Iamai readies India for 'The Digital Era'

MUMBAI: As a developing nation, India has only recently discovered the bountiful prospects that digital technology brings in its wake. Providing a forum and a platform to explore the benefits that of what some experts says is "The Digital Era," the Internet and Mobile Association of India (Iamai) organized a day long seminar titled ‘Digital Marketing: Are you ready for it?‘

Sourcing professionals from across the industry, the schedule for the event sought to address multiple issues that India is grappling with in adapting to newer technology. Kick starting the day were pioneers in this field including Yahoo! India MD George Zacharias, BharatMatroniny Group CEO J Murugavel and founder and CEO Ajit Balakrishnan providing insight on ‘What the medium is and what it can be?‘ Following which four panel discussions explored the effectiveness, the creativity factor, brand building propositions and promotional marketing efforts that the medium offers.


A concern for many is ROI deliveries that the new medium will provide and Tribal DDB India country head Leroy Alvares promptly admits that when using the internet - relevance, originality and impact (ROI) play a critical role. Highlighting the benefits that ICICI have experienced in using the internet, head corporate brand Tina Singh says that because financial products are ‘information heavy‘ it proves to be expensive on other mediums as compared to the internet, but it can provide greater consumer engagement online. "What differentiates the medium is that it integrates the customer response into the systems giving us an upper edge. Therefore, internet accounts for 1/5 of our customer acquisition costs and 1/10 of customer service costs as opposed to using some other channel. In March 2006 internet transactions have increased to 18 per cent, from 2 per cent in 2000." adds Singh.

Highlighting another advantage of the internet, Rajshri Media MD Rajjat Barjatya spoke of the power of using video to enhance the consumption of the internet as it allows the user to personally define his experience on the net. This session was moderated by Pinstorm Technologies Ltd founder and CEO Mahesh Murthy, with additional inputs from Citibank head eBiz Special Initiatives Srinivasan Rajagopal and Taj Hotels Resorts and Places director internet marketing Ashok Lalla.

Moving onto the debate on whether ‘Creativity is an impediment on the Digital Medium,‘ the moderator for the discussion WPP India country manager Ranjan Kapur said that we have entered the realm of ‘co creation‘ of content, brands and values, with the $150 billion company Google , whose impact has transformed the entire digital landscape into what he calls ‘Before Google and After Google.‘


Leo Burnett National creative director KV Shridhar, popularly referred to as ‘Pops,‘ emphasised the influence of the internet as giving birth to a "second life" for the user. While BC Webwise CEO and MD Chaya Brian Carvalho introduced the audience to what she calls the Five I‘s of the Internet (Indidvidual, Infinte, Impulse, Interactive and Information).

Ranjan concluded the session by saying that the opportunities the medium provides will see a rapid transition of India into this new digital era and refuting all claims that state that it will kill the traditional advertising agency by 2020, similarly ad agencies will get morphed into a separate identity.

From a brand building perspective, the case study that was repeatedly emphasized at the event was HLL‘s Sunsilk Gang Of Girls community building campaign which now commands a life of its own. HLL general manager media services, Unilever South Asia Rahul Welde validated the effectiveness of the campaign saying, "Apart from fuelling an increase in sales growth and market share, it enhanced the imagery of the brand transforming it into a modern female youth (18+) brand. The internet is cost effective as opposed to traditional media and we are willing to put serious money behind it as it is the fastest growing area that we are willing to play in."

GroupM COO South Asia Vikram Sakhuja forsees that the digital medium will grow from currently comprising 1 per cent of the ad expenditure to 3 per cent in 2010 saying, "Digital is going to be the single largest enabler to drive a shift from an age of interruption to that of engagement."

Although, Yahoo! India director advertising sales Pearl Uppal says online media is indispensable for its inherent interactive potential, she believes that an adequate measurement system is lacking. However, Welde countered that, "I would not agonize about measurement at this stage but rather over the dearth of creative ideas. There should be a greater concentration towards ideation when using this medium."

The last session addressed the issue of promotional marketing through digital media, however two panelists Hungama MD and CEO Neeraj Roy and Kidstuff Promos and Events president Jai De Costa were unable to be present.

With the seminar largely tackling the online space, the scope of mobile seemed to be overshadowed, but as the country progresses towards digitization, of which it is only presently scratching the surface, forums such as these would be beneficial. Nevertheless, lessons from early risk takers in the digital space were lapped up by students and companies eyeing the potential of this medium.

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