Dainik Bhaskar in collaboration with the exchange4media Group on Tuesday organised a webinar for the series ‘Non-metros - Driving the Economic Resurgence’. The series focuses on how Tier II and Tier III cities in India are likely to emerge as drivers of growth.
The topic for the virtual panel discussion was: ‘All Eyes On Bharat: Growth Potential Unlocked’. The panellists shared insights on the changing demographics in media consumption across non-metros and also discussed the growth potential of those markets.
On the panel were Mr Girish Agarwal, Promoter-Director, Dainik Bhaskar Group; Mr Gulbahar Taurani, Vice President, Philips Personal Health, Indian Subcontinent; Mr Satyajit Sengupta, CCSMO - Sales & Marketing, Dainik Bhaskar Group; Ms Vaishali Verma, CEO, Initiative; and Mr Yadvinder Singh Guleria, Director - Sales & Marketing, Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India Pvt. Ltd. (HMSI). The session was chaired by Dr Annurag Batra, Chairman & Editor-in-Chief, exchange4media Group & BW Businessworld.
Mr Agarwal commenced the virtual session by highlighting how the markets in non-metros bounced back. “The September GST collection has shown a growth of around 3% over last year.
Now most importantly in all the markets especially Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Bihar, the growth is on an average of around 10% over last year. That clearly shows the market has come back sooner and with more vigour than all we all thought about it.
As human beings we get pessimistic much faster, and we get optimistic also equally fast. So while in the months of April and May, we all thought that everything is almost dead and will it recover now. But from July onwards, things have started recovering. Categories like consumer durables, healthcare and two-wheelers among others have seen a huge demand and that clearly indicates that consumers want to consume.”
Explaining further, he said that a lot of savings happened during the lockdown as compared to normal times. “In the last 7-8 months, many other expenses were reduced as schools were shut, travelling was not permitted and thus people have saved a lot during that period. As for the newspapers, very clearly all the Indian language newspapers and I’m very happy to announce that right from Kerala to Uttar Pradesh to Madhya Pradesh to Karnataka, all these markets and Indian language newspapers have come back to almost 85-90% of their pre-COVID levels and for advertising we have come up to almost 90% of last year.”
Speaking about leveraging the festive season, Mr Guleria anticipated that India and Bharat together will shine in the upcoming festivals. “With the unlock 5.0 in place, the urban market has also started opening.
So once you see the results of October, even though it is a wholesale number, it is with anticipation of a productive festival ahead of Dhanteras and Diwali, which I call the ‘4Ds’ - 2Ds of the festival has already gone i.e. Durga Puja and Dussehra and now the 2Ds are left are Dhanteras and Diwali.
As far as the first 2Ds are concerned, it’s so far so good, we have seen positive retail sales. And the moment of truth is always retail, rather than the dispatch number. So, we were in positive retail from the first Navratri up to Dussehra and that has brought confidence as well as optimism for us that during the balance 2Ds, we will see another spike in increased need and propensity of the customers to go in for their individual personal mobility and not public transport.”
He further said: “Secondly, more sectors have started opening up and people have started moving out because of Unlock 5.0, which has also increased the need for mobility as there is no vaccine around and social distancing needs to be maintained. In this backdrop, we believe the push from rural has increased tractor sales.
Monsoons were good and the MSP of the previous crop has been well, and Kharif sowing has been good too. So there is positivity in Rural whereas Urban too is opening up. So both put together, not only Bharat alone, India and Bharat together are now expected to shine in the upcoming festivals.”
According to Ms Verma, non-metros have seen a big potential across categories. “Bharat, which is defined by the tier two or tier three cities, has seen a big potential across categories, even for a lot of digital companies.
Almost 50 to 60% of the sales of e-commerce giants this festive season was from tier 2 and 3 cities and 60 to 65% of the sellers who came on the platform were from tier 2, 3 and 4 cities.
So, this makes us believe that the resurgence of the economy has been primarily from these towns and cities. Of course, at the back of the huge digitisation wave, today, we are talking about 600 million internet users and a very good Kharif crop, which could have given a lot of impetus to the rural economy.”
Elaborating further, she said: “So, we see the same trend as far as the consumption behaviour is also concerned. There was a brief period of lockdown during April and May when we saw the newspaper circulation coming down and today even our independent sources say that it’s almost back to 90%. And most of the advertisers are back to print for advertising. This is for two reasons - the amount of credibility and trust a newspaper carries and the immediacy which most of the advertisers are seeking currently. So everybody is looking at ROI, quick returns and quick sale.”
Sharing more on consumer engagement and how the initial months of lockdown helped brands communicate with the consumers, Mr Taurani said, “It is not about the last two months, I think it is about what you were doing especially in the months of April and May.
What consumers have actually come out and told all of us is that brands have to be responsible and brands have to be there when they need them. And I think if there was a time when consumers wanted brands to communicate and give them a platform to share and consume content, it was in the month of April and May when you know there were little avenues to go out and do that. So, I would say whatever we are seeing in terms of demand and also what brands have been able to do is also a factor of what brands did in April and May.”
Mr Taurani strongly believes that Bharat has both potential and aspiration but it is up to the players to identify that and adopt customised strategies for different regions. “We deal in categories that are ‘Do it yourself’. So whether that is male grooming or female grooming, this was a phenomenon which was already gaining speed even during pre-Covid and what Covid did was it actually accelerated the phenomenon.
Consumers actually started using these gadgets more often at home, they realised that they can be of great help and this is going to stay not only till Diwali but beyond that also, so few of the habits change have also happened, which is going to actually help brands and businesses to grow.
And coming to Bharat. I think kudos to all the language newspapers. I believe that there is aspiration and potential in Bharat, but it is up to the players to identify that, and also tailor make new products and communication for that aspiration. Sometimes what happens is we believe that one size fits all. And we also have the belief that what is relevant in Delhi is relevant in other regions. And that is why consumers are speaking out, they’re keeping their aspiration out, they are ready to spend and it is up to us to crack that code, identify the insight, and also not take it for granted saying, one strategy fits all.”
Speaking about the solutions provided by Dainik Bhaskar to brands and advertisers, Mr Sengupta shared that a result-oriented and accountability-based approach has proved successful for them. “What we have managed to look at is how to get the customer back to the advertiser because that I think is the crux of where our revenue rests. And everything that we have done over the past four or five months has been channelised towards it.
We have looked at two things very clearly — the language newspapers, especially in the markets that we are, the advantage that we have, apart from the trust and credibility is the understanding into the market. Every city has its own nuances, we’re not catering to a homogeneous market, it has many parts.
We look at breaking up markets into smaller regions to provide solutions which deliver to the advertisers. And looking at the context, communication and what works in a particular market, our solutions have all been based on that. We do have a very sizable print presence, radio and considerable digital presence now.
So, we use all of that to provide solutions, which are delivering. A result-oriented and accountability-based approach has really helped.