IndiGo Air Takes Discount Air Travel to New Heights

11 Jul

When touring Wieden + Kennedy Delhi, we heard about the work that the agency had done to re-brand India Air, a discount airline based in Haryana, India. This campaign began with a name change to Indigo Air, but that was just the beginning. W+K took a truly hands-on approach to every aspect of this re-branding project and having now flown IndiGo, I can honestly say it shows.

W+K’s creative designers contributed to the interior design of the airline’s fleet. The bold blue and white in clean lines are a nice departure from the basic beige or other muted tones found in most airliners in the U.S. Although it cannot be seen from the photo, the seats are actually more spacious than other discount airlines.

In addition to the interior design, IndiGo differs from other discount airlines by offering upgraded services and amenities. These amenities make an impression from the moment you step on the plane. The classical music and humidified air streaming through the cabin immediately alleviate the usual irritations of boarding the plane. The soothing music and pleasantly fresh air put the passengers in a relaxed comfortable state of mind that carries through the short flights in which the airline specializes.

The team at Wieden + Kennedy wanted to leave no amenity untouched. They actually taste-tested all the food and even created some new recipes to be served on board. I couldn’t resist trying the chocolate chip cookies in a custom, re-usable tin and to offset the splurge, the airline’s healthy snack bar. The food contribution wouldn’t be complete without packaging to further re-enforce the brand image.

W+K’s creatives didn’t stop there; their design aesthetic can be seen in every aspect of the airline.

From the fun and funky safety instructions and air-sickness bags, to the stylish flight attendants’ uniforms and wigs, the upscale, but fun design elements created for IndiGo maintain cohesive brand image.

Last, but not least, the television spots created for the airline, do a fantastic job of re-enforcing brand appearance, while establishing a unique selling proposition, touting the airlines immaculate on-time flight record.

From start to finish, the IndiGo re-branding project has successfully met the campaign objective of setting the airline apart from other discount Indian airlines. Now having flown IndiGo Air, I can once again say that W+K’s has created a unique airline experience and the advertising they created has perfectly captured the experience.


A Personal Test in Patience and Tolerance

9 Jul

I consider myself to be a tolerant and polite person for the most part. I make a very conscious effort to be a gracious guest and  patron, not only when I am traveling, but also in the homes, restaurants, stores and other businesses when I am at home. If visiting a foreign country, I try whenever possible to learn a few basic social words such as hello, goodbye, please, thank you, excuse me, etc., in the native language in order to show respect for those who live in the country I am visiting.

To be clear, I am not professing to be a seasoned world traveler, having only been out of the U.S. three times prior to this visit to India. On one of these occasions I befriended a Belgian family who gave me the very gracious compliment of telling me that I was, “not like most Americans.” While I love the U.S., I understood immediately that they meant this as s compliment and appreciated my genuine interest in their native culture. I was raised in a very open-minded, liberal home where I was taught no real prejudices, except for perhaps an intolerance for narrow-minded, intolerant or otherwise prejudice people. All in all before coming to India I felt confident that I would have nothing but appreciation and respect for the people and culture here, including their accompanying nuances.

I regret to say that I was wrong about myself. As much as I hate to admit it,   I am a “typical American,” in several ways. I should have seen this coming:

I speak up loudly and often in group situations.
I am prompt, direct and strive for perfection.
I rarely shy away  from confrontation.
I am independent to such a degree that I sometimes unintentionally, alienate myself from others.
I am driven to succeed by a force that can only be explained by the characteristically American ideal of Manifest Destiny.

All of these things I realize have made me unintentionally act, or at least be perceived by others,  as impatient, rude and/or intolerant. I have caught myself in these situations before, and because I almost never intend to be rude or offensive to others, I apologize for my actions and work to be the kind of person I want to be. Other times, it’s not until after the situation has passed that I realize I have spoken or behaved inappropriately.

