Devina Joshi

Dhirubhai Ambani’s vision transforms into big idea for Mudra

Planning Reliance’s foray into telecom, Dhirubhai Ambani is believed to have said that a phone call to loved ones should be made cheaper than a postcard

It has been more than three years since the Reliance ADA Group ventured into the public call office (PCO) business, and advertising for this venture has finally seen the light of the day.

The agency on the account, Mudra, didn’t have to look far for the creative idea. It stemmed from a visionary statement once made by Reliance’s founder and noted industrialist, the late Dhirubhai Ambani.

When firming up plans for Reliance’s foray into the telecom space in the mid-1990s, Ambani is believed to have said that a phone call to loved ones should be made cheaper than a postcard. Years later, his statement has been resurrected in the form of a Reliance PCO ad that shows postcards and inland letters as redundant means of communication that have been replaced by phone booths.

Dhirubhai Ambani’s vision transforms into big idea for Mudra
The kids making boats
out of postcards
Dhirubhai Ambani’s vision transforms into big idea for Mudra
Chasing the boats
Dhirubhai Ambani’s vision transforms into big idea for Mudra
Rushing across to a Reliance PCO...
Dhirubhai Ambani’s vision transforms into big idea for Mudra
...a better way of communicating
“The phone is infinitely more personal than written forms of communication, as people can express themselves more freely and emotionally through their voices,” comments JS Mani, president, Reliance ADAG business, Mudra. Mani worked on the campaign along with Sukumar Menon, who wrote the copy, but is no longer with Mudra.

The agency was asked to bring out the fact that Reliance Communications is not just a mobile telephony company. Thus, each thread of its communication, be it about video conferencing, data centres or Reliance PCO, brings out this facet. Mudra came up with the ‘Discover Reliance Communications’ premise, which it has kept as a constant in all Reliance Communications advertising.

While that is one aspect, Mudra also had to work on a creative that brought to the fore the fact that Reliance PCO has more than 15 lakh PCOs across India, and hence, is a better and more empowering way of communication than postcards and inland letters.

The film opens on a shot of small boys sitting near the bank of a river, as another boy runs across grass fields to join them. They all sit together and make boats out of paper. On closer inspection, one sees that the kids are using unused postcards and inland letters to make boats, signifying that this is perhaps the only use left for them.

They then put these boats in the water, and follow them by running along the bank of the river. As dusk falls, there is a shot of a kid running to his mother’s side, speaking into the PCO phone receiver she holds out to him. The voiceover says that with 15 lakh PCOs across the length and breath of India, lakhs of Indians have now found a better way to stay connected. “Discover Reliance PCO, Discover Reliance Communications,” concludes the VO.

Mani says that while the core TG for Reliance PCO is the SEC CDE segment, the communication also hopes to target the working classes in urban areas, including taxi drivers, those in clerical jobs and low-income college students. “It may be surprising, but this user base includes those who own cell phones,” reveals Mani. They use their cell phones mainly for incoming calls (which are free), and use PCOs for outgoing calls.

The visual metaphor of children playing with paper boats made out of postcards has been used to convey that Reliance PCO has changed the paradigm of communication. “Back in his days, Dhirubhai Ambani felt the need to change the paradigm of connectivity at a time when cell phones were wildly expensive, and the private telecom space wasn’t very advanced,” says Sanjay Behl, head, branding and marketing, Reliance Communications. In a sense, he says, this communication is a tribute to what Dhirubhai believed in.

So far, five ads for each vertical of Reliance Communications are on air – Net Connect, PCO, Data Centre, Reliance India Call, and Video Conferencing. Behl reveals that another six are in the pipeline.

Vineel Mathew of Footcandles directed the Reliance PCO film.

According to Reliance sources who wish to remain unidentified, the total PCO market is valued at around Rs 7,000 crore, out of which Reliance PCO has a share of about 35 per cent.

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