Dainik Bhaskar Unmetro: Small towns are not scaled-down versions of cities

By Ashwini Gangal , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Marketing | September 12, 2013
Pradeep Dwivedi of Dainik Bhaskar delivered the opening remarks at the day-long Unmetro conference held in Mumbai. One of his key points was - Unmetro India is best regarded as a separate market in itself and not as a scaled-down version of mega-cities.

The Mumbai leg of Dainik Bhaskar Unmetro, an afaqs! event, began with a quick introductory talk by Pradeep Dwivedi, chief corporate sales and marketing officer, Dainik Bhaskar. The objective of his talk was to introduce the event title and touch upon some basic areas of discussion, for the benefit of the speakers who came up on stage after him.

Pradeep Dwivedi gave opening remarks at Dainik Bhaskar Unmetro in Mumbai

He spoke about the increasing advertising and marketing spend in Unmetro India in the recent past. Some of the towns he mentioned in this regard are Indore, Bhopal, Chandigarh, Jaipur and Ahmedabad. His presentation, largely an impromptu monologue, set the stage for the discussions that followed through the day.

Given our current economic turbulence, the consumer sentiment across the nation, Dwivedi noted, tends to oscillate between "despondence and exuberance". The point of bringing up the economy was to highlight the fact that these changes tend to impact the metros much more than smaller towns. "Thus," he reasoned, "Unmetro India is largely stable."

Offering some clarity on what 'Unmetro' means, he gave the audience a term to consider: 'Middle Economy'. This, he said, is the large zone between urban and rural India. This segment of the market, until recent times, was neglected in that it was either considered to be part of rural India or a 'wannabe urban' segment. Neither of these two perceptions is true. Fact is, Unmetro India is a separate market altogether; one that is growing, resilient and here to stay.

Sure, consumers from this area do tend to be 'aspirational' in their outlook, but no more than those from mega-cities like Mumbai and Delhi, who in turn aspire for all that is 'bigger and better', in their own way. As many of the speakers pointed out through the day, it is wrong to think of consumers from small town India as being drastically more aspirational than their urban counterparts.

This zone, that we have come to call Unmetro India, is a crucial one for brands and marketers because a lot of sustained demand for goods and services comes from this section of India. And, one of the characteristic features of this 'Middle Economy', Dwivedi reiterated, is its ability to stay fairly stable in the face of economic adversity. This was an important point because economic uncertainty and recession-like downturns are events that typically cripple urban India.

Until recent times, instances of brands investing disproportionately in Unmetro India was just anecdotal evidence but over the years, as Dwivedi added, this has evolved from becoming not just a trend but a market reality. "At Dainik Bhaskar, we try to convey the aspirations of Unmetro India to marketers," he said. Marketers need to stop seeing Unmetro India as a scaled-down version of urban India. Rather, they ought to recognise these regions as markets in their own right. A related tip is to stop "tweaking" one's brand marketing campaigns (originally crafted for urban India) and then running them in smaller towns.

In fact, based on unique consumer insights from these regions, marketers should design separate marketing campaigns for non-urban India. The needs of the small-town consumer are more nuanced than most people realise; marketers need to understand this and create separate campaigns for these regions. "We must see Unmetro India as a market in itself," asserted Dwivedi.

With that, Dwivedi laid the foundation for other speakers and panellists. And, what followed was a day full of presentations, discussions and interactive Q&A sessions with the audience.

For the record, this was the second edition of Dainik Bhaskar Unmetro conference. The first one was held in Gurgaon last month.

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