This happened to me today. I was complaining about the slow service in our hotel at breakfast, just as I had the day before. Tired of waiting for someone to bring the tea that I had requested, I simply got up and poured it myself.  The second time I got up to get  a refill, one of the hotel employees offered to pour it for me once I already had the pot in hand. I told him that I had asked for tea and no one brought it, so I would rather get it myself. Upon sharing this interaction with a fellow student she reminded me that service is simply slower here and that things take a little longer.

Later when I was packing to leave, it hit me: I was being that Asshole American who makes citizens in other countries think we are all rude!

As I thought about various social situations I have been in during our time here, I realized that there have been other occasions when I have been impatient or annoyed with the service here, be it the slow moving line at the checkout counter, at servers taking (from my perspective) a long time to take our orders, or the salespeople at the stores who seemed to hover over me as I shopped. In these cases I had said nothing, but I had felt annoyed.

I KNEW BETTER! One of the main goals of this trip was for each of us to act as contemporary anthropologists and ethnographers. As one of our readings, Ethnography for Marketers (Mariampolski), stated, in order to gain knowledge about a culture, we must study our subjects in their environments while suspending our own assumptions, judgements, and categorizations. I am truly ashamed of myself for not having done a better job of stepping away from my American self-reference criterion in order to truly embrace and appreciate the Indian culture. While it may have taken me nearly a week to come to this realization, I’m glad that I did. I am making a conscious effort to be more cognizant of my actions, words, and perceptions in order to avoid another instance of (albeit inadvertent), cultural imperialism.

Sent from my iPad

The Feeling of India…

5 Jul

After visiting the Wieden + Kennedy offices in Delhi, I have such a profound new respect for the agency and their incredible work. One of their campaigns in particular has not only gained critical acclaim, but personally had such a strong impact on me personally, that I really wanted to share it here. All of my friends and family who are keeping up with my blog should look at this campaign (rather than my less than stellar photography), to get a very real idea of what I am getting to experience on this trip.

I first became familiar with the “Incredible India!” campaign when reading Branding India by Amitabh Kant. This national tourism campaign has driven millions of dollars in revenue into the Indian economy, not only from international visitors, but also in domestic tourism. While simplistic in execution, the campaign achieved the goal of improving the country’s image as a whole by vividly displaying all the incredible things that India has to offer as a tourist destination while simultaneously propelling improvements in infrastructure and boosted tourism’s contribution to the national economy.

Launched in 2002, this award-winning campaign has received international acclaim and has shown an incredible amount of staying power. What first focused only on famous tourist attractions, evolved to focus on the people of India, beginning first with resident Indians, including well-known Bollywood actors and sports figures. The focus then turned to non-Indian residents who permanently relocated to India after falling in love with the country while visiting.

I was monumentally impressed with the beauty of the artwork and the clever ad copy when I first read Kant’s book, but after spending some time in the country, the ads speak to me even more because I can see the inspiration for the executions in each place that we visit. While all tourism advertising is aimed at promoting destinations, making them look like a dream vacation, this campaign is different. These ads truly stir the same feelings of awe, humility and genuine love for the country I have felt since arriving in India. This amazing campaign is just one example of the unparalleled advertising created by Wieden + Kennedy. Later in the trip I’m going to have the opportunity to experience a flight on Indigo Air, another of W+K’s clients. I’ll delve more into their fantastic work after this flight.

India: A Study of Cultural Paradox

5 Jul

In the final paper I wrote for International Advertising last semester, I struggled to fully explain how the paradoxes that exist within a culture help define the culture itself.

Of course I understood what a cultural paradox was, and could give several examples thereof. For instance, the United States is considered an independent society, rather than a collective one. However, individually, we also place a large emphasis on the participation in, association with or membership to various groups, clubs, and organizations. So, Americans are independent, but we still associate and in some ways, define ourselves through the various groups to which we belong. See the a paradox?

