Missing head and tail of Indian business literature

India has an unlimited supply of enterprising stories from legacy brands to regional players but while literature on established brands may be easily available, smaller players often don't have that benefit

Harsh Pamnani
Updated: Jul 2, 2021 01:37:24 PM UTC
Image: Shutterstock

In 2004, Chris Anderson, the former editor of Wired magazine, introduced the long tail concept. It showed that as long as the distribution channel is large enough, low-demand products can collectively make up a market share equal to or larger than the market share of a few bestsellers.

For instance, on Amazon, you will find many books that are not available at offline book stores. These not-so-popular books are part of the long tail strategy. Perhaps, the collective sales volume of these books would be higher than the sales volume of some of the popular books on the platform.

Similarly, on YouTube, you will find many short films that are part of the long tail. The collective views of these short films could be more than the collective views of some of the blockbuster movies that are part of the head.


If you look at the Indian business world, thousands of large companies can be considered part of the head. On the other hand, millions of MSMEs (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises) can be regarded as the long tail. Now, let’s do a small exercise. Start from the head of the demand curve and move towards the long tail. During this trip, make a mental note of the brands that come to your mind.

Perhaps, in the early stage of your journey, you would meet brands such as TATA, Reliance, and HDFC. When you move further, you will perhaps meet brands such as Nirma, Raymond, and Dabur. Going further ahead, you might meet brands such as Balaji Wafers and Wagh Bakri Tea. But, don't stop here, keep moving, and you will perhaps meet brands such as Nalli Sarees. If you keep moving ahead, brands such as Karachi Bakery may come on your way. Move further, and you would meet brands such as Mumbai’s Haji Ali Juice Centre and Lonavala’s Maganlal Chikki. Please feel free to move ahead, as the list of exciting businesses in India is endless.

Out of all the brands present in the head, perhaps the maximum number of books are written around TATA Group. Sadly, it is hard to find much literature on many admirable brands present in the head. You may think that so many books are written around TATA Group because of its popularity. But you can't deny that these books and stories would have also contributed to the immense popularity of this group. It always surprises me to think that tIndian brands have a rich history, then why is substantial business literature about them not available?

Businesses in the long tail don't have resources like large corporates do. Yet, they keep innovating their business models, processes, and marketing strategies to attract and satisfy their customers. For instance, Mumbai's dabbawallas don't have resources available to Swiggy or Zomato, but they deliver tiffins with excellent accuracy. Arunachalam Muruganantham, a school dropout, didn't have world-class resources available. Yet, he developed the world's first low-cost sanitary pad-making machine and empowered women in rural India to create 1,000-plus brands of sanitary pads.

By now, you would have realised that India has an unlimited supply of enterprising stories from both the head and tail of the curve, but you might have some doubt about the readership. Let me introduce you to some of the target audience.

Teenagers: Most parents want their children to think big and achieve better things in life. However, many children remain busy watching YouTube videos and movies. Besides, social media dominates the reading time of today’s children. Our content consumption habits define our thoughts and our thoughts determine our actions. If real-world business stories become part of teens' reading habits, they will get familiar with many inspiring journeys and out-of-the-box ideas. If the seeds of inspiration and ideas are sown, a day will come when plants with flowers and fruits will emerge.

Young Adults: Many young adults who are interested in business join e-cells (Entrepreneurship Development Cell) in their colleges or go for MBA programmes. Unfortunately, every college e-cells don't have access to the right set of entrepreneurs. Examples of international brands dominate MBA curriculum in India. Every market is different. The way a brand is created and grows in the developed market like the US, can't be replicated in a developing and diverse market such as India. Moreover, the way brands were created in the pre-liberalisation era of India can't the same as in the digital age. If students’ study plan has a higher share of Indian business literature—biographies and case studies around new-age brands and business problems—then their maturity to deal with real-world problems would improve.

Entrepreneurs: Growth-oriented entrepreneurs are always looking for best practices around business models, supply chain, manufacturing, marketing, and talent management. They may have the vision, but they might not have access to top advisors and resources as large corporates do. I think local brands can take inspiration from a national brand. They would relate better with stories of local and regional brands, which would have grown with limited resources.

Employees: An entrepreneur can achieve growth when he has motivated employees with the right ideas and skills. However, as the consumer evolves, competition increases and business problems become profound. Previous experiences of employees become a bit impractical. Employees need access to stories with problem-solving approaches and best practices from other businesses to think out of the box. Undoubtedly, some business magazines and newspapers in India do a fantastic job of covering such stories. However, if everyone will look at the same limited examples, how will differentiation and competitive advantage ideas come about? I think we need a bigger pool.

Every month, a large number of people are added to India's job market. To create opportunities for these people, we need more growth-oriented businesses, more entrepreneurs, and more enterprising employees. To accelerate this shift, we need more business stories from both head and tail. The combined effect will create a growth engine and will make India shine.

The writer is the author of the book 'Booming Brands'. Views expressed are personal and don't necessarily represent any company's opinions.

The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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