People rushing by. From one end to the other. Or clustering. At train stations. Bus depots. On the busy streets. Thousands of potential customers.
Everywhere, someone is peddling something. Hawkers sell flowers, magazines, plastic goods, pirated software, VCDs, cameras, clothes, Chinese made watches, and dozens of other stuff. In fact, the estimated annual turnover of Mumbai's street vendors is Rs 6,000 crore.
But it is not only the city's hawkers who sell on the streets. There are hep young men and women too, students out to make some pocket money, unemployed graduates working for whatever they can get, housewives chasing that extra buck. And they sell everything. From sachets of coffee to credit cards.
Consider the advantages Mumbai enjoys. A more or less straight layout, a limited number of key road crossings and junctions, a convergence of people at many places. And traffic jams and bottlenecks galore. Mumbai traffic moves at a speed of 12-km-per-hour in the rush hour - the same as Bangkok.
In a city like Mumbai, people either come from the north to the south or the other way round. In a city like Delhi, people do not just come to an office. They converge on it. From various directions. In a typical office, some people would be from south Delhi. A few from the west. Others trans-Yamuna. The story is similar in other big cities like a Kolkata or a Bangalore.
To a media planner, or a prospective marketer, this is a logistical nightmare. Delhi-based P V Narayanamoorthy, regional director, strategic media resources, Carat Asia-Pacific, puts its succinctly. "Mumbai has a few clear advantages vis-à-vis any of the other big cities. One, access routes are limited and traffic flows in a straight north-south/south-north direction. The circular spread of the city of Delhi makes it very difficult for an advertiser to map it. At the end of the day where do you position a human billboard or a mobile unit? If you need 20 units to cover Mumbai effectively, you would need double the number to cover Delhi. The cost involved in mounting the operation goes up correspondingly."
Narayanamoorthy says the media planners' dilemma is compounded by the nature of the traffic. "The key issue is: Where is the space to put up these units? Traffic is so chaotic in Delhi even the sidewalks are used by the two-wheeler riders to get round the snarl-ups. So you can't use them to peddle your ware without interrupting the flow of traffic. To top it all, there is the issue of the speed of traffic. Delhi traffic is faster than Mumbai and hence, there just so much time to drive home your message."
So is Mumbai the best for outdoor sales promotions? Does its concentration of people - 16 million and growing, all squeezed into a bit of land and fortified by the sea - mean that marketing outdoors is easier?
Opinions differ. Some analysts and marketing executives point out that though Mumbai does have considerable advantages geographically, a lot of outdoor promotion - 60 to 70 per cent according to some estimates - is all about knocking on doors. Direct marketing outdoors is door-to-door campaigning, rather than road- or junction-based marketing. "Though at first sight it seems that there is an advantage due to its geographical location, direct marketing is all about contacting people, and in that, you cannot discount the importance of one-on-one promotions," says a senior marketing consultant with Mumbai-based DIREM.
Yet the layout of the city makes even that task easier. For example, a marketing field executive based in any part of the city, can reach the distribution centre much more easily. "For me, it is just a small walk from the station to the main distribution agent of the area I cover," reveals a field marketing agent of Cadbury's based in the city. It could be any marketing executive anywhere in the city. Elaborates Jagdeep Kapoor, managing director, Samsika Marketing Consultants, "Mumbai has a tremendous advantage. A marketer, by merely travelling by train and getting down at every station, can cover a huge area. His mobility is enhanced several times."
So, how does the direct marketer convert the topography of Mumbai into a commercial advantage? Does outdoor vending have anything to do with the peculiar consumer behaviour in India's business capital as well?
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