What I couldn’t put my finger on was how these paradoxes actually helped to define the culture itself. In Mother Pious Lady, Santosh Desai discusses many of the cultural paradoxes that exist within the Indian culture, being here now, it is easy to see how these paradoxes not only exist, but truly define India.

A frequent observation of these paradoxes lies in the overall cleanliness of the Indian people. Indians are known for taking pride in their appearance and are meticulously well-groomed. Nearly every man you see on the street is wearing freshly washed clothes, has his hair neatly cut and combed and is clean-shaven, save his mustache if it is his preference. The women also take great care in their appearance, wearing fresh, brightly colored saris or other traditional Indian clothing with coordinating jewelry. Their hair is pulled back in a neat, well-oiled braid or bun and their make-up, if wearing any, is expertly applied. The children reflect this same care in grooming. Even of those too poor to wear shoes, most all have clean faces, neatly braided hair and clean clothes. The contrast to this impeccable reflection of cleanliness and grooming is that the very same, precisely groomed people will dump their trash right outside their doors and in fact as a whole, the standards of cleanliness and sanitation fall far below those of the Western world. Part of this can be attributed to the slow economic and social development of the country, but even with the developments that have occurred in the past two decades, these habits persist.

This paradoxical state is well-entrenched and has been present long before the liberalization of India. I find myself astounded that the culture responsible for the invention of the Kama Sutra, and in whose wedding ceremonies, the bride and groom make promises of fulfilling sexuality to one another, also maintains that women should not show their shoulders and knees in public. This can be attributed to beliefs  held by the various religions present in each state, but again, with economic and social development, the change in these norms is very slow.

Though many of these practices seem counterintuitive to an observing visitor, I have to admit, they add to the charm and character of the country. I’m quickly beginning to see that India is like no where else in the world and what’s more is that within the various cities and states, the differences abound, so that in fact there is no “one” India, and yet, nothing can compare to all that is India.

TAI Tour of Wieden + Kennedy Delhi

4 Jul

Advertising is ubiquitous. No matter who you are, where you reside, your status in life, you are a member of the target audience for any number of products and services and unless you live on a deserted island, you’re being exposed to the promotional messages designed to drive you or those financially responsible for you to purchase these things. In India, where 42% of the population earns less than the equivalent of U.S. $2 per day, it is no different and as this market continues to flourish, so too do the media channels and messages aimed at inciting consumer purchases in this country. Although the Western world has traditionally set the bar for the ad industry worldwide, some agencies here are making great strides in producing quality creative that not only breaks through the clutter of the typical “Western-style” advertising, but also truly speaks to the Indian consumers in order to meet brand objectives.

Wieden + Kennedy, arguably the top ad agency in the United States, has an office in Delhi, which our group was invited to tour. Although W+K is a US-based agency, they have continued their unique approach to advertising globally with 8 offices, worldwide. As our host Karishna, told us, W+K believes in producing great, rather than just good advertising, with the distinction between the two being as follows:
Good advertising shows you a feeling for a product, brand, or service
Great advertising evokes these feelings in its audience.

This focus and belief can be seen in the ads produced in the Delhi office. A fantastic example is the work W+K created for Royal Enfield motorcycles. These campaigns have taken on various forms over the years, but have all focused on evoking the feeling Royal Enfield motorcycles stir in their riders.

Whether focusing on the individuality of Royal Enfield’s owners, or humorously targeting the next generation of owners, the work for this client is a fantastic example of how the Delhi office maintains Wieden + Kennedy’s uncompromising mission to create great advertising.

In the Streets of Delhi…

3 Jul

After we had a good giggle about seeing our first cow in the street, a quiet state of observation fell over the group. As we looked out the panoramic windows of the bus, we began to see the reality of all that we read and heard we should expect. No matter how prepared we might have felt, nothing can prepare you for the experience until you see the streets of Delhi with your own eyes.

