IRS banks on the Census of 2001

By , agencyfaqs! | In | June 17, 2002
The Indian Readership Survey banks on the latest Census to get an edge in its report

The Indian Readership Survey (IRS), 2002, produced jointly by the Media Research Users' Council (MRUC) and its partner research agency NFO MBL India, has based its samples on the Census of 2001, and sees this as a key advantage over other surveys. The MRUC claims that this gives the study, which would be released soon, a crucial advantage over any other similar survey. "In any national study of this nature, the basis is extremely important. Unless the latest data is incorporated into the sample sizes, the universe itself is completely wrong. All research estimates you study hereafter can only be valid if the Census data has been adopted to accurately reflect reality," says Roda Mehta, chairperson of the MRUC Technical Committee.

The survey has looked at state, city, district and population stratum-based samples, and argues that a careful analysis of the population in each geographical unit, as well as the profile of this population in terms of demographic break-ups, is critical to ensure that the estimates in any large-scale sample study are kept on track. Certainly much has changed over the past decade. IRS 2002 will thus be the first study to incorporate the growth of India's population to 102.7 crore (or approximately 1 billion) people in 2001, compared to 83.8 crore (or 838 million) in 1991 - a growth of 22.5 per cent or 2.13 per cent over the last 10 years.

Speaking exclusively to agencyfaqs!, Mehta outlines to what extent the data in Census 2001 is different and how that may impact the way marketers deal with consumers. The IRS 2002 will be based on urban agglomerations according to the Census 2001 and takes into account rapid urbanisation. While 25.7 per cent of the population was urban in 1991, the proportion today is 27.8 per cent. The changes are extremely significant as one percent of India would represent an all-India figure of 1.02 crore.

So how is the IRS 2002 different?

The study will report 40 metros as compared to 28 in the last IRS. At the state level, new reports will be available for the three new states of India - Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, and Uttaranchal. The information collected from 227,045 respondents spread across 976 towns and 2,885 villages makes the IRS 2002 one of the largest surveys of its kind in the world. The IRS also has updated it rural survey, started in 1997, to include such new parameters as information on frequency of visits to post offices, mandis, dhabas, dispensaries and melas.

Further, across the 22 states of the study, there are 62 socio-cultural regions (SCRs) - which are regions with similar geographical features, income flow patterns, language and dialect - leading to similarities in social and cultural environment. In a move that is expected to benefit marketers, SCRs such Konkan, Marathwada, Vidarbha, Khandesh in Maharashtra and Bundelkhand, Braj, Rohelkhand, Bhojpur in Uttar Pradesh, have been studied.

The survey will also report on the 40 cities individually. Among the key findings that have been incorporated into the new report are:

The rise and fall of cities: While the number of cities has increased, some towns have declined in rank, being pushed into the status of villages. Ten years ago there were 23 cities with population greater than 10 lakh; today they number 35. Across the board, there are 580 more towns recorded in the latest Census. While there were five cities with a population of 40 lakh or more in 1991, there are now seven cities. And towns with a population range of one to five lakh have risen from 243 to 316. Urbanisation has made a greater impact on India's larger cities. Not only have the number of large cities grown, so has their share in India's urban population.

IRS 2002 has also taken into account factors such as the different rates of growth of different cities, and the widening of city boundaries. Among the metros, Mumbai's population increased by 30 per cent over 10 years, Delhi by a high 52 per cent and Bangalore by 35 per cent. Chennai and Kolkata have increased less dramatically, at 18 per cent each. The 'mini-metros' that have grown rapidly are Surat (77 per cent over 10 years), Faridabad (71 per cent), Nashik (59 per cent), Jaipur (53 per cent), and Rajkot and Pune ( 51 per cent each).

While some towns were born in the last 10 years, many were relegated to rural status. The number of towns stands at 942 with 324 towns reverting to rural status and 38 towns having been merged. Of this, as many as 418 (or nearly half the national number of the 942 new towns above) were created in Tamil Nadu alone. Two-thirds of the new towns created in India over the last 10 years were just in four states - West Bengal (113 new towns), Maharashtra (78) and Uttar Pradesh (45) in addition to Tamil Nadu.

As for towns being de-classified, there were 324 since the last Census. Of these, half were de-classified in just three states - Andhra Pradesh (70 towns), Gujarat (57) and Karnataka (38).

City boundaries have also changed. Some cities like cities like Mumbai have grown vertically, not having added any significant new areas into its Urban Agglomeration (UA) over the last 110 years. Delhi has expanded to include 35 areas, Kolkata 16, Chennai 13, Bangalore 17 and Hyderabad 5. Smaller cities like Coimbatore have nine new areas and Patna three.

Such changes, chronicled in the IRS 2002, are expected to influence consumer behaviour, such as the buying and consumption of media products. Changes in sex ratio, for which the national average today stands at 933 against 927 in 1991, have also been incorporated into the sample size.

However, some media planners feel that while the IRS survey does have an edge, it will not mean that it will become the 'de facto' report that is consulted. "Basically, with the basic data different, it is very difficult to say if one survey or the other is better. Even within the same demographic sample, there are individual differences, and media planners' decisions are also based on some other considerations. These include the ease of operation, the kind of comfort level that clients have, and whether the variance is due to the variance of samples, or due to the weightage given to factors such as the homogeneity or heterogeneity of the sample," comments a senior media planner based in Mumbai. © 2002 agencyfaqs!

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