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#4 Start-up Marketing Trends in India Start-ups need to build communities around themselves to shelter them from acquisitions or market fluctuations

By Sanchit Khera

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In India, we have a habit of thinking that what works for others will work for us. We follow trends in technology and majorly make up the late laggards when it comes to consumer innovation.

We either don't need it, or we need a price bundling mechanism around it. When it comes to start-up marketing, we have the same mentality. In that, very few will go out in the market and claim ownership of strategic communications through marketing and PR. Start-ups wait until it's time to get funded and then hope that they'd burnt investor dollars to issue marketing spends across media.

Some of the trends in the space right now are quite interesting from a marketing strategist's point of view –

Brand Building

Brand building as of a few years ago wasn't really a part of the financial plan for a seed fund start-up. There were marketing costs, cost of acquisition and media spends, but brand building and team housing for building that brand were narrow.

There were many opportunities to many start-ups in the space of e-commerce, IT software and apps, however as and when new avenues open up, old ones dry up quickly.

Funding subsided and there was a dearth of really anything meaty in the marketplace. Now that we're in 2017, we have many start-ups, including Nearbuy,Yepme,CreditVidya, Cluemath etc that are doing some great things in brand building.

Strategic alliances, partnerships, key messaging, PR, and other activities directly affect the brand positioning in the market place —all these activities coming after years of strategists, convincing these companies to invest early.

Market Penetration

The strategy needed to acquire customers as soon as possible is by and large flawed from the beginning. Market penetration implies that the market is waiting for your corporation to enter the mind-space of the consumers quickly.

This is hardly ever the case. Often, there is a lot of brand work required to be done before any community (tech, systems, logistics, etc) can accept you as a vendor let alone a partner in the space.

There are high risks associated and marketing ensures that trust is generated among customers early on. Thus market penetration strategies require marketing again, where we see a lot of brands investing in the space to ensure that growth cycles and sales target aren't market dependent anymore and are more communications based.

Community Building

Few brands are investing in this space, and we're seeing growth in these avenues early on. We've witnessed a lot of start-ups try their hand at social media, however we don't see many going for community-building. Unlike the larger brands, smaller start-ups need a passionate community for their products and services.

They need to build communities around themselves to shelter them from acquisitions or market fluctuations. Anytime, we've seen brands investing in their community, we've seen growth stemming from the original purpose of the brand's mission and vision.

Therefore, brands in India have started focusing on things like mission, vision, corporate culture and communicated that effectively through their marketing strategy.

I recommend going "long" on this one, and "shorting" any quick CaC schemes or sales courses.


Start-ups have become razor sharp on return on marketing investments, and rightfully so. We have been spending money in the places where they don't make sense, however we have seen brands spend it in places that don't make sense for anyone when digitally the costs are 30-50 times cheaper.

Brands aren't so inclined to spend money on mass marketing strategies anymore and are now more sophisticated to focus down on niche audiences, as well as popular communities where their message can spread organically. The focus on acquisition through ROI has faded a bit after understanding that competition will drive the cost upwards in the long term.

Sanchit Khera

Marketing strategy consultant

Marketing strategy consultant helping brands overcome sales, comms, digital, and PR challenges with the help of marketing & brand strategy.

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