Direct Marketing in India

Direct marketing in India For those who are considering tapping into the Indian marketplace, the author offers an update on the country’s diverse population, its technological advances and its overall potential for marketers. India is a country which has a rich heritage. In the rich tapestry that is India, there is diversification among its individuals, languages, cultures, religions and castes. The population in India’s five major metros consists of a middle and upper class.

The lifestyles and living standards are comparable to any advanced city in the world and there has been reformation in India’s economy, communication, globalization and its information transmission. Consumerism is on the rise not only in the five metros, but also in what is called class B & C cities (based on population), as well as in the rural/interiors of India. Most metros have a distinct heterogeneous and cosmopolitan market. The Indian market has a clear urban/rural divide. The money/power in the rural areas is phenomenal, while the agricultural dominance of India still persists. Areas of Growth in India

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There is a virtual marketing boom to meet the new demands in the consumer field. The major areas where the growth is greatest include the financial services, credit cards, automobiles, engineering and industrial sectors, home appliances, entertainment products and food commodities. In addition consumer durable and non-durable goods, packaging, communication and hi-tech electronics, agriculture, power/energy, water purification and hygiene products, hospitality, travel and holiday packages and fashion sectors are also experiencing major growth. These areas seemingly have captivated the marketplace due to tremendous demands from consumers.

Past problems like the heavy custom duties, import duties, personal and corporate taxes have all been rationalized and are comparable with the rest of the world. A trend towards a quality-conscious culture is blossoming in India. Marketers have been attracted by a dream figure of a middle class market of over 200 million Indians. With the presence of multinationals and the influx of many more, there is a welcome invitation for foreign investments. India promises to be not just a big market, but a great market, too. Being an English speaking nation, India is in line for most of the countries in the world to do business with.

One look at the macro level, one can find the dwellings in Mumbai (India’s commercial capital) consisting of mostly high-rise apartments with bungalows in the suburban areas. On the other hand, in Delhi (India’s capital) most of the homes are duplexes, bungalows and low-rise apartments. In western India, at Ahmedabad (center stage for enterprising businessmen)/Baroda (arena of professionals) one may find raw houses and duplexes. People in Pune (pensioner’s paradise) dwell in a blend of the above mentioned lifestyles. The lifestyle in India is changing fast, but there is still strong adherence to the important life values.

The citizens of India are still proud of strong family ties and of their rich and wide cultural heritage. The world-famous cereal marketers, for example, find the marketing of breakfast cereals a bit difficult in India because of strong conventional breakfast habits. Unless products or brands are fully agro based, the rural market will follow the urban and continue to adhere to the traditional. For those who are considering tapping into the Indian marketplace, the author offers an update on the country’s diverse population, its technological advances and its overall potential for marketers.

India is a country which has a rich heritage. In the rich tapestry that is India, there is diversification among its individuals, languages, cultures, religions and castes. The population in India’s five major metros consists of a middle and upper class. The lifestyles and living standards are comparable to any advanced city in the world and there has been reformation in India’s economy, communication, globalization and its information transmission. Consumerism is on the rise not only in the five metros, but also in what is called class B & C cities (based on population), as well as in the rural/interiors of India.

Most metros have a distinct heterogeneous and cosmopolitan market. The Indian market has a clear urban/rural divide. The money/power in the rural areas is phenomenal, while the agricultural dominance of India still persists. Postal and Telecommunications Considering the vastness of India’s geography, the postal system in India is one of the best in the world. It offers an excellent network of postal services spanning villages, towns and cities with a topography ranging from the northern mountains to deserts, to the backwaters of the south. The Postal Index Number code was introduced in 1972 by the Post & Telegraph department.

Under this arrangement, every main post office and sub office which delivers the mail have been allotted an individual 6-digit number. The metros have to their advantage various mechanisms of being able to cater to the rather fast-moving trend in those areas. One such availability is automatic mail-sorting machines. Mail is delivered twice daily to residences and workplaces. Post boxes are available for easy transfer and dissemination of the millions of letters sent. Generally, within-city mail reaches its destination in 24 to 48 hours, compared to taking three to four days elsewhere. Courier services are abundantly available.

