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Global Perspective: DRTV's Growth in India Set to Explode

1 Apr, 2008 By: Richard Stacey Response

Marketers around the world continue to be enamored with the growth story of India. The country recorded its second straight year of 9-percent-plus gross domestic product (GDP) growth in 2007, while its stock market, as measured by the bellwether Sunsex, surged 39 percent. Yet, perhaps of all the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China), India is one of the most complex for marketers to succeed in.

Richard Stacey
Richard Stacey

It's helpful to think of India as a group of different countries rather than one homogenous nation. With more than 400 languages, dozens of religions, regional cultural differences and multiple political parties (220 at last count), India is unique. In some respects, its growth has not been as spectacular as some other emerging markets, like China, which is relatively homogenous and has therefore not had to wrestle with all these differences or with the "two-steps-forward-one-step-back" development that is often typical of emerging market democracies where politics can sometime intervene with growth. India has to answer to an electorate while China by contrast can change policies or decide to build a new factory without having to worry too much about politics.

India has a population of 1.1 billion, but one-third live below the poverty line. China, by comparison, has a population of 1.3 billion — but only one-sixth live below the poverty line.

There are about 15 DRTV companies currently operating in India. Some of these are smaller regional players, while a few are national in scope covering all the regions of India plus Sri Lanka, Pakistan and parts of the Middle East on satellite. There are no shopping channels in India, but many DRTV companies there have plans to launch their own channels soon.

The print and retail business is a very active part of the Indian DRTV distribution model with the larger players each having produced its own catalogs and set up its own networks of "As Seen On TV" stores throughout the country. Many also sell directly to established domestic retail chains. There are more than 50 retail chains in India with more than 200 stores each. There is discussion about regulatory changes that may see U.S. retailers like Wal-Mart enter the market.

Few foreign DRTV firms operate in India, preferring to distribute their shows through international syndicators or directly through local DRTV companies. One exception is Guthy-Renker, which has recently entered the market and operates out of New Delhi. Industry veteran Priya Ghai, Guthy-Renker's managing director in India, notes, "Guthy-Renker sees India as a lucrative market for its beauty products, like Proactiv Solution." The company has invested the past year in setting up its local operations and getting the required approvals and is now in the final stages of bringing its infomercials to air in India.

Two local DRTV companies that are achieving success in India are TELEBrands India and Asian Sky Shop. Both companies have been on the air in India for more than 10 years. Based in Mumbai, TELEBrands India operates nationally. Managing Director Hitesh Israni says that the business has grown tremendously over the years. "Generally, fitness and beauty products can be good sellers provided the price is attractive" says Israni. Airtime is available for both short-and long-form DRTV formats.

Asian Sky Shop is also based in Mumbai and is managed by Bimal Selarka, CEO-managing director. The company claims it has handled more than 1,000 products. "We have a very strong fitness business and are also growing rapidly in the retail distribution area," says Selarka.

Many of the products on TV in India are American DRTV programs overdubbed, but there are at least an equal number of locally produced DRTV programs as well. The same categories of products are represented that one might typically find on the air in the United States. There are different telephone numbers noted for different cities or regions and all calls-to-action include the option of Internet ordering.

Entrepreneurs in India say the opportunities to create wealth have never been greater and that the DRTV industry is one that is strong and vibrant and is expected to continue its tremendous growth in the coming years.

Richard Stacey is president and CEO of Northern Response Intl. Ltd. He's also a long-time member of the Response Editorial Advisory Board. He can be reached via E-mail at
or via the company's Web site at

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