Subhas Warrier
Mar 01, 2021

Opinion: The broken rusk theory

Based on an innovation he witnessed during the pandemic in Kerala, the author has a dare for marketers in the consumer packaged goods and durables categories

Subhas Warrier
Subhas Warrier
Kerala is known for its bakery culture. Legend has it that the early day’s influence of the Anglo food habits brought out an enterprising community of people who learned to bake their own bread and cakes. Hence the ubiquitous bakery in every nook and corner of the state. So much so that half the Mallus cannot do without fulfilling their daily appetite for puffs and a host of regional savories such as Unnakaya, Pazham Pori (the famous yellow banana fritters) and such varieties.
Most bakeries are run by the Christian community and each town has its own favourite bakery. There are local brand names making their mark and one such bakery goes by the name Mango, Mango Bakeries in Thrissur. 
The usual fare is of course bread, cakes, cookies, banana chips, jackfruit chips and then you have the age old classic ‘rusk’ generously strewn with nice black and brown raisins. Dip it into your tea or milk and enjoy the crispy hard baked piece.
We are a regular household for rusks, a must for a family with elderly people. They are so habituated to rusk with tea, rusk is almost the second staple food after rice. So surely, we had to drive a hard bargain where possible, right?
In the post pandemic era the rusk purchasing habit gives us some insight into switching SKU’s for a substantial price benefit. A regular 500 gms pack of rusk costs Rs. 90. When Covid emerged I noticed the option of a pack of ‘broken rusk’ for the same 500 grams for Rs. 50. Obviously, this was a ‘no brainer’ and since then all these weeks, I have been picking up the ‘broken rusk’ pack. The other day I went back for my regular purchase of ‘broken rusk’ and I noticed that it was not available. The sales guys stated the predictable, that apparently the demand for the broken rusk has superseded the regular whole rusk.
So, if I was to expound on this theory here are some examples that I would bet on…
1. The obvious straight would be the ‘broken biscuit’ pack?
2. In garments – seconds sale is common in ‘brick and mortar’ shops but have you seen a similar offer coming your way in the thousand feeds online?
3. The Broken Pair Sale – this will be pairs of slippers or shoes. Who cares what pair of slip-on colours, you wear to your bathroom? Remember the 2014 season of the World Cup. Players were sporting 2 different colour boots on the field. However, this did not trend in common usage but why not?
I have a personal parallel on this when I lost one piece of my favourite cuff-link pairs! I started mixing up!
Now, this in itself is a great innovation for product categories that are trying to find a differential whacko-space but for traditional business model you can push dead inventory for a price benefit, yet serving the purpose in the case of rusk and make it look fashionable in the case of the cuff-link. The latter of-course needs a bit of ‘balls’ but the former is easily doable? 
On the sustainable ecosystem there are number of players for sure who produce low cost products. One that caught my attention is Vapasee. They have some interesting products which can save few dollars for tasteful Interiors. There is a growing tribe called the Genऋ * (Gen-Re). who are doing amazing stuff on this front. There are plenty of options for companies to develop SKU’s with a cost-saving motive as well as add a social manifesto to their marketing philosophy.
So here is a dare for some of you…
For CPG: 
Take out a layer of packaging (some are already doing this especially in the ecommerce platform). Publicise this fact in the packaging itself to show how we are taking few steps to help keep personal, non-discretionary expenditure low for the customers. A great goodwill equity building opportunity. Even better if you can add a recycled packaging, where possible.
For durables:
Buy a watch without the strap? Yes, why not? Pick a less expensive strap from a watch repair store in the neighbourhood. I know there is a bargain to be made. Ask Vapasee or the Genऋ people and they might find you a recycled strap which is uniquely made for you alone.
We are suckers for bargains. So can we go on a ravishing appetite for bargains that can blow away the pandemic aftermath out of the window?
Rejoinders welcome!
The author is Bluesman, at Sensibly Weird Company
Campaign India

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