Trend of customisation seeps in Nepali market as a unique differentiation pointCustomisation of products or services allows consumers to create their own thematic designs on existing products or even demand a wholly custom-made product.
In 2016, Coca-Cola launched a promotional campaign in Nepal that saw their traditional logo replaced by 15 influential life relationships—aama, buwa, sathi, didi, dai, and the like—to help consumers connect with their closed ones. Coke even set up booths at Kathmandu’s leading malls where consumers could get Coke bottles with custom messages printed on the label. This personalised marketing campaign not only increased their sales but was even replicated by Coca-Cola India.
In 2019, Rakuten Viber followed the personalisation bandwagon by enabling its users to design and create their own custom stickers. Nepali businesses like Laxmi Bank, Jagadamba Motors, and Tuborg did not hesitate to use them for promotion.
Companies like Coca-Cola and Viber are in a business where there is cut-throat competition, which leads them to search for unique points of differentiation in their marketing campaigns to attract new consumers or maintain market dominance. Increasingly, companies are moving towards customisation so that their products are tailored towards individual preferences.
Customisation of products or services allows consumers to create their own thematic designs on existing products or even demand a wholly custom-made product.
Globally, massive multinational brands like Nike, Levi’s, Nissan, FaceRig, Topology, Nutella and Nestlé are embracing personalisation. According to a study by Deloitte, one of the Big Four accountancy firms, outlining consumer product trends in 2020, consumer spending is likely to shift towards customised products and experiences across a wide range of commodities. Consumers and retailers are expected to demand greater variety and customisation in both product offerings and purchase channels.
Adding to it, YouGov’s research on 2018 revealed that the personalisation economy saw an increase in demand from 17 percent to 26 percent from 2015 to 2018 in the US alone. Similarly, BusinessWire has predicted the global personalised gift market to reach a value of $31.63 billion by 2021.
While the global facts are compelling, Nepali businesses too are catching up on the lucrative business of customisation to differentiate themselves which has been aided by the increasing usage of the internet among the youths.
Custom Are Us, a customised apparel and merchandising company, started in 2015. Rojeet Kayastha, including three of his friends, began selling their own custom designed t-shirts that best reflected Nepali youths. It wasn’t until 2016 that they opened collaborations with their customers to release custom-designed apparels.
Kayastha said, “The customers themselves insisted us to print their custom designs on T-shirts. Recognising their interest, we immediately tapped on it.”
In the course of four years, he witnessed a rise in the trend of purchasing customised products either by individuals or by corporate houses mostly in special occasions and as souvenirs.
“Individual expression and social relationships are of greater value to people these days,” he said that individuals have begun preferring unique prints that best reflect themselves than wearing something widely found in the market.
But since the trend is slowly seeping in and the culture of customisation yet to take over the market, they are mindful of providing personalised experience at an affordable price so that their products are accessible to all.
It is not only Custom Are Us who enjoy corporate customers. Kayo Studio, a handicraft company which develops, designs and manufactures various exclusive handmade products, has provided its service to K.L. Dugar Group, Mega Bank, Etihad Airways and Gymkhana to name a few.
Prasanna Shakya, one of the co-founders of Kayo Studio, knew customisation was always a point of attraction globally and Nepali’s traditional way of doing business was not supporting them to compete in the global market. Having ancestral roots in the handicraft industry, the team decided to introduce product innovation in Nepali handicraft market through customisation.
“It has been our unique strategy to promote Nepali handmade goods internationally. We are redefining the gift giving culture by adding value through personal touch,” he said.
Kayo’s customised products mirror our rich cultural history and have been promoting traditional artisans and craftsmanship worldwide. But it is not only Kayo who has been making an impact through customisation.
ButteyMatka is another creative initiative that aims on upcycling waste clay pots to turn into custom-painted indoor-plant pots. Run by two agriculture students, Poonam Bhatt and Sudikshya Devkota- the duo came up with the idea to upcycle waste clay pots when they saw kulfi matkas being thrown at Patan Durbar Square area. Their aspiration to flourish the culture of indoor plants backed by customisation helped them clearly differentiate in the market.
Poonam said, “Each customer is unique and comes with a certain image in their mind. Since we paint, customisation can be as small detailing as size, color, shade, tones and messages. We fulfill their wishes that mass production can not.” She added that satisfying customers through customisation has added customer loyalty and built an emotional connection with them.
Being flexible to customer’s interests has helped them progress in their small step to reduce carbon footprints.
The majority players in the Nepali customisation market consist of the sellers of merchandise, promotional items, and gifts, but it is not limited to them. YoungInnovations, DeltaTech, Sarvanam allow for development of customised software applications. Customised Furniture Nepal, CNC Craft, MetalWood produce custom-made furniture.
While some businesses solely run with customisation as their core competency, some realised that their business could not sustain without customisation only once they came into operation.
Fitbox, a subscription based healthy meal delivery service, uses customisation to add value in their end product. Its founder, Denim Shrestha, realised that while selling something as specific to everyday healthy meals, people want a great degree of customisation as preferences, food allergies, meal time, fasting options differ on individual basis. To retain their customers, Fitbox had to customise its meals as an operational process despite not being their initial intention.
“Opting for customisation was completely demand-driven for us. When we realised that being health specific needed customisation, we did not delay because we knew there was a market for it,” he mentioned.
Sadichha Shrestha, former Miss Nepal World and a user of Fitbox agreed to Denim. “Everyone has different fitness goals, but achieving them needs additional conscious effort in food preparation which people might not be able to commit for. But when you have a customised healthy meal box that meets your personal needs, it helps you stick to your plan,” Shrestha, who is also a fitness enthusiast, told The Post.
According to her, many other customised businesses too are being able to grasp customer loyalty by creating an emotional appeal. Customers repurchase the service and market through word of mouth, and if they are satisfied with the first purchase, they are less likely to go on searching alternatives.
Menuka Gurung, who purchased a customised jewellery for herself from Maya Handicrafts, shared that customised products helped her be exclusive in the crowd. Enjoying the flexibility these businesses offer, she is also proud to be associated with a brand her ethics best aligns with.
She added, “Businesses sell stories these days. And while customisation captivates customers emotionally, impactful stories they sell through their social media alongside also act as a magnet.” When both of these went alongside, brand loyalty was bound to increase for her.
Coming to social media, all interviewing businesses and customers agreed that increase in the reach of customised businesses was highly dependent on internet usage penetrating in the youths today. The businesses mentioned that the majority of their customers come from the youth age group so the most appropriate targeting happens through social media.
Prativa Paudel, a user of Kayo, mentioned, “Since customised businesses are booming, I am highly reliant on social media to research on the brand before any purchase. It is easier to know the product line, compare prices, and most importantly, check on customer reviews.” All youths The Post talked to, consisted of conscious buyers like her who have exploited social media to the fullest for purchasing decisions.
Jiten Shrestha, Programme and Portfolio Manager at NEXT Venture Corp— a business accelerator programme, accredited the improvement of technology in the rise of customisation trend. “It has allowed companies to increase their range of variations in production or service delivery without increasing the cost per unit in the same proportions it used to before,” he said.
Shrestha, who witnessed a larger number of applications from companies that provide such services than the last few cohorts, said that BusinessToBusiness (B2B) sector is seeing substantial rise in customised services than BusinessToCustomers (B2C).
He concluded that increasing competitive behaviour amongst companies has forced them to provide something different and customisation has been aiding them to give a competitive edge.