Segmenting Indian Parents

Internship is an important part of any professional course. Not only do you get used to corporate culture and its many nuances, but it also gives you an opportunity to apply your classroom sessions in real life. It is also a great way to learn new things. So the story is that I got my internship at a company called Tabtor. Now, Tabtor is in the education industry. The company has a personalized math tutorial program which can be availed over an iPad. Students solve worksheets by working out problems on the Tabtor Math app’s digital paper, which is then assessed by a remote tutor, who uses Point of Learning Analytics (POLA) to analyse the student’s standing in a particular topic and devices further lesson plans accordingly. No doubt the service is great and indeed very useful. However, as I learnt the hard way, the scepticism of Indian parents is really worth writing an article about.

So from what I have experienced, Indian parents can be classified into 5 different segments:

Eagles

The eagles are parents with extremely hectic schedules. They have very little time for their children and are looking for ways to boost academics which would require as little involvement on their part as possible. As long as you have a product that keeps the child busy while providing value for the time spent, you will find that these parents are relatively easy to sell to. They don’t mind dishing out money, but they calculate expenses by the time they have to dedicate. So, the lesser the time consumed, the better it is. In this case both parents are decision makers. A nod from any one of them will mean a yes in most cases.

Lions

The lion couple usually consists of a stay-at-home mom and a work-till-late dad. In the lions’ case, though smaller decisions, like what will the child take to school for lunch are left to the mother, bigger decisions like which tutor the child should go to, need an approval from the father. The fathers usually turn out to be skeptics who live by certain principles and would not want to divert from them. When it comes to education, they usually have faith in more traditional methods. While dealing with lions, the child’s and mother’s opinions are next to worthless. If you fail to sway the father, you have failed. Period.

Elephants

In the elephants family, the females, symbolically, wear the pants when it comes to their child’s education. The father abstains from these roles because he believes that mom knows best about such things. The mothers are assigned this important role because of their educational background or because of their professional life. Such mothers usually have a certain amount of teaching experience. Selling to elephants can be tricky because the mothers are very confident about what they know. Their decision making is clear cut and there’s no maybe in their dictionaries. Fail to impress her the first time, and you might as well throw all dreams of converting them out the window.

Dogs

Dogs are a fairly common specimen among Indian families. The biggest decision pertaining to their child’s education that the dogs take is which school the child should go to. After this, no decision is taken without first running it by the child’s school teacher. Right from which books the child should read all the way to which tutor the child should go to, the teacher has a say in all decisions. For selling to such parents, it is important to have a network of school teachers who will talk in your favour. No matter how good your product or service really is, if the teacher doesn’t have your brand’s name on their lips, you wouldn’t even make it on to the parents’ consideration list.

Giraffes

Giraffes are very contented with the way things are going. They don’t want a change unless something drastic happens that compels them to change. Giraffes are not interested in what you have to offer right from the beginning. They might hear you out as a courtesy, but their mind is already made up. It’s not completely hopeless trying and converting them. If you can bring the urgency to change to their attention, they will consider the option you are offering. However, it takes an immense amount of skill, experience and natural flair to make their ears prick up.

In sales, you always say what your customer wants to hear. To figure out what Indian parents want, you first have to assign them a category. Some parents will want to see their children’s grades improve while others may want to hear all the benefits of your service; others may be more interested in the technical nuances of the product.

Having said that, what it means to any sales person is the fact that they have to be really familiar with each of these species. They will then be able to identify which category a particular lead belongs to and how to go about approaching them. You definitely can’t have a one-size-fits-all approach. Each pitch has to be tailor-made to suit the person you are pitching to and the category they come under.

Thus, selling to Indian parents can be tricky business. You learn a lot with experience, no doubt; however, a little fine-tuning couldn’t hurt.

Author: Arko Mukherjee

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9 comments

  1. Nice write up Arco. But I think despite all of the categories, If teacher is referring any book or similar stuff, OR student himself is asking for any educational content in any format, guardian will buy it at any cost. Specifically in India, parents feel happy when their kids ask for anything related to their education be it a book or educational app or anything..their is a felling of satisfaction “ke baccha padh rha hai”..moreover parents wont miss a chance to boast that they are providing state-of-the-art learning methodologies…and that could be WOM for the product.

