India, land of diversity – home to a host of languages, climates and traditions. Defining your target audience is key to understanding consumer behaviour in India. Here’s how to grow your brand in this fast-paced market.

India’s made up of 29 states and seven union territories. While city startups attract major investment, rural villages hail electricity and sanitation. It’s the birthplace of major religions and home to 19,500 languages and dialects. Not to mention 1.3 billion people.

Marketing in this diverse country is daunting. But the potential prize is huge. India is set to overtake the US economy by 2030, second only to China. It already has the second-largest internet population – and only 41% of citizens are online.

Big brands are investing in Indian expansion. Are you ready to take the leap? Then here’s what you should know about consumer behaviour in India.


India is known as a country of savers. But although life continues to be tough for many, spending is on the rise. And there are several reasons why.

Disposable income is rising. By 2030, 80% of households will be middle-income, compared to 50% today. This growing middle class is expected to drive consumer spending – buying more and buying better.

Access to credit also plays a key role. Household debt stands at 15.7% of GDP – low for an emerging market. However, the level of debt doubled in FY17-18. This is a rapid change in consumer behaviour that’s at least partly generational.

Indian millennials still value traditional priorities, like income and home ownership. But they have other goals, too. This shows in their spending priorities. For example, 62% go on holiday 2-5 times a year – even if this means borrowing. The top goal for millennials? Making a positive impact on society (57%).

Value for money is an important factor for determining consumer behaviour in India. Indian shoppers are well-informed and want to get a good deal – even for luxury products. It’s not the whole picture though. Make sure your brand’s values come across clearly. Particularly if your business is a positive social force.


There are over 15 million traditional ‘kirana’ stores in India – 88% of the retail market. Many families visit every 2-3 days to stock up on fresh produce. Storekeepers enjoy long-standing relationships with their customers and detailed knowledge of their likes and needs.

E-commerce is new to many Indians, particularly outside the big cities. Programmes like Amazon Easy are connecting traditional stores to the e-commerce sector. Kirana shops can act as delivery points or help customers with placing orders. Innovative strategies like this one help to bridge the gap between customers and new technology.

It’s not surprising personal communication and trust is so highly valued. Bargaining is a national pastime. And even major brands have had safety scandals, such as Maggi noodles containing lead.

For e-commerce, clear customer support and payment channels are key in building trust. Digital payments are on the rise, but cash on delivery still makes up over 50% of transactions.

Building trust also means ears on the ground. Research your audience carefully and consider expanding one city at a time. Then follow up with great service and a clear returns policy.


The Indian family is changing. Traditional, multi-generational households are in decline. In fact, only 37.1% of Indians now live with extended family. Nuclear families are the new norm, while single-person households remain rare (4.1%).

Marriage is still central to most people’s lives. It’s not unusual to spend 20% of your lifetime’s earnings on your wedding. And spending is rising at over 20% per year, fuelled by the increased financial power of the nuclear family. This means weddings are a major focus for the apparel, beauty, events and luxury sectors.

Themes of nurture, care and affection are prominent in advertising – and successful. Take Samsung’s ad for its rural repair service. It shows a determined van driver overcoming all obstacles to help a customer in need. The ad gained 35 million views in two weeks, showing its customers the brand’s warmth and commitment.

As India’s culture is diverse in every sense, brands should aim to appeal to shared values. Champion aspirations, not ideology. A touch of drama never goes amiss either.


Consumer behaviour in India is complex and fast-changing. Expanding to this market isn’t for the faint-hearted. But the size of the prize speaks for itself. Our advice? Profile your audience and win over one location at a time.

Our local brand and content experts would love to help. Check out our marketing strategy services and get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.

Photo by Pau Casals on Unsplash

ABOUT Sarah Kerkache

I’m a localization specialist with over twenty years’ experience. I love collecting insights that help to deliver high-quality results. And I’m particularly interested in how language and technology can work together.

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