Although the Asian-Indian market is the fastest-growing niche in the larger Asian-American marketplace, it is often bypassed in favor of more obvious Asian consumer targets, such as the Chinese-American market. Yet at 2.23 million, the Asian-Indian community in the U.S. is an opportunity for direct marketers both great and small.
Many of today’s Asian-Indians arrived in the U.S. during the dot.com boom, filling the ranks of high-tech workers and managers. They are beyond being just Internet savvy. Like most Asian-Americans, Asian-Indians make online purchases on a day-to-day basis at twice the rate of other racial or ethnic groups. Offline, lists are now available to create direct mail programs reaching Asian-Indian consumer households.
Make advertising identifiable as targeting Asian-Indians
The typical Asian-Indian is educated, affluent, and works in technology or some other professional occupation. He or she dresses well for business and identifies with Asian-Indian-Americans and non-Asian-Indian professionals who do the same.
If your creative has a sari-clad woman wandering in front to the Taj Mahal, scrap it. That’s the package tour, and it doesn’t reflect the reality of India, with the north differing from the south, Hindu culture differing from Muslim culture. (The sari, while worn in many regions of India, could be perceived as too superficial a cultural cue. Similarly, the Taj Mahal, while a masterpiece of Indian architecture, is way too obvious.) It also doesn’t reflect the day-to-day reality of urban professional Asian-Indians living the U.S.
Admittedly, these days everyone loves Bollywood, but a little goes a long, long way. Be careful and don’t go over the top.
India is a country of more than a hundred dialects and languages. English has become the universal language of the educated classes and the people who work for or with them. It is also a unifying language among the diverse group of Indians who have migrated to the United States. However, it is a form of spoken English, which is more formal and more precise than standard American usage, and has its own unique tone, accent and inflection.
Use a knowing touch of India
A teleservices company pitched itself for “gup shup” time. “Gup Shup” is a Hindi word that is widely understood in India to mean “chit-chat.” Other than that one word, the copy was in English. Also, a careful use of photographs or graphic images with widely recognized, yet subtle, cultural cues can go a long way to convey relevance.
Tailor your pitch
Use research and focus groups to find out how Asian-Indian consumers react to the campaign and use the results to refine it. Almost any product anyone might need, an Asian-Indian would need. Yet, if you look at advertising in many Asian-Indian media outlets today, one would conclude that these consumers only call overseas, make international money transfers, and buy insurance. There are many categories that have not yet tapped into this attractive market, which makes it a great opportunity for small direct marketers.
Segment your market
If you do want to sell Asian-Indian products online, there is a strong opportunity to target Asian-Indians who live outside the metropolitan centers of Illinois, California and New York. For consumers in major cities, it may be quicker to run around the corner to buy the product at a community retail outlet, than to order it and wait a day or two for it to be delivered.
Get involved in the Asian-Indian community
Participating in events and programs special to the Asian-Indian community is an excellent way to expose your brand and product with a clear message that you are genuinely interested in — and committed to — the community. Small direct marketers are in a wonderful position to make a positive impact by looking for sponsorship opportunities among the rapidly proliferating number of community organizations, charities, and events.
Be A Visionary
Many marketers may hesitate in launching an Asian-Indian effort because they have never done so in the past, and therefore don’t have any historical benchmarks. Yet this market can be efficiently and profitably tapped — as evidenced by the many years of history and case studies in the telecom and financial services categories. Don’t be afraid of something new. And tap people who understand the market to guide you.
Saul Gitlin is executive vice president, strategic services, at Kang & Lee Advertising, a Young & Rubicam Brands/WPP Group company.