Ananya Pathak

"There's a disconnect between the Hindi speaking belt & luxury brands”

IndiaTV's Sudipto Chowdhuri talks about the gap between 'Hindi' and 'premiumness'.

When we speak of luxury brands or services, why is it that our thoughts automatically associate with the English speaking consumers, English news/movie/business channels, and glossy magazines with 90 GSM paper? Why do we not think of the Hindi speaking nationals or the ones with lower literacy? Is it because we assume that they do not aspire for premium brands or have a lower hand in the monetary sense?

IndiaTV's Sudipto Chowdhuri, executive president – sales, talks about the relevance of the Hindi speaking belt who are usually ignored by luxury brands in his presentation titled 'Class Brands, Mass Prescription' at the Great Lifestyle Brands – conference and awards organised by afaqs! on November 15, 2019 in Gurugram.

Sudipto Chowdhuri
Sudipto Chowdhuri

“We're talking about a fact that whenever we speak of great lifestyle brands or about premiumness or expensive products and services, we always talk in English. Somehow there is not a Hindi connect in this particular market. Not that we are doing anything wrong but the question is ‘Why?’,” he began.

Chowdhuri says none of the marketers would be able to survive in India if they do not understand Cricket or Bollywood. A die-hard fan of Hindi cinema himself, he shows a clip from the movie Ferrari ki Sawaari (2012) where an agent is trying to find a Ferrari on rent for her client who refuses to get married if he doesn't go to it in a Ferrari.

Explaining the relevance of the clip he shares that whenever we talk about luxury brands, we talk about SEC A, SEC A1 and so on. The 'SEC Classification' is the classification of Indian consumers on the basis of parameters. It is used as a market segmentation tool in India. Traditionally the two parameters used to categorise consumers were: occupation and education of the chief wage earner (Head) of the household. Later on, though education remained as one of the parameters, occupation was replaced by the number of consumer durables owned by the family.

In context of the film, the agent finds out that the model of the car she is looking for is owned by Sachin Tendulkar. A point to note is that Sachin Tendulkar wouldn't classify as SEC A as per the definition as one needs to be a graduate/post-graduate to qualify as SEC A.

Aspiration and conspicuous consumption

Chowdhuri feels that there are two main pillars on which they base their decision when they go for/to buy a luxury product. He says, “There are a whole lot of people in the market who have the aspiration for luxury products and have huge amounts of money but probably they do not communicate in English in their daily lives.”

He opines that we need to try and look beyond English communication. “People in MP, UP, Punjab have a lot of money. However, if you relate this to the literacy rate of the particular geography, you'll find that 25-35 per cent of people are not literate at all. And within the literate batch it is hard to segregate the people who are comfortable speaking in English. You miss out completely on that segment when you talk about print.”

He goes on to say that a lot of luxury brands advertise on television. Citing the example of IndiaTV vs English genre viewership he shares that the viewership of IndiaTV is 23 times higher as compared to that of all English channels put together. Talking about all English movie channels he says that IndiaTV enjoys six times higher viewership. Against all English business channels, IndiaTV is 211 times higher. If you put all the three together, IndiaTV is 5.68 times higher in terms of viewership.

How do we reach out to consumers who have aspiration and money but do not consume English?

He believes the world of Hindi news is a sure shot tool for it. Elaborating this with an example, he says, “BMW has always been advertising on Hindi news channels. We have this pre-set perception that the environment around Hindi news channels is not for luxury brands or that the brand may not look nice advertising on a channel where other small brands advertise too. But we need to keep in mind that even in Hindi print media there are ads of luxury brands placed alongside those of other smaller brands.”

He goes on to add, “When we advertise on TV we are particular that ads of none of the competing brands is seen immediately after ours. If that happens there will be a dispute. But the case is not the same for print ads. One can see ads of different luxury brands co-existing on the same page.”

From the sales perspective, the two key criteria for a marketer when advertising are: 1) profile and 2) reach. We have a perception that whenever we attempt at gaining reach, the profile is on the downside and vice versa. However, Chowdhuri says it is not so.

He explains, “If you choose Hindi news, there is a solid balance of reach and profile. A decent reach between 85-100 million and an excellent profile as well.”

Advertising environment

“The perception is such that on Hindi channels the ads are of 'lohe ka sariya' or 'chaddhi banyan’ level. But that isn't true. IndiaTV has a huge pool of brands running campaigns, including KIA, SONY, Galaxy S10, Bajaj, Voltas, Honda, BMW, Ford, Colgate, Dove, Coca Cola, and Bacardi. There are premium brands that are advertising on Hindi news channels and they seeing massive success,” Chowdhuri reveals.

Smart Scheduling

It is assumed that it is easier to schedule a print ad in a particular manner on a particular page but the same isn't possible in TV ads. Sharing the ad customisation rule at IndiaTV he reveals that ads are divided into different categories (A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2...) on the basis of the brand and the quality of the commercial. “An A1 category ad will never be scheduled with a C2 category ad. You get the right kind of advertising environment. Still, many of us do not give Hindi news channels as much importance. But we must look at the category to open new doors,” he says.

Chowdhuri plays a clip on Ben Sliney, former United States Federal Aviation Administration National Operations Manager. Sliney's first day at work was September 11, 2001. When he walked into the office he was informed that there were several planes in the air space that were being controlled by terrorists. Nobody knew out of the roughly 5000 planes in the air space which were they. Sliney gave the order to land every plane in the air over the U.S. at the time. This was an unprecedented act.

“I sincerely feel that a lot of marketers when deciding to advertise look at what others in the category are doing. They even follow the same advertising medium as the rest of them. They fear taking risks. Ben Sliney's is one example that unprecedented decision-making pays off,” he says.

In summary:

  1. People in UP, MP, Maharashtra, Punjab/Chandigarh, etc. have immense purchasing power.

  2. A substantial segment out of those people don't consume English.

  3. Unfortunately many luxury brands ignore these audiences due to absence from Hindi/regional medium channels.

  4. Hindi news reaches this segment and delivers extremely well.

  5. Hindi news channels provide right the balance between profile and smart scheduling.

  6. Taking risks pays off.