3 Brilliant Insights About India by Santosh Desai

If India were a dish, it would be Mix Veg.
While the recipe may promise a satisfactory outcome from the make-do ingredients available, each ingredient brings in its own flavour and aroma, giving the dish a unique taste.
India’s vast majority of diverse cultures, religions, habits and people make it an interesting country. Flavours from these blends show up in various forms. From Politics to Traditions— everything screams of distinctiveness in India.
Few things we do as Indians might seem quite eerie to an outsider. But to us, these seem only natural and we go around doing them regularly without ever consciously thinking about why we do them.

Last month, someone recommended me to read Santosh Desai’s Mother Pious Lady. To cut things short, the book is a collection of genius insights bringing out the true essence of this flavorful. It connects India from the ‘70s/ ‘80s to India as we know today. Every page in the book is a delight. In my opinion, this is a must-read for any marketer to understand BTS of why India does what it does.

While every chapter in the book is a learning in itself, here are 3 of my takeaways from the book:

  1. Significance of Thappad
    Hindi movies & Daily soaps prominently show slap on the face as a symbol to put someone in their place. It doesn’t signify physical power but social power. It reinforces the line of authority —mother in law slapping the evil bahu, honest police officers slapping villains bearing bribes, fathers slapping their children.
    A slap is a corrective lesson in social hierarchy. It imprints humiliation on the face- the part of body where our identity resides. A slap connects the hand (site of action) with face (seat of identity). It aims to take the person down, symbolically dwarfing us in the eyes of people watching.
  2. Polite Denial
    Have you ever noticed the typical Indian way to ask questions is negative? “Hai na?”, “Baitho na”, “Right no?”.
    Ever wondered why?
    The negative word at the end prevents the suggestion being taken as assertive. Makes it politer. It leaves the door for self-doubt open and invites the opinion of other person without coming out as forceful. It makes a demand become a need and is for the listener to satisfy now. Theek haina?
  3. The Dhania Factor
    When it comes to Jugaad, Indians are at the forefront of the race. Making things work with limited resources is a testimonial of our problem-solving skill. A lot of this comes from our habit of recycling. Look around, you will surely find many use cases — Old bedsheets repurposed as curtains, Wine bottles as Money plant vase and Old toothbrush as faucet cleaners.
    The idea here is of extracting good value — Paisa vasool. The attitude is not about being reluctant to make purchases, but about extracting the complete value from a purchase.
    Another way this is evident from an Indian housewife’s habit of getting dhania & hari mirch free with her vegetables. This has nothing to do with affordability. You can see this happening everywhere from affluent neighbourhoods to weekly markets. The objective is about sneaking in additional value to make the transaction fulfilling.

Marketing, Coffee and Formula 1 keep me up at night.