Dainik Bhaskar Unmetro: Are unmetros behaving like metros?

By Sohini Sen , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Marketing | April 27, 2015
Starcom's Mallikarjun Das, Aegon Religare's Amit Kumar Roy, Apollo Health's Neeraj Garg, Dentsu's Ashish Bhasin and IMRB's Deepa Mathew discussed the way unmetro consumers have changed and how it affects the marketing ecosphere.

Dainik Bhaskar's Unmetro Conclave saw some of Mumbai's biggest marketers discuss and debate on who exactly the unmetro consumer is. In a panel discussion, chaired by Mallikarjun Das, CEO India, Starcom MediaVest Group, panellists tried to decode the science behind the unmetro consumer's decisions. The panel comprised Amit Kumar Roy, chief distribution officer, Aegon Religare; Neeraj Garg, CEO, Apollo Health & Lifestyle; Ashish Bhasin, chairman & CEO, South Asia, Dentsu Aegis Network and Deepa Mathew, group business director, IMRB International.

In response to Das' question about what the data looks like for the unmetro consumer, Deepa Mathew shared that, in the past four-five years, metros have seen a higher penetration of durables. However, surprisingly, the growth is happening in the unmetros. For example the sale of microwaves and refrigerators have increased more in the unmetros, as have various FMCG categories like food and personal care. Curiously enough, instant noodles are being consumed equally by metro and unmetro consumers.

Mallikarjun Das, Neeraj Garg, Ashish Bhasin, Amit Kumar Roy and Deepa Mathew in conversation at Dainik Bhaskar Unmetro Conclave

Mathew also pointed out that there have been distinct lifestyle changes in both metro and unmetro consumers. She observed that there were similarities between the aspirations of a metro and an unmetro consumer. According to IMRB's wallet monitor study, the amount spent on entertainment versus food in metro is higher than in unmetros, but the share from the total spends is same in both areas. However, a marketer must be sensitive to the fact that value systems may be different for both metro and unmetro consumers.

Mathew further said that, while demographic and psychographic segmentation is important, marketing is also about how brands make the consumers feel. Since segmentation is moving away from traditional forms, it is important to look at how unmetro consumers consume, and not what they consume. Mathew also underlined the importance of women in decision making in the unmetro markets. For example, she pointed out that women now decide how much to save, how much to invest even if they don't directly decide where to invest the money. With more women working outside of their homes, they have also started looking for convenience. They often purchase FMCG products themselves, which was not the scenario a few years earlier.

According to Apollo Health & Lifestyle's Neeraj Garg, the discretionary income in the unmetros is growing rapidly, along with increasing internet penetration. According to Garg, unmetro consumers are more brand loyal. It is also financially less expensive to reach them. For Apollo, Garg shared, marketing is a local decision. Local people - those with better knowledge of an area - decide the media choice. While in Gorakhpur a SMS marketing format may work, the same can be seen as intrusive in Dehradun.

Speaking about media, he said that mobile television is the future. This format is good at targeting, while traditional TV or print will not be able to enjoy the same benefits. In his closing remarks, Garg said that there is more homogeneity in customers in the metro markets. But, in the unmetro market, it is heterogeneous, people aspire for more variety. Since the unmetro consumers are willing to pay a premium for the same product, they deserve the same kind of look and feel, the same kind of product that the metro consumer gets.

Ashish Bhasin said that a combination of social factors is bringing about changes in the consumption patterns of unmetro consumers. While he agreed that aspirations are identical in both metros and unmetros - television, mobile and internet have played a huge role in raising the 'aspiration' quotient. According to Bhasin, some marketers are acting on these changes, while some are missing the point. One of the key problems, he feels, marketers face is the fact that the key decision makers are all sitting in metro cities. Thus, they are disconnected with reality and, therefore, are missing the value addition.

Bhasin also does not feel that data and measurement stacks up. For example, on television one does not measure below a certain level. Similarly, for print there is only partial measurement, while for OOH there is none in the unmetro areas. There is, according to him, no real significant data which can help. However, he does feel that, in five years, print will become more local as more and more people would be interested in what is happening in his own region and locality, not so much in the country at large. In TV too there is likely to be more interest in local language and content, and community radio may also start becoming popular. Bhasin also commented that there is no homogenous entity like the 'unmetro'. It would, therefore, be a fallacy to have an 'unmetro plan' for any marketer. He feels that, from a communication point of view, marketers can be a bit patronising and tend to dumb down the communication for unmetros. This is not required, because the unmetro population is smart and more conscious of where the money goes.

According to Aegon Religare's Amit Kumar Roy, in an unmetro market, it may take more time to create awareness, but it is also possible to enjoy the return on investments much more. When Aegon introduced online life insurance, it wanted to figure out that even while propagating life insurance online, did the TG perceive it that way? What they figured out was that, while print advertisements and OOH didn't work so well to spread the word, a Raam Yatra and various other road shows worked better for the unmetros. Thus, now the marketing plan includes ideas that locally appeal to the senses, the values and culture.

Roy observed that, while conventionally it is thought that the unmetro consumers would not want to try out new things and move away from tradition, in reality, they are more willing to take risks. They are also well-informed, even if the information comes from different sources other than research. They certainly are backing their aspirations with the affinity to try out more.

In closing, the panel declared that the unmetro market is no longer something brands can ignore. It has grown by leaps and bounds, and the consumer there is just as aspirational as the metro consumer. Knowing how to reach them is the key for marketers.

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