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Musings of an Undercover Economist – Visit to a barber

Everyone has his/ her favourite hangout place; be it the corner Irani restaurant or tea stall or the garden bench to catch up on neighbourhood gossip. For me, it’s my monthly visit to my barber. His shop was started by his father and then he was introduced to the business. He has been around for over 30 years now. He knows residents from my housing colony and keeps himself abreast with the ongoings within the vicinity. His shop is appropriately called “Up-to-Date”. He will fill you up on who is moving out of the colony or who is back from the USA visiting the family or which buildings are under redevelopment discussions so on and so forth.

During my recent visit, I came across the VI-John brand of shaving cream on his shelf. I recalled seeing Shah Rukh Khan endorse the brand on TV and being curious to know more, I got into a conversation with him about his preference for this brand. That leading question was enough of a trigger for him to get me Up-To-Date on how this brand  at just Rs 40 a 125 mg pack was the most economical v/s a Gillette Rs 125 or Godrej Rs 150 for a similar pack. He also volunteered to share how his shaving business had nose dived making him buy just 6 packs pm v/s 12 packs pm earlier. 

As I mulled over this nugget of information, I wondered  what could possibly be the reason for such a sudden drop. Being a fan of Tim Hartford and having read hisUndercover Economist”,  I donned my “undercover economist” hat and before I realised,  my imagination took wings – could it be due to cricket having transformed the brand endorsements scene? My arguments in favour of this thesis – With the introduction of different formats like the T20, IPL, ODI and Tests, cricket is being played almost round the year.  

It has taken  a form of family entertainment which, like the movies, draws an audience cutting across the spectrum and with television being the medium, the reach is  right to the homes across nooks and corners of the country. The advertisers have caught onto this and the result is visible in the recent bidding for the IPL media rights. Over the 2008-17  bidding season, BCCI has been able to increase the revenue nearly 6X from a mere Rs 8,000 crore to over Rs 48,000 crores.

With this, the influence of cricketers as brand ambassadors has started to compete with movie stars. The net result is visible in what my barber is experiencing in his business. You might ask how? It’s the fan following of cricketers who now are celebrities – With Virat Kohli and rest of the Indian cricket team espousing a beard, keeping a beard or atleast a stubble is no longer considered unkempt, it has become a fashion statement. 
Besides the influence of celebrities, another key reason has been the COVID pandemic. The resultant Work-From-Home (W-F-H) has allowed men to experiment with their looks by taking the liberty to try out the Virat Kohli look.

As a result of the growing preference for a trimmed beard over a clean shave, has led to rise of do-it-yourself (DIY) grooming. Teenagers and office-goers are frequently using trimmers to maintain their desired beard styles. This can be gauged from the run-away success of Beardo which started in 2015 as a direct-to-consumer brand offering products for beards, which is a Rs 2,000 crore market and gradually evolved into a men’s grooming company.

Suddenly my train of thought was disturbed by my barber as he completed the head massage and he woke me up from my lull with an announcement that the job was done. As I was all set to admire my new look in the mirror, the undercover economist in me connected the dots and became convinced that W-F-H and the power of celebrity endorsements being the key factors for the nose dive in his shaving customers requiring him to buy just 6 packs pm v/s 12 packs pm earlier. Much as I  was happy in finding a possible answer to my mundane curiosity, it also brought forth the vast set of uncertainties that influence any business, which one may never be able to fathom or factor . Anyways,hope this blog encourages you to try and discover the undercover economist in you too. Cheers !!

Acknowledgements- My Friends Ashish Parulekar and Sheetal Nagle for being a solid member of my blog support team.
P.S To read my other blogs on Cricketing / Corporate Tales; Start up stories; Covid Times; Friends, Family and Marriages go to the Home Page


Published by Salil Datar

Eager beaver , enthusiastic but amateur blogger !!

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