God’s own country, the Gulf and gold are the three words that are foremost in one’s mind while describing Kerala.
According to a study done by eStats India, one in every three of Kerala’s residents today lives in big cities. Just 10 years ago, a mere 4 per cent of Kerala’s population lived in big cities. Today, Kerala is almost 50 per cent urban – the state is more urbanised than Maharashtra and is only slightly behind Tamil Nadu.
The urban boom has taken place at both ends of the spectrum; there has been a big jump in the number of census towns – villages that grow to the point that they satisfy the definition of a town – as well as in the number of million-plus cities. In 2011, Kerala had seven million-plus cities, up from just one in 2001. This has changed the nature of consumerism and the resultant shift in the business of communication.
Today, along with brands, specialised agencies too want to be stationed in Kerala. Experts believe that this 100 per cent literate state has a fresh bunch of talent that can change the game of the communication business in the coming years. According to a few other market experts, Kerala is fast becoming a state where high-end auto brands want to test their products, where jewellery stores are a thriving business, while Ayurdevic products are betting big on global presence.
exchange4media speaks to some experts to understand the nature of the market, the expectations of brands, and most importantly, the business of communication...
Conservative, yet promising
According to Naresh Gupta, Managing Partner and Chief Strategy Officer, Bang in the Middle, the communication business in Kerala is in bit of a time-wrap. “It is stuck in the 80s and doing that stuff consistently. Besides, the industry is small,” he added.
“The whole creative idiom is undergoing a transformation. This is a state where everyone is literate. The audience gets the concepts that advertising portrays, but the concepts have been a bit jaded. What I find interesting is that the local radio stations are doing some very clever work. However, the advertising industry’s ability to tell stories has not evolved very much. I think the industry will move forward not by internal desire to change, but by external forces forcing the change,” Gupta observed.
Mushrooming of fresh talent
Anil Cheriyedath, Senior Business Director, GroupM, termed the communication of Kerala as “ambitious”. He remarked, “The talent out here is rich, which will blossom soon with more brands coming forward to experiment with their communication initiatives.”
Giving a different point of view, Gupta said, “In reality, the best local talent run the largest of Indian advertising agencies. The local young talent that comes into industry is very good; however, the migration to bigger cities is quick. That is a trend that will not change quickly. I think the change in the way they tell stories and the migration of talent is interlinked. Change one to change the other.”
Local brands look to cross borders
When Amitabh Bachchan was seen endorsing Kalyan Jewellers, the brand suddenly got a lot of national attention. “There are many home-grown brands that want to venture out. These brands are focusing on building long-term communication plans. From automobiles, retail, Ayurvedic items, spices, and textiles to jewellery, Kerala has a variety of products from these categories that are now stepping out with some great communication strategies in place,” mentioned Cheriyedath.
Agreeing with this, Gupta added, “This is an evolved market, and many brands come into the state earlier than the national market. This is thanks to the Gulf connection. There isn’t a brand that is not available in the state. This is a very brand conscious market.”