Ashee Sharma

"4G is not just for the urban elite": Sunita Bangard, President - Marketing, Idea Cellular

A look at the brand's latest marketing push in rural India.

Telecom brand Idea Cellular, which is known for its socially-relevant campaigns, is back with the 'What an Idea' thought in a new ad that aims to take 4G to rural India. It talks about 'reverse migration' from cities to villages while addressing the imbalance in population that exists between rural and urban India.

The TVC shows a girl who comes to her home in the village only to find out that a majority of the young have left for the cities to earn a living. Perturbed, she decides to bring them back. She sets up a small business to generate employment in the village and promotes it digitally using Idea 4G. Her father returns to the village to be a part of the business, and that's how the campaign, conceptualised by Lowe Lintas, establishes the importance of democratising 4G to empower the lives of rural Indians.

"4G is not just for the urban elite": Sunita Bangard, President - Marketing, Idea Cellular
But given that 4G is still a nascent phenomenon even in urban areas, why would a brand think of taking the service to villages?

Since August, last year, when Airtel announced the nation-wide rollout of its 4G services, the 4G landscape in India has become quite crowded with major telcos stepping into the scene. As the Airtel girl and Vodafone's pug battled each other on the advertising front, Idea brought on-board model and popular television actor Vikrant Massey as the 'gadget-guru' to tell people 'what's the big deal about 4G' in its #BiggestSmallChange campaign. Then came Jio with its brand ambassador, Shah Rukh Khan.

"4G is not just for the urban elite": Sunita Bangard, President - Marketing, Idea Cellular
In an
about how Idea's #BiggestSmallChange campaign was different from others, Sashi Shankar, chief marketing officer, Idea Cellular, told afaqs!, "It is not designed for people who are not using the internet. We wanted to talk to those who are already on the internet and convey to them how using 4G will make their experience enjoyable."

But then, wasn't everyone talking to them - the internet users? So what more or different could Idea do? Probably leverage its strength; it's 'rural leadership', which offers a new and not fully tapped user base.

"4G is not just for the urban elite": Sunita Bangard, President - Marketing, Idea Cellular
Sunita Bangard, president - marketing, Idea Cellular, says, "The adoption of technology, particularly in the Indian telecom sector, has not been linear. Many people first experienced internet on their mobile phones which are, today, available for a price as low as Rs.3000. The adoption of 4G is also not going to be linear. 4G is not just for the urban elite. New users, rural or urban, will definitely want the latest technology, provided it's relevant for them."

And therefore, the aim of this campaign is to establish the relevance of 4G in rural areas. In the past, Idea has taken up issues such as education for all (IIN campaign), caste bias, and environmental concerns among others. This time it chose to address the lack of employment in villages, and show how 4G can offer a solution.

"All our communication is about growing the category. Our brief was structured around the company's business requirement of increasing mobile internet penetration. How can we take this new technology - 4G - to maximum number of people?" shares Bangard.

Recall that last year when Telenor Communications, which was operating in India under the brand name 'Uninor' since 2009, was rebranded as Telenor, Upanga Dutta, CMO - Telenor India, told afaqs! "Our customers (the mass market) are not very tech-savvy and use data for basic social messaging. They want affordable services in a manner that is easily understood."

While Bangard seems to agree with Telenor's line of thought to an extent, she believes that the onus of growing the category, in terms of user base and the kind of usage, is on the industry.

Sharing the example of farmers who look to the internet for 'mandi' pricing and weather forecasts, she states, "If our ad targets urban users who know what the internet can do for them, the experience of using 4G is what we talk about. But for rural markets, we have to build use cases, one such being employment generation. It's quite simple. If you don't know how you can use the internet, you won't use it. Right now, the rural masses understand WhatsApp and Facebook, and so they are on these platforms, but we want to show them how the internet, enabled by 4G, can make a productive difference to their lives. 4G is soon going to be the new age infrastructure."

Bangard informs that the 360-degree campaign will be heavily promoted on Doordarshan in order to reach the masses. It will continue to run for two months.

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