobile, laptops, cameras, real estate and other consumer goods are being made keeping in mind the need of the consumers. “Bihar as a market has been growing leaps and bounds. Consumer sentiment is upbeat and retail trade is booming across major consumer categories,” said a senior official of Trust of Retailers and Retail Associates of India (TRRAIN).

Destination for investment

Manufacturers of major brands are targeting the people, their tastes and preferences. The marketing strategies are being designed keeping in mind the socio cultural environment, investment patterns and needs of the people. Top brands and companies are conducting audience surveys to understand the psyche of the consumers.

For years Bihar was ignored by the major market players, including top industrialists, investors and business persons. But thanks to the initiatives taken by the government of Bihar and its people that Bihar has surfaced as an important state as far as investment is concerned. What is more important to note here is the fact that the companies and brands have become sensitive towards the consumers of all age groups, gender, economic and social background. The road ahead is long but Bihar is riding fast. The hope for change and a better future is clearly visible in the eyes of the people.

(JPN)

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