Dainik Bhaskar-e4m Webinar: Non-Metros will be road to recovery for Indian economy

As part of the virtual series, industry experts spoke of how brands must strengthen their consumer connect in non-metros to accelerate recovery and growth in a COVID market environment

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: Aug 13, 2020 11:17 AM
Dainik Bhaskar

Dainik Bhaskar Group has collaborated with exchange4media Group for the webinar series 'Non-Metros Driving the Economic Resurgence’. In this on-going series, the focus will be on how the Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities in India are likely to lead the recovery from the pandemic as drivers of growth.

The virtual round table conducted on Wednesday, August 5, 2020, focused on the theme: 'Non-Metros: The road to recovery for the Indian economy'. The webinar put the spotlight on how brands must strengthen the consumer connect in non-metros to accelerate recovery and growth in this COVID-19 market scenario.

On the panel were Mr. Satish N.S, Senior Vice President–Sales & Marketing, Haier Appliances India Pvt Ltd; Mr. Sudhakar Rao, Director- Branding, ICFAI Group; Mr. Vipul Oberoi, Chief Marketing Officer, IIFL Finance (NBFC) &IIFL Securities (Broking); and Ms. Kaacon Sethi, Chief Marketing Officer, Dainik Bhaskar Group. The session was chaired by Mr. Ruhail Amin, Senior Editor, exchange4mediaGroup.

The objective of the webinar series is to focus on how the non-metro markets have emerged as the demand and consumption hotspots in this post-lockdown market scenario. The series aims to discover the reasons for the faster recovery of Tier 2 and 3 cities as compared to the larger metros. Marketing leaders from across categories talk about their company and brands’ response to the changed consumption environment and focus on the role that non-metro markets are playing in shoring up sales and revenues.

Right from the onset of the discussion, there seemed to be a consensus on the topic that indeed non-metro markets were playing an important role in the recovery of the economy. Members of the panel also clarified that these were the large Tier 2 and 3 markets and rural was not included.

Starting the virtual discussion about what makes the non-metro consumers more resilient as compared to metros to the drastic COVID-19 market change, Mr. Oberoi remarked: “The economy slowed down not because of COVID but because of the lockdown. Production came to a halt, workers went away to their villages, supply chains stopped. Consumers weren’t spending as much, businesses slowed down due to production problems or had to stop altogether. The metros saw a stricter implementation of the lockdown by the authorities as compared to the non-metros. In these markets, businesses continued to operate in most places so there was continuity in production and consumption of goods and services. Continuity, I feel, is the major reason why non-metros have been more buoyant and resilient.”

Sharing his perspective on the resilience of non-metros, Mr. Satish said: “The impact of the lockdown in the non-metros was quite low. These days there is digital awareness and consumers were drawn to spend their money online. The other factor is the dependency on the private sector in the non-metros which was quite low as compared to metros. In the metros, the number of affected private sector companies was quite high.”

Ms. Sethi, speaking about the sentiment of the resurgence in the non-metro areas, said: “This paradigm shift that is being talked about is now more pronounced but Tier 2 and 3 cities for the last decade or so have already become high growth centres. The nuance of the non-metros is very different from metros. Their social fabric is very different. As markets, sociability is a very important factor for people from the non-metros. The business culture is different. These areas are more business and trade-oriented whereas metros are more corporate. The topography of these markets is very flat as compared to metros which have many more high-rises. Moreover, the impact of the pandemic was very intense in the metros owing to the high density of the population."

The market scenario has been redrawn and there is a shift in consumer sentiment. Sharing more on this shift, Mr. Rao said: “In the education sector, even before COVID, a large part of the consumer decision-making was based on online stories before visiting campuses. These stories were shared by students who were encouraged to share their views about the campus and their own experiences, which were made available for prospective students. A student of a particular city researches a campus known for a particular course. This is possible because of conversations that happen through various decision groups in social media. The word of mouth guides and governs the decision-making process.”'

Sharing her views on the changing consumer patterns, Ms. Sethi said: “A recent report published by EY supported a discussion that the non-metros will perform better across several categories and this was a real eye-opener for me as a marketer."

Talking further about the report, she mentioned that consumers in the non-metros were already out shopping. They seemed positive and less fearful as compared to their metro counterparts. This is why these markets are being called more resilient.

She said that the shift is here to stay. To illustrate her point further, she quoted a recent Dainik Bhaskar dipstick on shopping behaviour in the FMCD category, which found that people in non-metros were going to shop with a clear picture in their mind about the particular brand they were going to purchase, the price, etc. They were doing thorough research. They were also not going shop-to-shop haggling for the best price. They were going to trusted shops/showrooms. They have a more physical approach to shopping.” 

Speaking about the categories that will drive the growth with this resilience sentiment in non-metros, Mr. Oberoi said: “I think agriculture is critical to the economy. It has an overall cascading effect on the other aspects of the economy. Secondly, MSMEs have government support because they generate employment. Thirdly, I believe telecommunications as a sector will do well because it's important for all businesses. There has been an adoption of digital payments and that is possible only if we have good and reliable data connectivity.”

Ms. Sethi pointed out that data shows that automobiles, Education and FMCG are some of the categories which have seen good performance in the non-metro markets during the Unlock period.

“When everyone was quiet in the early stages of lockdown, a brand like Amul continued to communicate with the consumers. As an entity, we are currently sitting at 82% of our circulation in terms of recovery. The metro markets have slowly started to recover in terms of distribution too, "Ms. Sethi added.

Ms. Sethi also brought in a question to all the panellists about market prioritisation particularly in a situation where the P1 markets, usually the top eight metros were low on-demand generation as compared to the non-metros. What would marketers do in this situation? Would they wait for their traditional markets to start firing or re-orient themselves to the changed environment and opportunities?

Sharing about the change of market prioritisation on his business, Mr. Satish stated, “As a marketing professional, we can’t wait for the market to wake up. You need to take an optimistic view and see which markets are working and what that does to take the market up. We have been pushing our entire distribution channel at the towns that are open. At 9 o'clock, we get clear information about which markets, shops have opened up and then the sales team does a mapping exercise. At the end of the day, we need to look at the numbers and chase that particular area.”

Mr. Satish also pointed out that advertising in non-metro areas didn’t stop during the lockdown as it did in the metros. “For Onam, we have done a full-fledged media plan for Kerala. We have full-page advertisements coming out in the top regional newspapers. Wherever we are seeing an opportunity, we have been quite aggressive in those markets to move ahead.”

Signing off, Ms. Sethi said, “In our business, regional publications have recovered swiftly. On average, circulation recovery is in the range of 80-85% for regional print. In today’s day and age, you cannot afford to remain away from your franchise for long. You have to be available with your brand and you have to be salient."

Due to the economic impact endured due to COVID, businesses faced grave losses. Now as the countrywide lockdown eases out, the growth of non-metros will be prominent. The main factors, as mentioned in the virtual roundtable, were consumer resilience and the difference in the business culture.

Watch out for the next edition of the panel discussion in our continuing series 'Non-Metros: Reviving Growth' which will be on the theme 'Non-Metros: Propelling The Indian Recovery'.

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