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"Conversation. What is it? A Mystery! It's the art of never seeming bored, of touching everything with interest, of pleasing with trifles, of being fascinating with nothing at all. How do we define this lively darting about with words, of hitting them back and forth, this sort of brief smile of ideas which should be conversation?" Guy de Maupassant

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Continuing the series on Cultural Insights from India ...

Value for Money Equations

  • The Indian phrase is - 'paisa vasool' - equivalent to 'bang for the buck'
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  • Indians don't mind spending large amounts on premium cars, cell phones, big houses, land, etc.; but it should be visible and overt to all. For instance we buy the latest technology equipment, but 'squirm' when we have to pay for software.Software is assumed to come free with the machine.The worth of the software is 'intangible'- others can't see it, and Indians don't understand what they are paying so much for. Regular software like Windows, Office, etc. comes free loaded with every machine (usually pirated). Indians also buy pirated CDs for as low as $2 rupees. The attitude is, why pay when it comes free. If you pay for standard software you are a fool.
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  • We will buy the most expensive box of mangoes for hundreds of rupees but will haggle with the vegetable vendor over a 2 cents reduction on the price of potatoes.
  • We will happily spend $9 rupees on the movies for a family of four, but complain bitterly when the 'cable guy' wants to raise the fee for his offering of over 120 channels from $6.5 to $9 a month.(Only when there is a cricket match on TV, would we be willing to dish out the money!)
  • We pay for a DVD player, but balk at the price of a DVD, buy cars worth $6600, but stop using the authorized service center after the first 3 free services.
  • We religiously sell old newspapers and magazines, and even empty bottles and plastic containers every week, in order to recover even a little of the money spent buying them.
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  • We are accustomed to squeezing maximum value out of products and services - we don't often replace appliances until they break, and always expect that little extra from the banker or vegetable vendor.And the service culture dictates that we are used to getting it.
  • Size matters - when buying gifts for others people like to buy things that are large in size. My field guys always tell me that gifts to respondents must be large in size - and prefer giving a large ugly flower vase, for instance, over a more tasteful and equally expensive smaller vase. Brides are laden with layers of gold jewellery, even though that discreet diamond pendant she really wanted to wear was more expensive. This does not apply however to computers, printers and cell phones where small is expensive.
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