Naked Truth in India

Posted on November 20, 2011 by Comments Off

On the heels of World Economic Forum here in Mumbai, I had the opportunity to lead a roundtable discussion of about a dozen CEO and marketing executives, hosted by our Waggener Edstrom Mumbai team.  It was a robust dialogue, where we explored and debated recent shifts in the Indian media communications landscape, particularly in the wake of the growing influence of social media platforms.

Of course there is great motivation for this given some of these important statistics:

  • In 2010, just 5.4% of people in India used the web, but eMarketer estimates that percentage will more than triple by 2015, when an anticipated 222 million residents will be online.
  • The number of mobile phone subscriptions in India passed 750 million in 2010, according to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). eMarketer, which benchmarks its own estimates against Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) figures, anticipates that total mobile subscriptions will hit 900 million in 2012, when 60% of the population will own at least one phone.

We have a more connected India via the web and mobility, which are increasingly interchangeable reference points.  And we’re seeing rapid adoption of new channels in the region as noted in Nielsen Company research:

  • Social Media in India is growing at 100 percent and is likely to touch 45 million users by 2012
  • More than 50 percent of social media users perceive brands that have a social media presence as being “innovative”
  • Indians spend more time on social media than they do checking personal email
  • Over the next six months 45,000 online Indians intend to join social networking sites each day

A more connected populace who are more engaged with each other and the rest of the world via social media channels than ever before.  Is it any wonder that there is so much excitement and optimism about the promise India holds?  But it is not without some very interesting challenges and questions, as some recent research by Black Box (that WE sponsored) indicates:

  • The Indian communications landscape is undergoing real change.  For example three in four activist consumers believe that comments made via social media are more effective in eliciting a response from companies than traditional methods.
  • Digital communications are increasingly seen as highly effective with nearly all companies surveyed saying they believe their digital communications spending will increase in the next 12 months.  And yet…
  • There remains a question as to if these same companies are truly ready for the new opportunities and challenges that can arise from the newest channels of integrated influence. And while most agree that they are more vulnerable to consumer backlashes because of social media, 60% claim they are prepared for such contingencies and can cope with the potential impact.  Assuming all 60% of those companies are right, then that is still a significant percentage that are not prepared.

While one executive at the round table said he viewed social media primarily as a tool to manage crisis situations, other participants clearly spoke to the potential of a truly integrated communications approach.  Here are a few excerpts from the round table:

  • “It’s all about impact. It’s what matters most”
  • “Indian companies are ready to use integrated communications to their advantage”
  • “First the megaphone was in the hands of a dozen people. Now the megaphone is in the hands of billions.”
  • “Everyone is a media company. That is my epiphany”
  • “Social media has the capability to measure quantifiable results better than any other channel”

At the end of the roundtable, I asked the participants to share just one word that summed up their view of social media in India, and this is what they said:

  • Positive
  • Terrifying
  • Progress
  • Learning
  • Future
  • Authentic
  • Honesty
  • Mind changing
  • Next big wave
  • Game changing

And my favorite:  NAKED TRUTH.

India is in the midst of a communications renaissance —a time of tremendous innovation, change and potential.

Since I was the host of the roundtable, I was the one who summarized: “Communications is the foundation for a better world, and social media is another powerful way to engage with one another.  When we are good communicators we are able to achieve understanding across borders and boundaries, which ultimately will result in a more transparent, global, unified world.”


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