That being said, I’ll do my best to paint the picture. Everywhere you look, the sheer abundance of cars, busses, motorcycles and scooters, moto-rickshaws, bicycles, and people in one space is staggering. What’s more is the way all of these elements intermingle and coexist. From an outsider’s perspective, it looks like complete chaos, yet somehow, it works.

I’ll begin with the traffic,  the notoriety of which is well-deserved. The main streets are comprised two-to-three lanes in each direction, driving one the lefthand side of the road (a result of the British colonization). Although separate lanes exist, they are really more of a suggestion than a space within which vehicles are required to stay. Nearly every inch of the road’s surface is filled with compact cars, scooters and auto-rickshaws, weaving in out of each other. As soon as a foot or yard-length space opens up, it is quickly filled by any vehicle that can wedge itself into the space. Nearly every movement of the vehicles is accompanied by loud, repeated honks of varying lengths and volume, not to indicate someone has done something wrong, but more as a way of notifying other drivers, “I’m here. I’m moving!” The streets are an absolute cacophony of horns, engines, and sirens the drivers of which all seem determined to get a head of the rest. What’s more than the sounds and sights of the vehicles themselves, is that of the passengers. I think my heart skipped a beat when I looked out my window and saw a motorcycle carrying a small child, a man, and presumably his wife, holding an infant across her chest speed past our shuttle. I knew that scooters and motorcycles are used family transportation as their low price point makes them the first and often only, private transportation most middle class families can afford (Desai), but it had never occurred to me that I would see an infant transported in such a way.

Beyond the traffic, are the actual streets, the sides of which are lined with shelters of every sort haphazardly lean against fences, bridge pillars, and trees. Some of these shelters house vendors, selling food and drinks while others are homes. Intermixed with the shelters, are people of all ages. Some bustle along going to and from the market while others usher children between the moving cars. Others sit or sleep on the sidewalks and curbs, many of whom are thin, frail or suffering from the effects of a debilitating disease that has rendered them unable to walk upright. Some can be seen walking on all fours or crawling in some fashion, begging for food and money from the passersby. Young mothers, carrying toddlers approach the bus each time we stop, making signs to ask for food for themselves or their children. Other children run shoeless or naked beneath highway overpasses, as their mothers sweep away dust that has settled around the patch of cement they call home. The remainder of the roadside is covered in litter, which more stray dogs rifle through, looking for left behind scraps of food.


Perhaps the most unusual thing about this scene is that scattered behind the sidewalks and curbs are businesses of all sorts, filling the storefronts. Some, as you might expect, are dated and severely dilapidated, but withstanding, while others are new finish outs, complete with well lit signs and beautiful window displays. However, these out of place stores, do not hold a candle to the sight of the massive hotel where we’ll be staying. What is commonplace in other major cities, sticks out like a great becon of wealth among the hovels of Delhi.

More to come…

A First Look at the TAI Cultural Tour of India

2 Jul

After months of paperwork, preparation and packing, our group from SMU finally set out for India. During a brief layover in Chicago several of us took the opportunity to enjoy an “American” meal at Chili’s.  After savoring one last delicious, albeit ridiculously overpriced, airport cheeseburger we boarded the flight for Delhi.

The passengers on the flight were split pretty evenly between Americans and Indian natives.  It was interesting to be on a plane where the second language spoken during the safety instructions was Hindi, rather than Spanish (as is usually the case on flights out of Dallas).

The flight, although fourteen hours long, was actually pretty pleasant; great service, clean facilities and very quiet, polite passengers. Based on Dr. Alvey’s recommendation, I decided to be a  little adventurous and give the Indian, vegetarian meal a try. I REALLY liked half of it; the only problem was that I didn’t know which half!  The Indian menu items were in Hindi. I made a mental note to start writing down the names of all the Indian cuisine I liked so I could be sure to order it again.

