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Dainik Bhaskar Unmetro: Future of growth is 'Bharat'

By Rashmi Menon , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Marketing | September 12, 2013
Marketers are trying innovative methods to tap into the vast market of Unmetro customers, a market which is rapidly showing its spending power and catching up with the metros.

In the last few years, smaller cities and towns have seen unprecedented growth, which at times have been at par with the metro cities. Not surprisingly, even the brand marketers have noticed this phenomenon and have been focusing on penetrating and tapping this new market. Dainik Bhaskar Unmetro's panel discussion, 'Taking the long view', discussed how marketers are trying to break into this emerging market, which shows the same aspirations and wants as that of metro dwellers. The event was held in Mumbai on September 11.

From left: Vinod Mahanta, Vidmay Naini, Sandip Tarkas, Sagnik Ghosh, Sandeep Pandey

>Moderated by Vinod Mahanta, editor, Corporate Dossier, The Economic Times, the panel comprised Sandeep Pandey, principal partner, business planning, Mindshare, GroupM; Sagnik Ghosh, vice-president and head, marketing, Axis Bank; Sandip Tarkas, president (customer strategy) and CEO (Future Media & T24), Future Group; and Vidmay Naini, head, retention marketing, eBay.

Starting off the discussion, Tarkas said that whenever they set up a store, they try to figure out the catchment that will use the store and adapt accordingly. He added that while there is growth in metros, the future will come from 'Bharat' or non metro cities and towns, considering that a large chunk of the population still resides there. On the other hand, India is urbanising at a rapid pace and, therefore, there is a desire to segment.

However, unlike the traditional marketing classification that looks at different consumer segments depending on their socio economic backgrounds, the online adopts RFM (recency, frequency and monetary) classification, said Naini of eBay. "While affordability, awareness and aspiration were there, access wasn't there. Now, with the ecosystem in place, the barriers between metro and non metro is fast disappearing," Naini revealed.

Even in terms of media spends, increasingly, brands are investing in regional channels and the print space to communicate to their consumers in the last two to three years, noted Pandey.

Speaking about online presence, Ghosh said that Axis Bank has an entire strategy for online adoption in non metros. "Recently, we have seen de-growth in the percentage of metro to our website. However, for us, physical presence is equally important as it generates trust and credibility. So, it is a mix. In the last one year, the percentage of growth has been going down in metros and going up in cities like Jaipur and Indore," Ghosh said.

With regard to value and price, which are distinctly different, Naini said that people in smaller towns and cities are willing to pay for something they want or have limited access to. "Given the right availability and access, they (consumers in Unmetros) are willing to pay the price," he added.

Non metro consumers score high on loyalty. Ghosh said that if these consumers are served well, they are more loyal than an educated consumer in the metro. At a local level, Ghosh asserted, relationships and behaviour towards the customer counts a lot. Naini added that lack of choice, too, makes non metro consumers loyal, as long as the brand services them to their desire.

Referring to the metro and Unmetro classification, Mahanta asked whether marketers who joined the profession from elite institutions with little ground knowledge resorted to this classification. Tarkas added that while many marketers nowadays do a lot of research, nobody focuses on quantitative research. Blind planning based on data without any first-hand experience of the market may lead to failure; one could make calls that are not entirely true to ground realities, Tarkas warned.

Towards the end, the discussion moved to a few innovations carried out by the speakers in non metros, which have worked for their respective brands. Naini said that expanding the reach of logistics, integrating shipping solutions, making the website accessible to a range of mobile handsets and making payment easier, along with assurance of protection of transaction by eBay, worked for the brand.

In the case of Axis Bank, the business correspondent model helped it to create connect with rural and semi rural consumers. Under this model, the bank partners with telecom brands and ensures that customers can walk into telecom shops, create an account and remit money. This facility was a hit with the non-metro customers.

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