Middle-class consumers give more opportunities: Rahul Welde

With 30% of the population in the middle class segment and growing, brands are vying for a share of this lucrative pie, says the VP - Media, Unilever

e4m by Shobhana Nair
Updated: Mar 6, 2013 8:15 PM
Middle-class consumers give more opportunities: Rahul Welde

The target for several brands out there is clear – Market Asia. And most marketers agree that the shift over the next 10-15 years will be towards Asia. It is estimated that the total consumer spends will grow to around 42 per cent by 2020. With almost 30 per cent of the population coming under the middle class segment, brands are now vying for this segment. Speaking about the market implications of this shift, Rahul Welde, VP, Unilever Asia, Middle East, Africa, Turkey & Russia said, “There will be an increase in the number of middle-class consumers, giving us more opportunities to drive benefits.”

Tapping the potential that the middle class has is not about reinvention, but for brands it should be more about framing mindsets and approaches appropriately, Welde added. So how has Unilever done something different? The company has a ‘Medialab’ in Shanghai and other key centres, physical spaces where they incubate and replicate the technologies that are touching and changing their consumers’ lives every day. This is one way of bringing beta thinking and a culture of perpetual learning.

Business with a heart
It is also believed that 12 out of 13 megacities that will emerge over the next 10-15 years will be from emerging markets. But with these opportunities come the challenges. Welde noted, “As people move up the economy chain, they start consuming more media. The media environment gets even more fragmented, we are no longer talking to that mass audience and it is no longer about that 30-second spot in prime time.” Moving up the chain also means one can take a much larger step into the digital scheme of things, have multiple connected devices and hence, be far better connected than one was before.

According to Welde, “Because consumers are connected, they are far more aware and conscious about issues facing the world. They all want to do their bit towards global issues.” So the company has committed itself to providing clean drinking water to people with the application ‘Waterworks’, developed by the Unilever Foundation, Facebook and PSI for several activities. As per the UN, 1 billion+ people in the world are without access to clean water, leading to avoidable disease and deaths.

Leveraging mobile
There are several statistics that indicate consumers getting on to the internet through mobile phones first. Here Welde who is also the Chairman of Mobile Marketing Association APAC, said, “My suggestion is to forget about any references to all that and seriously focus on executing on mobile. Mobile offers a variety of possible executions and experiences and it is all about making it ‘Fit for Purpose’.” Take for instance, Clinic Plus, which recently executed an interesting project in India. The brand linked purchase of their products to a mobile phone prepaid top up. For this, 43 per cent consumers had signed up with 24 per cent redemption. With activations such as these, Unilever has succeeded in reaching out to a larger market and continues to do so.

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