First Impressions of India

Upon exiting the airplane, I could have sworn that I had just landed at any major airport in the United States. The sleek, modern design of Delhi International was an incredible display of the infrastructure improvements taking place in India’s capital. The only indication that we were in India were the signs giving directions throughout the airport, which were listed first in English, then in Hindi. There were vending machines for Coca Cola and Pepsi throughout the terminal and the duty-free stores were well stocked with a selection of American liquor, food and cigarette brands. “Maybe this place is more developed than people let on,” I thought to myself as we made our way to the baggage claim.

I was wrong! We rounded a corner to go through customs to find a uniformed guard holding an automatic rifle. It was a little unsettling, but given the the terrorist attacks that have taken place here in recent years, the Indian government has increased security measures, to an extreme, in all major tourist areas. More surprises followed as we exited the building. The area surrounding the airport  was in various states of construction. Unlike construction sites in the U.S., which are typically blocked by barricades and covered chain link fences, the entire area was open for all who left the airport to see the workers huddled under makeshift tents, and the concrete and rebar that was strewn about the work zone. As we made our way to our awaiting shuttle, we were greeted by four or five stray but docile, dogs looking for a bite to eat. Meanwhile, the airport employees and construction workers paid them no mind and went about their business as usual. As our shuttle pulled away from e airport, we had driven only a quarter of a mile before seeing a cow meandering along the street.

So much for feeling like we’re in the U.S.!

Pack Your Bags…or At Least Help Pack Mine!

18 Jul

Now that I have established my stance on India and international travel as a whole, I would like to present to you

The Top 10 Reasons You Should Visit India:

10. It’s the 2nd largest English-speaking country in the world.

  • Trust me: this will prove VERY convenient when seeking out ATMs, restrooms, and asking directions.

9.  Pedi-rickshaw rides through Old Delhi!

  • You know you’re in for a good time when the driver points to small piece of metal on the back of his bike and refers to it as your seatbelt. See my post Sights and Sounds post for video.

8. You can play, “I Spy,” from hotel shuttles, taxi-cabs or even the back of the aforementioned pedi-rickshaws.

  • WARNING–DO NOT ATTEMPT WHILE DRIVING! The utter chaos that is India traffic will render any Westerner afoot, even if only to maintain safe blood pressure levels without coma-inducing levels of prescription drugs
  • Bonus points for native oddities–think  monkeys, horned cattle indoors, dogs on scooters, exotic fruits & veggies and even the harder-to-miss camels, water buffalo and elephants on public streets.

7.  Negotiable prices on stuff you REALLY want!

  • You’ve always wondered just how big a rip-off Pier 1 and World Market really are. The truth is, it depends on what you’re buying and how savvy you are at negotiating prices. NOTE: Nearly everything in traditional Indian markets is negotiable. In fact the term paisa vasool, a cultural mindset in India, means that the purchased item is worth its price (Desai). This cultural mindset is integral to Indian culture, that you risk appearing naive if you do not attempt to negotiate a lower price when shopping.

6.  Scarves make perfect gifts! Seriously, do you know anyone who claims to have too many scarves???

  • The variety of styles, sizes, textures, patterns and fabrics varies so widely that you can truly find something for everyone on your souvenir list with stops in a few choice cities with quality textiles. We found amazing embroidery in Ahmedabad and gorgeous hand-stamped, wood-block prints in Jaipur. Even the airport had a good selection of affordable, high-quality scarves and wraps.

5. Traditional, handcrafted artwork, jewelry, textiles and more!

  • Think Marble in-lay by descendants of those who adorned the Taj Mahal; Hand-cut, polished and custom-set gemstones from the Jewel-capital of the World

4. Masala Chai Lattes

  • No, not the BS Chai Lattes they serve at Starbucks. In India, this beverage is referred to as simply Masala Tea. It’s DIVINE! My favorite is produced by The Wagh Bakri Tea Company in Ahmedabad. Bonus: it’s sold in Dallas-area Asian markets. Once the weather cools off pick up a box to go along with your take-out from Taj Express, Clay Pit or Roti Grill–you can thank me later.

