In the nineties, the prevailing wisdom was that there were several products that lends itself to mass customization with its attendant benefits. Key benefits included accelerated learning curves, cost advantage and time to market.
However, with some of the MNCs, more specifically companies like Nokia are finding out that if they have to crack open the huge markets in the developing world, they would have to do the opposite. The article describes the travels and discoveries of Nokia’s “human behavior researcher” and makes interesting reading about how the cell phone has just not revolutionized micro eceonomies and markets, but also how people’s expectations about product attributes are changing.
One cultural anthropologist mentioned to me that even in developing economies and even if the market segment is the typical BOP (Bottom of the pyramid) there are different and distinct cluster benefits that users are looking for. For instance, in India there are clearly 14 different product attributes that users are looking for, including some who want the cell phone to function as an emergency light source. In China, it is about 11 and in Philippines it is about 8. In Philippines, airtime is also used as a currency. This article alludes to that particular application and hence the cell phone has become a banking terminal.
Nokia India has been very successful especially in India because it pays a lot of attention to these kind of trends and their success has been documented here.
I guess this just proves that mass customization was yet another passing fad.
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