    1. Kids actually don’t have much of a say in such matters unless the parents come in the eagles segment. The ardent teacher-followers come in the dogs segment. And forget ‘state-of-the-art’ learning methodologies, ’cause if that was the case, my job would have been much easier. Most of them are skeptics and the idea of learning over an iPad still hasn’t quite caught on.

      1. I just wanted to say that what you have written has an exception, I didn’t come across anybody who refused to buy a book/educational game referred by teacher, irrespective of categories.

        My dad is working in Education industry since last 30 years and I have been working since my 10th std 🙂
        My dad and I have sold right from Pencil to books to educational games and E-learning s/w. I understand that the App is quite different from the traditional way of providing educational content but if that App is referred by a teacher, parent will buy; provided he has an iPad already.

        About state-of-the-art’ learning methodologies : Currently I’m planning a start-up on Dermatoglyphics and have seen great response from guardians when shared the idea in PTA meetings. Even where I have supplied educational games from Macmillan and E-learning software, I have heard and met parents boasting about the way their children are learning specifically in 2t 3t cities. Tell me if your kid will come asking for this app, would you buy it without a second thought?

        Whatever I have written as an exception, I had a first hand experience about it. So if you are saying that the above categorization is written in stone and have no exception, I’m not buying it 🙂

  2. It’s definitely not set in stone, but these are just my views and experiences. Until now I haven’t come across a single parent who wants to boast about a ‘state-of-the-art’ learning tool, especially if they have to pay 1k/month for it.

    Having said that teachers are definitely influential, but we still haven’t got a way to approach them in considerable numbers to form a network who will vouch for us.

    Maybe its a different scenario when it comes to purchases in which the parents don’t have to dish out money on a regular basis.

    Anyway, any ideas to enable us to form a network of teachers would be most welcome.

    1. Oh I didn’t know that Parent have to pay every month 😛 once upon a time we had a weekly magazine for students upto age 12 and I remember how hard it was to sell something which is not based on syllabus and required recurring payment. You don’t know when a won lead can be lost.

      I will tell you how we do it. We provide content for schools and teachers free of cost. In return they refer our products. We arrange seminars in PTA meetings and even provide a lot of insight and goodies to parents. I think the buying cycle is different and quite long if your product is not based on syllabus, it also lacks the sense of urgency as compared to products based on educational syllabus.

      So if you want to promote your TABTOR app via school channels, you can have promotional seminars in PTA meetings, organize contests in schools sponsored by your company only and you can give rewards to be spent on Tabtor, create operational calenders for schools.

      There is one more fact that the IT/computer periods in schools are actually not that much valued by teacher and students too. So you can provide some of the TABTOR content for free on website and promote it to schools and you can also ask them to introduce it to students once in a week in their computer of free classes.

      Even schools has fest kind of thing, you can create some fun educational games to be given to schools for promotion.

      But implementation of any of these ideas will require introduction in schools manually, so considering the length and breadth of India, its difficult to comment on how feasible it would be but you can start with a small region and see how it goes.

      If the product has to be promoted beyond Geographical region, as you know, content is the king .I have seen the Blog of Tabtor is pretty active but every post is about Mathematics only. Its tough to attract different people that way. Now the blog will attract people looking for maths tutor online, but if an editorial calender is created in such a way that it will start attracting people searching for different stuff online and then let them get carried to Tabtor app.

      For an example if the blog started blogging about parenting advice and other natural stuff which is being searched by parents online and built content to help them, it will bring a lot of new prospect to you which you wont get either way. May be they wont buy Tabtor in first or second go but eventually you will build a credibility and that will give result in longer run.

      If we start solving problem and help them, they will get attached emotionally to the brand and business will come eventually. They say there must be 6:3:1 ratio when you blog, If you are posting 10 posts, 6 should be helping customer in a way, 3 should be guiding customer to landing pages and 1 should guide to product page.

      One thing for sure, relation and emotion is the key to get new business. When dealing with schools, you need to maintain relations with school management irrespective of kind of revenue you would be generating and while dealing with customer online you need to built credibility and it wont be created by selling, we need to help them.

      I guess my suggestions are nothing new but hope it will help..
      I have also analysed a sales funnel in this segment. If you want, I can also tell you about sales funnel and the way we target and do segmentation of clients.

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