Friday, July 17, 2009

Coins and Consumption!

There is something very close to coins and consumption – the ubiquitous small round ones that could buy many things in this country. “Annas” moved away from the system before I was born, but I still remember seeing and using the aluminum 5 paise and 10 paise coins – have actually bought toffees outside my National English School in the erstwhile Madras! And then there were the 10, 25, 50 paise and Re. 1 coins. A lot could happen with this One Rupee Coin those days, and probably even now. In the ‘90s, telecom companies used this opportunity very well – to urge people to make calls from the PCOs – Re.1 for a three minute call... One could see the colorful “weighing machines” in public places – for a coin, a one rupee coin, you could check your weight and the weighing slip would have a nice message on its reverse! And then the Confectionary companies used them so well too – chocolates, toffees and bubble gums and more for just Re. 1. A lesser known South Indian company launched “Halo” Shampoo sachets, for just Re. 1. And then the world biggies in India followed suit. Rest is history, that sachets were part of mainline production for most Indian and International FMCG companies in India. A Rupee was almost the bare minimum, whether it was given to someone seeking alms or to the Almighty inside places of worship.

By the late ‘90s, this was slowly being replaced by the Two Rupee coins. Not for too long, as they were soon replaced with the new Rs. 5 coins in the new millennium. The economy was growing well, people were earning more than in the previous decade and there was basically more money in the system – more coins under circulation. Product manufacturers started to market their products around this price. The most memorable one was the famous Bollywood Khan endorsing a Cola and emphasizing on “Paanch” meaning, Five in Hindi. Needless to say, competition and complementary products followed suit. From confectionary to tooth paste sachets, from magazines to chips. Nestlé’s MAGGI, the most popular ready to cook noodle brand in India has been selling its smallest SKU for just Rs. 5, for many years now; only the quantity inside has been steadily reducing. Tea and Coffee at Fast food joints, including a plate of Idly or Vada Pav were following suit and so were telecom companies – this time around, placing ISD call rates at Rs.5 per minute!

Today, a five rupee coin is almost the same as a one rupee coin was 15 years ago! Almost everyone carries this around. While getting air filled for car tyres, people were shy of asking for return change and would thereby give a five rupees coin! I used to wonder, if this small boy who was filling air at the fuel stations was servicing 100 cars a day, that’s a lot of money!! To save and spend, of course.

Am sure many of you would have heard that there is a new Rs. 10 coin under circulation for some time now. I saw one today. Looks nice. Couldn’t dissect in detail; neither am I a metallurgist nor a numismatic. But was just wondering what the new Rs. 10 coin could do. Where would this lead to, say, five years from now. I would like to call this basic denomination as “easy currency” – something that doesn’t pinch while you spend, easy to carry and gets good value for the money spent. Let’s see what all this coin could do to Retailers – with the same examples as above.

Chocolates, could well go up the ladder in pricing, to the new “easy currency”. Keep more of the Dairy Milk and Kit-Kat near the cash tills and see them flying off the shelves. Chips and Wafers, that are already priced at this level, would see more throughput, especially nears schools and colleges – kids and adolescents would probably pick them up more than before. A host of other easy to consume products, from ice cream to jams, from tooth brushes to soaps, could be priced at this point. Easy Currency reigns.

The most famous and freshest natural beverage found in India, the Tender Coconut, will fit very well at this price point. Higher sales for this hawker; he gets to sell more than before and his family earns more than before. Milk, that’s currently priced between Rs. 6.50 and Rs. 8.00 per 500 ml would sooner than later move into this price point. And so would be the smallest SKUs of Cola companies. Ready to eat curd and tetra pack juices would see higher sales as people would see one coin per person. Intra-city transport companies (Buses and Metros) would have their fares in multiples of Five, thereby Rs. 10 being the average for city travel. Examples abound.

If making people consume more than before was so easy by introducing a new denomination, that too as a coin, then why didn’t the Government contemplate this much earlier – after all, the currency note in the same denominations has been there for years! My guess is as much as yours. Its common mentality, that the thicker one’s purse is, the more secure they feel. It’s quite common to see that most people around us change their wallets only when it starts to wear off – I mean, currencies start to spill out or coins fall off. Given the case, people carry small change always handy, and that’s where the “easy currency” plays the most important role. And most often, people hate carrying them, yet they must carry. And love to get rid of them as soon as possible. Only to carry some more. And the cycle continues.

The latest ‘easy currency” could get much more than what its predecessor could get and at a greater value for money. This is sure to succeed for some time to come now. Atleast in the Metros and larger cities. That the Re. 1 and Rs. 2 coins are still valuable in the rural and upcoming places is so true. They would take some more time, but will surely come to this pedestal soon. This blog came up when I saw the new coin this afternoon at office. Just seeing, was so tempting to use it as much. After all, coins increase consumption. And am looking forward to more of this; with me and those around. And see them spending. As always that I believe, consumprtion leads to growth.