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BW Businessworld

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With due apologies to Charles Dickens, these are the best of times to be a consumer, and these are the worst of times to be a consumer. I don’t think there has been an era before this when the consumer had such a staggering array of choice in every product or service he or she uses.

There has also never been a time before this when new products hit the shelves so rapidly, making old products obsolete just months after they have been bought for hefty sums.
Both the choice, and the rapid obsolescence of products, is because of excessive competition. And this has made life exceptionally challenging for marketing managers. For one, they have to crunch product cycles. For another, they have to deal with far more launches in a year than they used to. Finally, they have to constantly anticipate what their customer wants even if the latter has not even articulated a need.
So, how are companies and marketers dealing with this phenomenon? Senior associate editor Chitra Narayanan talked to marketers in different fields to put together our cover story on the subject. 
To move to a completely different subject, the past week saw the Union cabinet announce several new initiatives designed to boost economic sentiment. The week also saw India Against Corruption leader Arvind Kejriwal accuse Robert Vadra and his companies of getting some ‘sweetheart’ deals from real estate giant DLF. Vadra, DLF and several ministers from the government immediately rushed to rubbish Kejriwal’s claims. Unfortunately, none of their responses answered the main issue: how did the Vadra companies get such easy funding from banks and others, given that these firms had no track record to speak of, and had minuscule paid-up capital? And, how did Vadra manage to accumulate so many assets — especially big tracts of land — in so short a time, given that his past performance as a businessman has been pedestrian at best? 
Vadra’s claim to fame is that he is the son-in-law of Congress chairperson Sonia Gandhi. He is hardly known for his business acumen. The UPA government and the Congress party needs to deal with the allegations of nepotism and the various corruption scandals they have been embroiled in, if they are to retain any credibility.

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 22-10-2012)