All leading, international courier service providers have their offices and depots open at major business centers across the country. Historically speaking, India has had its own kind of courier service and has been in operation for several decades. Since the times of the Moghals and the British Raj, there was some form of courier service in operation. Courier services through railways are always economical. In some parts of the country, the system called “angadia” is popular. It provides the best value, but is only available in select locations and states. In the city, desk-to-desk courier service is available, ranging from Rs. /- to Rs. 15/- per letter pack. The delivery quality in terms of time and maintenance, is comparable to any other such service across the world. Telecommunications in India has taken a giant leap forward in the recent years. A few years ago, it was difficult to connect metros through Subscriber Trunk Dialing (STD), but now, the nationwide Public Call Office (PCO) offers STD and International Subscriber Dialing (ISD). The newly constructed telephone exchanges offer the best service in terms of calling efficiency. The 1-1600 standards is seemingly identical to 1-800 in the U. S.

Phone cards, call waiting systems, call transfer systems and modems easily operate through the system. Electronic billing, touch phone, conferencing (audio, and video through ISDN) is other features and facilities that are available for direct marketers to explore in India. Voice mail and fax machines have been very successful in the last few years, and the growth rate of fax applications for business and other professional utilities is phenomenal. Mobile phones and pagers are becoming popular as well. The Internet and Television India’s Internet service is provided by VSNL, a government organization, and s the only gateway available. Recently, the conditions were relaxed for Internet Service Providers (IPS) and soon private sector companies will start providing IPS. The Internet is becoming extremely popular with corporations, institutions, academicians, students and businessmen. VSNL offers a reasonably good user-to-line ratio. The lines support higher speed modems, at least in the major metros. A dial-up connection is mostly used, except for the corporate and select organizations who have decided on a ISDN facility. E-mail addresses are finding their place on business cards, mass media advertising and other promotions.

Spamming is not a big issue in India, although many of overseas companies, are sending unsolicited e-mails. Web sites, are introduced into the system every day in large numbers. Seminars, conferences, workshops and media campaigns are continuously dedicated to the benefits of being on the “Net. ” There are select content sites that have successfully implemented e-commerce services in select areas of shopping over the “Net,” but its use is limited. Tele-directory services, to provide data access based on query by the callers, also exist in metros and major cities.

Mailing lists in India are compiled from sources like directories, yellow pages, association lists, club memberships, stock exchange related materials, to name a few. Professional bodies provide a good and official source of lists. Club lists (when accessible) in select cities, provide data on people of a certain lifestyle. There are very few dedicated list developers and compilers, with most of the smaller companies dealing in list brokering. Corporate and large scale-marketing organizations are now investing in step-by-step database compilation. One may find several locations where data capturing activities are taking place.

Rates of mailing lists vary depending on volume and category. Credit card companies are using mailing lists the most, followed by automobile, finance and other investment sectors. Fund raising by mall is also becoming popular as a tool to promote resort and club memberships. Mass media options, both print and electronic are available in India under a wide range of options. There are over 20,000 periodicals published in India every year, and in all regional languages. The circulation of these periodicals varies from a few hundred to a few million. Papers from The Times of India and Express groups have gained national dimensions.

A majority of the successful publications are now having their papers translated and printed. The English language newspapers and magazines are still leading in terms of popularity in most parts of India. The segmentation of the magazine market may not be that high as in the U. S. , however, a wide variety of magazines under different titles are flooding the market. Circulation of most of the periodicals is from urban areas, with a meager amount from rural areas. The television network in India is growing and covers a major portion (over 80 percent) of the Indian subcontinent and offers only broadcast channels.

The government-owned “Doordarshan,” with several channels, offers better coverage across the nation than the cable/satellite channels. These are privately owned channels which try to compete with the national network. Thanks to television, consumerism has reached even tiny villages, providing a big market and great marketing potential to worldwide marketers. Practical Difficulties Most companies rely on the use of advertising to create awareness and interest; sales promotion to provide an incentive to buy; and personal selling to close the sale.

