OlgivyOne finds India tough challenge

NEW YORK/BANGALORE – Response rates in India are 50 percent higher than in the West and are “one of the fruits India offers US direct marketers,” Bill Jeffway, OgilvyOne’s worldwide account director in New York, said.

Another is the huge wealth buried among India’s desperate poverty. “Bombay has more millionaires than Beverly Hills and India has the largest stock of gold in private hands – more than 7,500 tons. More Scotch is sold in India than is produced in Scotland,” he said.

Clearly, they are OgilvyOne’s target audience for the range of branded companies the agency handles in India: Brooke Bond Lipton, Pond’s India, Airfreight-DHL, Direct Home Shopping, The Economist, Birla AT&T, Ciba Vision, Tata Teleservices and TVS Electronics.

Most consumers are very open to direct mail, Nalini Guhesh of OgilvyOne’s Bangalore office said, “and look forward to receiving direct mail,” one explanation for the high response rates. Mail box clutter is limited to a few population segments, e.g., users of premium credit cards.

But wealth and direct mail responsiveness are offset in India by the lack of an adequate DM infrastructure, raging red tape and a fragmented and poorly managed list business.

“The list sector is not really organized. India is not a well-documented society,” Guhesh said. “There are no unique numbers to identify individuals. Added to this, name and address structures vary from region to region. Deduplication is therefore cumbersome.”

The postal system does a good job covering most of the country but is not responsive to the needs of of the direct marketing industry, she added, although there is some recent evidence that India Post’s attitude toward DM is changing.

Telemarketing is growing as a medium but is still slowed down by unreliable telephone systems and cost.

“Phone numbers in some markets keep changing. Long distance tariffs are expensive making it uneconomical to centralize call centers. Rolling a telemarketing exercise therefore takes time,” Guhesh continued.

Although more than 220 million people in India live below the poverty line – a figure close to the size of the United States, he added.

OlgivyOne, opening an Indian office in 1987, was the first direct marketing agency to experiment in the country. The company now has operations in Delhi, Calcutta, Bombay and Bangalore.

Since then, others have followed suit, including HTZ Direct (JWT), McCann Erickson, FCB Ulka, Corvo Draft and this January, Wunderman Cato Johnson.

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