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Marketers of Indian goods and services, even mainstream businesses, are realizing the strength of Asian Indians as voracious consumers.
This is especially true when we look at the latest Census 2000, which estimates the Indian Diaspora to number 1.7 million. Indians form a part of the higher echelons of the socio-economic spectrum in the US, earning an average of $69,000 versus a national average of $49000 per annum. Most families settled here also have close ties with folks back home in the Old Country.
With over 60 percent of Indian Americans holding a college degree and the majority in the workforce, marketers are starting to drool over the potential of this ethnic segment.
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Marketing to the Indian community
Even a cursory straw poll will tell you that the Indian community, that includes people from the south-east Asian subcontinent, are not a homogenous group. Just as marketers have known that the only common thread binding Hispanics in the US is language, since this group does not just include Mexicans but people from eclectic backgrounds spanning as far as Latin America, they are starting to realize that not all Indians can be targeted using a uniform strategy. The “Indian community” in the US consists of people from different regions and backgrounds in India forming a part of the American melting pot. At the risk of cultural stereotyping, if I were to say that Patels are almost synonymous with motels in the US, I wouldn’t be completely off the mark. This, even though a number of Patels I personally know are prominent physicians and software engineers. Therefore, marketing to the Indian community needs a multi-pronged effort requiring co-ordination of various channels including the ethnic media, web portals, bazaars etc. With the advent of Web and Internet, and advanced data-mining techniques, marketers can be better equipped to focus on this segment.
A few companies have already realized the importance of this niche and have started building sophisticated products and databases to help marketers. Prahlad Bellary, co-founded Indus Demographics a few years ago hoping to target marketers looking for databases of Indians in the US. He says “Our research shows that the Asian Indian community, though considered to be one of the most successful and prosperous lot of immigrants' in the U.S, forming a sizeable chunk of the consumer market, has surprisingly not been given the due importance that it arguably deserves from the marketers of corporations-big and small.” He concedes that their product IndusMine, a database complied from various sources including white pages and phone directories met with only moderate success in the marketplace because of the lack resources available to constantly update and maintain it.
Data for such commercial databases is mined from a number of sources including mailing lists maintained by Indian communal organizations, bazaars and the likes. Market research organizations also regularly subscribe to databases sold by companies managing white-pages, driving license bureaus, voter registrations, credit reporting agencies etc. The trick is in extracting a subset from such national databases with millions of entries. Is this legal? This is what I found on the website of Indus Demographics “Fiest decision makes it amply clear that a database like white pages contains listings that are not original in nature. Hence a subsection of data as extracted by Indus Demographics does not infringe on any copyright in the US.” Fiest decision is a famous judgement on the legality of extracting data from open data sources: the very reason your local phone company can sell your details in the form of white/yellow pages to businesses. The real challenge in maintaining and managing such databases is not in the creation but in maintaining and upgrading it.
Rao Pamganamamula, who has been marketing a list of Indian demographic databases for the past 13 years to corporations like the American Express, CitiBank, AT&T, Sprint, MCI, ETS concedes that there are technical challenges involved in compiling and maintaining such databases. He adds “one challenge that could be readily cited is in compiling the data: collection of information from disparate sources in electronic and non-electronic formats, integrating them and adding value through imputation of several socio-economic attributes. if putting together is by itself a major challenge, then maintaining it in terms of total data quality and content augmentation, in a fast growing demographic segment is a much bigger task. It’s going to be a lot more complicated affair to build the intelligence tool with an engine that needs to be continuously tuned and fine tuned.” Another challenge is because of the fluid state of Indian population in the US. People move, change jobs and migrate all the time and even with updates from sources like credit bureaus and US post, it requires a tremendous amount of effort to keep the database updated and ‘clean;’ i.e. something that would be of use to a marketer.
Marketing organizations use such commercial databases in various ways. One use is a simple mail merge, which any company or organization wishing to send mailers or make cold calling, can use. However, for a marketer who asks questions like “For a given city, give me a complete demographic, educational and economic breakdown analysis of Indians” or “show me the top ten cities by concentration of Indian doctors,” such a database merely provides “raw” data that needs to be mined before being meaningful. Therefore a database that has to be useful to marketers should not only have all the basic demographic data about people profiled but also provide sophisticated tools that can help an analyst drill-down and mine through it. Rao adds “clients fall into two categories: (a) Anybody, who is targeting the Indian households with direct marketing efforts (product or service) and includes all the mainstream businesses in this sector. they can be enticed to use the data product by advertising the fact that Indian households have highest income and saving levels and therefore good purchasing power. Mailing list brokers and marketing service units or fulfillment houses offer the niche for this type of product. (b) Any corporate business (whose customers/transactions run into millions) would be interested in acquiring the intelligence tool for internal market analysis purposes based on which more focused campaigns could be launched.”
As the awareness of Indian community grows in the mainstream marketing media, the likes of D & B, Meta and Giga are sure to follow. With their ability to merge technical database and analytical skills with marketing muscle, they are sure to work on a hard sell to the community. The result? Indians can get ready to be pampered by Corporate America.