3. The FOOD!

  • Did I mention yet that I gained 7lbs in two weeks on this trip?!?!?! Granted, we stayed in 4 and 5-star hotels so the food was expected to be above average, but we also dined at several restaurants and cafes outside of the hotels. Many people are frightened of Indian food because they think it’s all spicy and/or curry dishes–so FALSE! I have a new love for cuisine, with coconut chutey, paneer, and thali being some of my favorites.
2. The Taj Mahal
  • It sounds cliche, but that’s the thing about cliches: they’re usually based on the truth and the truth is, The Taj Mahal truly lives up to the hype. While the structure is relatively small in stature, the impeccable attention to detail in each slab of marble, speaks volumes about the adoration and devotion behind the tangible testament to one of the greatest love stories in human history.
1. The People of India
  • As I mentioned in an earlier post, the Indian people are an amalgam of races, religions, languages, and cultures, but despite their differences, they share the spirit of hospitality. In Ethnography for Marketers, A Guide to Consumer Immersion, Hy Mariampolski describes aspects of culture. He states that culture represents the baseline of our experience as human beings living in society. It is the source of any group’s collective memory and provides a basis for consciousness. Within the culture you can see the values and their collective sense of self. For a country with a long histroy of invasion and oppression, it speaks volumes that they treat outsiders with such respect and warmth. It adds a new level of beauty to the entire culture. I believe this bodes well for the future of India, as a powerful international economy. The people themselves offer the welcoming arms of a society set to embrace not only tourists and visitors, but all that this world has to bring into their lives. It’s something that  you won’t truly understand until you experience it for yourself.

Why I ABSOLUTELY will go back to India…

16 Jul

I know what you’re thinking…”Girl, you’re crazy! You were in a foreign country during a terrorist attack and you made it home safe and sound. You should be thanking your lucky stars that you’re still here, not planning your next visit!”

Sound about right? Believe me, the sentiment is shared by many of my family members, close friends and colleagues. My response to them is a pretty standard, “You kinda had to be there…” and with all due respect, most of them don’t get it and never will, yet I try to explain the rationale behind my decision to return to India and (hopefully) to visit other foreign countries. It goes a little something like this:

– You can’t live your life being afraid of what might happen–or at least I can’t. Anything bad can happen to you or someone you love on any given day, at any time, in any place. If I only have this one life to live, I want to experience as much as I can in the time I have on Earth without constantly asking myself, “what if?”

– This justification has further evolved to incorporate my stance on terrorism: If you don’t go somewhere because it has been, could be or is a possible target for terrorist attacks, then you are letting them win. I have no intention of letting any fear mongering, religious or political fanatic dictate how I spend time, money and attention in my life. You shouldn’t either. DISCLAIMER–That doesn’t mean I encourage you to endanger yourself or others by doing something stupid, but learn to take risks from time to time. Your life will be richer for it.

Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Terrorist?

14 Jul

This is a follow up to my previous post, “A Close Brush with Terrorism.”

I am heartbroken. We are on our way home from India following the terrorist attacks that occurred in Mumbai. I was one of only four students in our group who requested to stay and finish out the trip if it were at all possible.  The university decided it was in their best interest to allow any of us to stay.  I’m disappointed beyond belief.

I’m angry, not just at the university for making this decision, but also at the mindset behind the decision. This is what terrorists hope to accomplish by waging attacks like the one that occurred last night. They want to shut down financial centers and prevent tourists from visiting Mumbai. They want the economy to suffer because they believe that this will send whatever message they deem important to the government and will evoke change. When we change our behaviors based on theirs we play right into their plan. That sends a message to the terrorists that these tactics work and I’m appalled that the university believed that the possible liability of our presence in Mumbai overshadowed the learning opportunity that it would provide.