Direct marketing attempts to compress these elements to lead to a direct sale without using any intermediary. As described earlier, India is a different marketplace, but a competitive one at that. The social patterns, cultural heritage, literacy rate, economy, language, changing Indian customer, the mix of an urban/rural market, along with the basic infrastructure to support the offer/delivery/payments, as well as the legal system, are some of the important areas the international marketer must beware of. Above all, the products and services need to be “Indianised. In the metro areas the public respond quickly – by phone, fax, response card or coupon. They are always open to new ideas and try their best to take advantage of the offer/scheme/payment terms. In some regions where there is a dominance of a particular language-based population, communication in that particular language will produce better response. Most Indians have access to Hindi, the national language. Since most of the people in India still live in joint families, sometimes comprised of three generations, the cost per target is low. Further, people in India do not change their residences often, resulting in a high deliverability rate.

The post person and the system both are well-equipped to deliver the mails addressed in different languages. Telemarketing poses some areas of concern. Though it is doing well in metros and major cities across the country for consumer products and services, it will be a long time before it is accepted as means of reaching customers. Telephone answering machines are not as prevalent in India because of the joint family social system – there is usually someone to receive calls. The basic problem is one of language. Apart from English, there are many languages spoken.

If the person who receives the phone call is not comfortable with the language, the caller will never get a logical response. Due to the social and cultural patterns of Indian society, housewives generally are reluctant to talk in detail to someone unknown on the phone. People in India dislike receiving calls early in the morning, late evenings and on Sundays and other holidays. The acceptance of items ordered verbally on the phone, paying on delivery or paying by credit card by phone is not making its way through the Indian market. In the business environment, it is the same as everywhere in the world.

The language, time, purpose, frequency and attitude make the difference. Direct response television and teleshopping will do well from interior and semi-urban locations. Since products that people see via television, movies anti magazines are not available where they live, they now can order the product from a teleshopping network. Here, the delivery will be on receipt and on clearance of payment basis. This may take around eight to 10 days once one decides to buy and send the payment by demand draft or check. They will then receive the item(s) ordered, which could take another two weeks.

Some channels have started accepting payment on delivery. Few have opened the distribution outlets specifically for the items announced on television allowing for more accessibility. In the large cities it is estimated that the sales turnover will be a bit lower, since many more branded items are easily available. Mall order, for some of the same reasons highlighted above, will find it difficult to succeed in metros and large cities. The weather conditions are good enough year round for people to visit the stores and pick up the items they want. Credit card purchases for luxurious and gift items are minimal.

Often, people end up using the credit card as the “convenience card. ” Going out with the family or friends to shop is a pleasant social experience in India, and time is not at a premium like in the U. S. Many upscale shops and retail outlets accept payment by credit card, but still most purchases are paid in cash. In mail order, generally what you see is what you get, but sometimes that is not the case. Express delivery (within 24 hours or two days) is not always assured, and in case of a return there is a high amount of risk and minimal consumer protection.

The door-to-door sales method did remarkably well in India until recently. It was implemented without realizing the pros and cons of the system. As a result, residents started receiving many unsolicited visitors at their door. Issues of safety and security have complicated the method in both residential and commercial settings. Integrated direct marketing practices work well in metros and other cities for business-to-business marketing. The use of phone to generate inquiries (inbound or outbound), followed by sales visits or a mailing, is an accepted system of approaching customers.

Fax broadcasting is often used for event marketing and announcing special offers. For rural areas, television is the most important medium of passing on information. Meals (fairs) offer one-to-one marketing opportunity by sampling, free distribution of samples, demonstrations, limited period exchange offers, etc. Overall, DRTV and mail order are good propositions in the smaller cities and towns. India provides immense opportunity for all kinds of marketing. Its large and diverse population, along with its value system may create not only a challenge, but a wealth of untapped marketing potential.

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