In a country that pretends that the disabled don't exist, Big Bazaar's initiative is positively revolutionary. Will it pressure other retail chains to respond?
On March 18, The Times of India's front page featured a full-page ad saying -'Big Bazaar is now, sabke liye'. The ad showed a differently-abled girl, sitting on a wheelchair, visibly happy with her shopping experience. Through this ad, the brand claims that over 140 Big Bazaar stores (located in metros and non-metro cities) offer wheelchair-friendly ramps and trial rooms, shopping assistance, free home delivery, and priority check-out counters for shoppers who need them.
The print campaign, created by Creativeland Asia, has become quite popular with people tweeting and sharing it on the various social media platforms. The complete campaign will be live by mid-April.
However, before the campaign was launched, the brand was working on the idea for two years, seeking advice from consultants and experts to get it right. The whole process was divided into three segments:
(i) Physical Infrastructure - This includes constructing ramps, re-modifying washrooms and trial rooms, adding handlebars/rails, special counters, assistance desks etc.;
(ii) Operation - Organisationally wheelchairs need to be maintained and should be operational; and
(iii) Training - Sensitising and training Big Bazaar employees to ensure that they understand the needs of all differently-abled customers.
"If one spends time with a differently-abled person one would understand that people with disabilities don't want to be treated differently. And that's the sensibility we want to develop in all our employees," says Jishnu Sen, chief marketing officer, Future Retail.
He adds, "We want to get better and better every day and keep learning from our customers. And as the ad says - It's just the beginning. We still have 160 stores to go."
As far as choosing print media is concerned, the brand feels that 'Retail' works best in print. Hence, the brand chose all editions of The Times of India to advertise so that the campaign is visible to all.
Learning from the past
Big Bazaar was launched in 2001 by Kishore Biyani, founder and CEO of the Future Group. Indian actress Asin and former captain of the Indian cricket team Mahendra Singh Dhoni have been endorsers for the fashion vertical of Big Bazaar. Currently, Big Bazaar has more than 350 stores in over 180 cities across the country. The brand is a major advertiser and invests significantly in all media formats - TV, digital, radio, print, and OOH. Fashion Big Bazaar (FBB) is a co-sponsor of the current Indian Premier League (IPL) season that kicks off on April 7.
The brand is also known for its big-sale days - January 26 and August 15. This year, on Republic Day, Big Bazaar did a one-day preview of its wheelchair-friendly store for two differently-abled customers. The brand also created a sign-language video for the hearing-impaired and sent out mailers. Workshops were also conducted for the visually impaired.
The brand hasn't assigned any capital expenditure to revamp Big Bazaar stores. Instead, they aim to keep one thing in mind that when a Big Bazaar store is built, inclusivity remains the key focus. For this, the brand has procured logistics - wheelchairs, cushions, stools etc. to help the differently-abled and the elderly.
"People like me and a lot of stakeholders, may have wanted to advertise about such initiatives a long time ago when the first wheelchair-friendly store was ready because it's every advertising agency's 'dream come true' kind of a brief," says Sen.
"We can now say that Big Bazaar has reached a critical mass of both activity and physical infrastructure and that this messaging has to be shared," he adds.
For Big Bazaar, it wasn't a 'need, gap filling' kind of campaign. "When we do our media planning, it's an all adult kind of plan. We take an instinctive mix of mass reach," informs Sen.
We asked the experts if this ad/initiative will put pressure on other retail chains to provide an inclusive shopping experience to customers.
Aditya Jaishankar, co-founder MAAD - Make Awesome ads, feels that the ad enables Big Bazaar to boost its perception of being the most customer-friendly and inclusive store. And that it will definitely put pressure on rival brands.
However, he maintains, "Keeping in mind the content of the ad, a powerful digital film or even a TVC would have tugged at the heartstrings of the consumer and enabled the brand to break clutter better. In today's day and age, print as a medium seems to have its limitations as compared to long-format digital films."
On the other hand, independent brand consultant Anand Varadarajan believes that a good creative always stands out. It is not a question of shouting louder.
"Not all advertising is about sales. This campaign helps build a brand personality and makes it relatable. In an undifferentiated category, when you do not have a USP, you import attributes which can be used to differentiate. Importing a social message is a good strategy," Varadarajan concludes.