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BW Businessworld

The Desi Opportunity For Outlanders

India, like most other markets, will always have the best of both global and local. The market is too big, too important and growing too fast for that to not be the case

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Local versus global — a debate that has raged in the Indian business economy for long, and continues to attract attention today as well. Some have dubbed it as desi versus foreign and some call it the David versus Goliath story. In either case, it always is interesting to see how local brands and global powerhouses have co-existed, finding ways of learning from each other, and growing in the process.

I still recall the conversations when detergent brand Nirma, one of the earlier examples that had triggered this debate, had just hit the market. Nirma was priced far lower than the other products in the category that saw competition from the likes of Hindustan Lever. During the initial period, HLL, now Hindustan Unilever (HUL), did not react to the launch. It observed the market space that Nirma had fast created for itself capturing the gap in the demand-supply chain in the detergent category. There evidently was a large market for that price point and HUL soon made its move and launched Wheel.

Could Wheel already be on HUL’s plans? Perhaps. But the launch of Nirma, and the concomitant insight of the market available at that pricing, benefited HUL in coming up with a successful product. Eventually, this opened up a whole new market for it. A learning that it would take to other categories as well. Global players are very good at what they bring to the table — they have research, data, experts, the budgets and really top minds guiding them in their decisions. That being said, there will always be those local players that will push global companies to make a move that they may otherwise not do, sometimes at the cost of missing out on an opportunity.

For long, we have seen this pan out much more aggressively at the regional level. MNCs are well-versed with the competition they face from regional players. These players have the local insight, a finger on the pulse of the audiences and an expert sense of the likes and preferences of the people. They speak the language and in most cases, they are looking to bridge a demand gap. They can be very tough competition that can combat on pricing, distribution and also marketing and communication — pushing the established players to innovate in order to stay relevant and ahead in the game.

For us, as the custodians of the marketing responsibilities of these advertisers, it is important to understand how we can help the brand communicate honestly, while staying true to its traits, with the consumers. Whether we represent a global player or a local giant, our duties are the same. The onus of understanding a brand, and working out the best marketing solutions for it, is on us.

In the marketing and advertising industry, local versus global has its own take. Primarily, the global advertising business is run by six key holding companies. Independents, the local entrepreneurs and other similar options in most markets form a smaller portion of the ad pie. While this is true for India as well, it does not mean that the advertising industry in India is bereft of the entrepreneurship spirit.

Creative entrepreneurs have always been present and important to the industry. This is, after all, the talent business. For someone who has the skillset, it is relatively easy to set up a creative agency, than a media agency. In the latter, the game is a lot about consolidation. Size and volume matter. But for creative and newer forms of media, the proposition is heavily dependent on talent alone.

But all agencies are here ultimately for the client. That is our chief role. And increasingly, we see marketers aligning with agencies in more markets than one. From a marketer point of view this is important for reasons such as ensuring similar quality of service or benchmarking in work or cost-effectiveness, among others. In that sense, it helps to belong to a network that has a regional as well as a global footprint.

Over a period of time, local entrepreneurs have made holding companies and their associated agencies stronger.

When we had acquired Communicate2, it was among the best agencies in the search domain. Over the years, under the iProspect name, the agency has only become stronger. The credit for this goes to the entrepreneurial spirit of the agency’s founder and its team, and also to the capabilities and international learnings that Dentsu Aegis Network was able to provide. It was the proverbial perfect marriage in that sense.

India, like most other markets, will always have the best of both global and local. The market is too big, too important and growing too fast for that to not be the case.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Ashish Bhasin

The author is Chairman & CEO, Dentsu Aegis Network South Asia

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