Desi Digital Cookbook: Why Digital Marketing in the Indian context is different

Whatever you can rightly say about India, the opposite is also true – Cambridge economist Joan Robinson.

We can argue that global best practices will work just fine in India – it’s an economy with 125 million English speakers, 300 million smart-phone users, more internet users than the US and almost the same number of Facebook users. But we can also confirm that there are numerous occasions when these global practices will collide against the reality of India and fail. Desi is an Indian slang for being local. Here are some of the contradictions that make being a #DesiDigital marketer so challenging. And such fun!

  • India is in the midst of rapid urbanisation,- by 2025, 120 cities will have matched today’s major metropolitan areas in average household income.The ‘Urban Mass’ in India represents a fourth of the total workforce with 129mn people. But the marketer cannot ignore the fact that nearly a 3rd of the richest 1% live in the countryside.
  • Delhi, the capital has amongst the worst air quality in the world – and yet its residents make 3x that of the rest of India. Smart marketers will have to connect the dots and see how they can relate disposable income to cleaner air solutions.
  • Our per capita income per annum will cross Rs 1 Lakh (approx $2,000 in nominal terms), yet the top 1% make at least that much in a month. So the marketer cannot view India as a homogenous mass. Even as the % of the absolute poor drops, the disparity amongst the new emerging middle class is steep.
  • Indians do not have the same drivers as other Asian countries – gold continues to reign supreme, weddings are a serious investment, and performance often trumps brand aspiration.
  • Online retail will continue to grow from a base of around 3% of total retail spend today to around 10% by 2025. A big shift is that digital will influence 1/3 of retail sales by 2025, making it imperative for brands to solidify their digital presence.

It’s a country that is home to over a 100 billionaires, but the vast majority of our billion residents have very little discretionary spend – so cost of customer acquisition must be commensurately very low. A lesson that many ecommerce players are learning the hard way, after burning crores to acquire customers who spend Rs 850 on general ecommerce sites, with the exceptions being travel and electronics. A low-spender stays a low-spender so it is important to structure your acquisition and delivery strategy around the right mix.

As a result of the low spending power there is huge emphasis on the value proposition – this often takes the form of discounting but other methods such as bundling, lay-away, couponing, member-get-member could be introduced with success.

Another factor that makes India different is the regional variations – each state and language has a rich culture that can be used for digital conversations. Regional IPL teams have seen great success as have regional movies such as Bahubali or Kabali. This local variation when integrated with clever marketing gives rise to a unique and distinctive narrative – as exemplified by chatbots ixibaba (by ixigo) and baap bot (by Haptic for Father’s Day) that have their own, desi sense of humour. The number of non-English users of the internet has overtaken English users and is growing at a gallop.

In a country where literacy and a multiplicity of languages is a barrier to universal text content, video is very popular. There are Youtube heroes and channels such as BeingIndian which have millions of views for their videos. And Indians spend 50 million minutes a day on WhatsApp video calls. Clearly videos should be a part of your digital marketing portfolio in India.

Goldman Sachs highlights seven key areas of consumption desire that capture the majority of total consumption expenditure: 1. Eating better; 2. Looking better; 3. Better home; 4. Mobility and Connectivity; 5. Having more fun; 6. Well-being; 7. Luxury. Marketers need to align themselves with these areas of interest and translate these drivers into their digital strategy. What worked in China, US or Europe doesn’t necessarily succeed here – the marketing graveyard is full of brands that blindly copied models from other firms. India is huge and a big growth opportunity but only for those who get their desi street creds right. You’ve got to walk desi, talk desi and think desi. Else it will be a case of lost in translation.

To help you with making the right #desi choices and get to know our amazing country better, we have created a #DesiDigital series powered by Pluralsight, the technology learning platform that helps enterprises Create the Future. In this series we bring to you digital marketing content that is useful, insightful and with a distinct Indian flavour. Let’s hit the road!

References:

http://indianexpress.com/article/cities/delhi/delhi-per-capita-income-3-times-more-than-rest-of-india-even-as-city-retains-top-spot-over-17-lakh-are-bpl-4657633/

http://www.livemint.com/Home-Page/QxSmwS3bn5alaoRMKexoKJ/How-much-the-richest-1-earn-and-spend.html

http://www.medianama.com/2016/04/223-zomato-online-food-ordering-learnings/

http://www.goldmansachs.com/our-thinking/pages/macroeconomic-insights-folder/rise-of-the-india-consumer/report.pdf

https://www.bcg.com/en-in/publications/2017/marketing-sales-globalization-new-indian-changing-consumer.aspx

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