Starcom MediaVest Group has announced the launch of a specialist network to look after marketing and communication in small towns and villages in India. Christened Xpanse, the network will be headed by Sandip Bansal in the capacity of Country Head. Prior to joining the Starcom MediaVest Group in December 2005, Bansal headed Ogilvy Outreach, the rural marketing unit of Ogilvy & Mather.
Commenting on the development, Ravi Kiran, CEO-South Asia, Starcom MediaVest Group, said, “We have cherished the plan of starting a small town and rural marketing network for some time now; but when Sandip agreed to join us in December, the dream took wings. Some of our clients already get a lot of their business from small towns and villages and many more are looking at those markets keenly now. With Sandip on board, we will be able to serve our clients’ needs in smaller geographies, and help them expand their markets.”
Added Bansal, “Most of us think of India simplistically as urban-rural. In my belief, in the future, small town India, comprising towns below half a million population, all the down to the largest villages will prove to be the real engines of growth. And the intricacy of communicating and marketing to people in these geographies is fundamentally different from that in big cities. While a lot of focus has been given in the past to custom made creative messages, today’s challenge is to connect with the consumers in a engaging manner, using classical communications vehicles as well as doing experiential marketing.”
Joining Bansal as National Director-Knowledge & Insights, is another rural and social communication veteran, Rajkumar Jha. In a career spanning more than 20 years, Jha has had experience in programming, marketing, film production, and creative. Until late 2005, he was Vice-President-Team Discovery at Ogilvy Outreach. He has been actively involved in rural campaigns across the country dedicated to important issues such as pulse polio immunisation, Adolescent Reproductive Health Programme, and programmes dedicated to creating AIDS Awareness, among others.
Said Jha, “Coming from a sleepy village in Madhubani district of Bihar, I have seen “change” more closely. I have felt it every day, these changes have become part of my stories, in the way we bought things then and the way we buy today. What used to be sold in the weekly markets and what is available now. Some times when I sit with my childhood friends in villages they shock me with the brand names they use. All this evoked immense interest in me about rural communication. A second innings in rural advertising came to me because of Sandip, but got firmed up only after meeting with Ravi and his team. The idea of ‘brand needs first’ and concept of ‘engaging the consumer’ was like fresh air in the choking atmosphere of revenue chasing world.”