Into India1 Apr, 2008 By: Doug McPherson Response
When it comes to Asia, China is far from the only game in town. In fact, some say India is the new hub of growth, and that it's giving China a run for its money as the place to do DRTV business.
And insiders say that universal element of wanting to look and feel good is at play in their purchase decisions. "Vanity is alive and well, especially among the wealthy and aspiring market segments," says Priya Ghai of Guthy-Renker India.
Plus, Ghai says Indians are beginning to use credit cards more. "While COD remains a standard method of payment, people are embracing debit and credit cards for purchases, maybe moreso amongst the younger generations, but that's important because more than 70 percent of the population is under 35," Ghai adds.
And they're perfectly fine with rolling out the welcome mat to Americans — especially Americans — and their way of life. "During the past few years, India has become more and more Westernized," says Tony Sziklai, president of Moulton Logistics Management, a fulfillment company in Van Nuys, Calif. "They speak English in commercials to show they're advanced and can keep up with Western trends."
Sziklai says they also put an American spin on things because of a national desire to look and feel like a first-world country. "They also place a lot of trust in American products, and they sell very easily," he adds.
FDI May Rise in Indian Media
But Sziklai contends that while commercials in India today look a lot like ads shown in the U.S., the country is still fairly conservative. "The commercials that appeal the most to consumers there are the ones that stress cultural values or ideals," he says. "There isn't anything inappropriate or overtly sexual; it is all very respectful of the Indian population."
Welcome to 'Chindia'
With all the growth and changes, some say India is on the lips of business leaders now more than ever — sometimes even more than China.
"The new term is 'Chindia,' but increasingly, despite the impending Olympics in China this year and the rise of India globally over the past few years, we see India coming to the forefront in many business discussions across different industries," says Nicole Ali, vice president of international sales for Northern Response Intl. Ltd. in Toronto.
India by the Numbers
Ali says India has set the stage to give China a "run for its rupee" for two reasons: hope and survival. "The hope is it'll be a hotbed of viable resources and innovation, and that [it will retain] the resilience to survive and flourish despite the odds stacked against them," Ali says. "Add to that democracy, upward mobility, tremendous talent for IT solutions, entrepreneurship and both local and foreign investment and you've got a breeding ground for heavy competition where China is concerned and ultimately excellence as the two nations duke it out."
Ghai says India is less challenging to enter than China — from a DRTV standpoint — for these reasons:
It has much easier access to media, with more to come.
Business is conducted in English.
It has plenty of call centers.
Indians spend and Chinese tend to save — Ghai says, "India is a very price-sensitive market, but also highly brand conscious, which for Guthy-Renker is perfect."
Indians recognize and admire American stars — "It's pro-American," she says.
Stefan Kuhne, Ghai's counterpart with Guthy-Renker in China, says India's lawmakers are more favorable and supportive of DRTV than China's.
"China is well ahead of the game, but the legislators there have so far not really created a favorable environment for a healthy DRTV development," Kuhne says.
He says that's due to state-ownership of TV in China and the role TV plays in China. He adds that some DRTV operators are testing the legal borders for what can be sold and claimed in a DRTV spot.
"Sometimes, some black sheep are stepping over this border extensively, which results in restrictions for the industry as a whole," Kuhne says. "Legislation is very often vague and handled differently in different provinces and for different channels. While I am strongly convinced that the Chinese consumer is very receptive to DRTV, the whole industry is still being treated with great caution by the relevant authorities."