If you want to understand Gujarat and the Gujarati, the first thing you should know is that it is a unique community evolved under Indian and foreign cultural influences. Qualities like distinctive business sense, centuries old trade and business activities, skills enriched with generations of experience and a unique perspective to calculate profit and loss have established Gujaratis as successful businessmen across the world. Now, if you want to sell your product or service to such a community in its native market, how would you offer them? This is a community that has been in the tread and business with the world for centuries. So, what would you do to understand them as customers?
Answer to these questions is – understand the ‘Gujaratiness’ of the Gujaratis. If you know the nature and characteristics of any region or the group of people, it eases communication about the utility and value of your products or services to them.
Characteristics of any community develop through factors like their lifestyle, food, festivals, modes of entertainment, literature etc. Gujarat is not different from other Indian states when it comes to the variety of dialects of the regional languages. Vivid subcultures are pulsating in the mass of around 70 million people having a common identity of being a Gujarati. You can experience stunning geosocial variety in the lifestyle, rituals, food, clothing and Gujarati dialect. While you listen to different Gujarati dialects in North Gujarat, Saurashtra, Central Gujarat, tribal belt of the eastern Gujarat, South Gujarat, Surat, Kutch, each of these regions are having their own varieties of dialects. E.g. In Saurashtra you can find regional varieties in dialects and cultures like Kathiyawad, Zalawad, Gohilwad, Sorathh, Halar.
There are different connotations of the same Gujarati word in different regions in the state. E.g. Dhokla, Khaman, Handvo, are very popular Gujarati snacks across the world. However, the Handvo is better known as ‘Dangelu’ in the small cities of Central Gujarat like Bharuch and Jambusar. Moreover, each region of Gujarat has its own famous delicacy and staple food item for the locals. E.g. You can find ‘Sev Usal’ and ‘Bhakarwadi’ in Vadodara, but you cannot get it so easily in other cities of Gujarat. The same holds true for Surat’s ‘Locho’, Jamnagar’s spicy ‘Ghooghara’, Rajkot’s ‘Chevda’, Nadiad’s ‘Chavana’ and Ahmedabad’s ‘Khaman’, ‘Bhajiya’ and ‘Pav Bhaji’.
Every Gujarati dialect also has influence of neighbouring state’s languages and their literary shades. E.g. The local dialect of cities of Banaskantha district has influence of Rajasthani and Urdu languages. Surat has Kathiyawadi influence on their Gujarati variation. However, Surat also has its own Surati dialect. Vadodara’s Gujarati has a touch of Charotari dialect and Marathi language. You can also experience various communities’ influences in Gujarati. There are variations of Gujarati dialects like Parsi Gujarati in South Gujarat, Bohra Guajrati is spoken by Bohra community, Kutchi dialect (it has Sindhi influence) is spoken in Kutch. While all these are varieties of Gujarati dialects, mainstream Gujarati language has also been augmented with the various connotations and contexts of the expressions.
Some of the key cultural identities of Gujarati community have changed their forms and formats with the changing times, although their core elements have remained unaffected. E.g. Dairo, Garba and Dandiya have been century old modes of entertainment for Gujarati communities, even before the mediums like radio, television or films. However, the impact of Hindi films is clearly visible on these formats. Now, Gujaratis enjoy Garba and Dandiya on the tunes of film songs. Similarly, many film songs are being sung on the tunes of folk songs. Dairo is a storytelling format. Engaging stories of valour, generosity, friendships, enmity of various Gujarati communities are narrated by the local artistes in Dairo. Now, there are radio shows broadcasting popular film stories in Daira’s storytelling format.
Each region of Gujarat is celebrating the same festivals differently. E.g. Janmashtami is celebrated more vividly in Saurashtra than North Gujarat or South Gujarat. Almost all the cities and towns of Saurashtra are celebrating Janmashtami as a five day long festival. Amusement fairs are organised and hosted across Saurashtra. If you want to experience Saurashtra’s unique culture and spirit, you should visit there during these festival days.
It is not easy to understand the characteristics of Gujarati community with such complex diversities. But if these factors are considered, it would be easy to initiate communication with Gujarati consumers for any products or services. Let us discuss two cases. Gujaratis love sweets. They have a ‘sweet tooth’. They love sweets to the extent that they are having ice cream flavours of Bengali sweets like Rajbhog and Rajasthani sweets like Mango Barfi. ‘Havmor’ ice cream is a brand developed and flourished in Gujarat. Ahmedabad is its main market. The brand has understood the nature of Ahmedabad’s customers so well. So, to celebrate its foundation day anniversary and to occupy the customers’ mind space for the brand, the company started giving away a set of plastic containers for free with the purchase of family packs of its ice cream on Dhanteras (two day before the Diwali day) every year. This scheme turned out to be a super hit. It was so hit that people used to queue up at Havmor’s parlours since morning on Dhanteras, and by noon family packs would be out of stock. Success and popularity of Havmor’s scheme forced the country’s biggest ice cream brand Amul and other local ice cream brand Vadilal to introduce a similar scheme.
Second example is from the news media. Nearly 18 years ago, a new newspaper ‘Divya Bhakar’ entered the Gujarat market. Being one of the largest regional language media groups in the country, the Dainik Bhaskar group challenged two very strong and established newspaper brands – ‘Gujarat Samachar’ and ‘Sandesh’. The competition to retain newspaper subscribers was intense.
However, knowing the psyche of Gujarati community, ‘Gujarat Samachar’ countered ‘Divya Bhaskar’ with a scheme. It introduced a scheme of giving gifts to the readers, who would cut a published coupon in Gujarat Samachar every day, and then paste them on a form published in the newspaper. You might understand that if the news reading activity gets little fun in it in the form of a game of cutting and pasting coupons on the form, which also gets recognition in the form of gift, many Gujaratis did not mind subscribing more than one newspaper at their home. The scheme was hit and ‘Divya Bhaskar’ and ‘Sandesh’ had to follow suit, and ‘Gujarat Samachar’ survived the cut-throat competition. Gujarati community’s feature of making such schemes an instant hit though ‘word of mouth’ should not go unnoticed.
Gujaratis are people, who live distinctly with their own style, spirit and specialty. Gujaratis are generous and calculative at the same time. As a community they are emotional and sensitive. Gujarati community does not mind donating crores of rupees for the treatment of a child Dhairyarajsinh. But when it comes to business, Gujaratis have the sense to do enough due diligence before spending a rupee and take the best suitable decision in their own interest. If any brand understands this, it would not be difficult for them to make their place in the heart of Gujarati users.
April 27, 2021 — magnon