Let’s be honest. It’s not to say that an attack like this came as a complete shock to us. Everyone including the professor who organized this trip knew that there has been and continues to be terrorist activity in Mumbai. In our preparation for this journey, we read Santosh Desai’s Mother Pious Lady, in which he offers an insider’s perspective on various cultural aspects of India. In this book, he devotes an entire chapter to “The Mind of the Terrorist,” in which he notes that the people of India are angry that these attacks are taking place and frustrated over the randomness in which they occur. While there are talks of retaliation in the press, there is really no way for them to “hit back.” He understands that if the Indian people take a strong action against these types of attacks, then they play into their game, which only leads to more terrorists being spawned.

In all reality the best response is to manage the damage, mourn the losses and go on about their daily lives. What we learned from our contact on the ground in Mumbai who told us of public transportation remaining open and a lack of panic in the streets shows the Indian people were doing just that.

After we learned we were heading home, a few others and myself took a last minute shopping excursion in Ahmedabad. We had a driver and translator accompanying us. In Ethnography for Marketers, Mariampolski notes the importance of interviewing subjects in the culture you are studying, so with this in mind, we took advantage of this time and asked our translator about the attacks.

His reaction was similar to that which we read from Desai. He said he was frustrated about the attacks, but that he wasn’t frightened. He said that since these attacks have begun, the government has taken every step possible to prevent terrorism including increasing security and installing metal detectors in potential target locations among other things. He gave us his opinion on why these things were happening, and then said, “You know, you get to a point where you cannot be scared anymore. You have to realize that you’ve done everything you can to prevent these things from happening, but crazy people will continue to do crazy things. You just have to get on with your life (in spite of it).”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

See additional follow up in next post.

A Close Brush with Terrorism

13 Jul

It’s no surprise that coming to India would make my fellow students and I realize how many things we take for granted. Not only luxuries like cable television, air conditioning, washing machines and dryers, but also basic necessities like food, shelter, clean drinking water and free education. These are things that many people in India do without everyday of their lives. These realizations, while humbling, were anticipated and prepared for as we readied ourselves for this trip. One thing that I didn’t anticipate realizing is one thing that nearly every American not only takes for granted, but have come to expect as our God-given right: our safety.

I don’t mean the kind of safety you get from wearing a safety belt and abiding by traffic laws, but rather a general sense of protection from outsiders coming into our homes, workplaces and public areas with the intent to harm us. Yes, September 11 was an eye-opening tragedy that made us question our security. Yes, we’ve become far more diligent on our policing and mindfulness of terrorist groups, but for the most part, in the past 10 years, we have again settled into our existence in the land of the free and home of the brave where every person is allowed the right to feel safe, secure and free from eminent danger. It is because we are Americans, living in a political, economical and military powerhouse that we allow ourselves this peace of mind and comfort that enables us to carry on with our everyday lives. What does this have to do with India?

On our way home from another decadent group dinner, our blissful food comas were interrupted with the news that a terrorist attack had occurred in the financial district of Mumbai, the city are scheduled to fly into tomorrow afternoon and where we are scheduled to stay for the next 10 days. The three bombings occurred within minutes of each other, in a very concentrated area just before evening rush hour, killing at least twenty people and injuring over 100 more.

For those of you not familiar with India’s metropolitan areas, Mumbai to India is roughly the equivalent of what New York City to the U.S. It is the financial center, the core of the advertising industry and hub for a large number of multi-national corporations. Therefore a terrorist attack in this area has the potential for significant economical and social repercussions. This kind of attack in the U.S. would cause fear and panic to arise across the country, while the city itself would come to a halt. Planes would be grounded; public transportation would stop and heightened security measures would be put into action in every major city from coast to coast.

However India has not come to a screeching halt. As we learned from a contact on the ground in Mumbai, the public transportation is still open, places of business are operating as normal, and any real chaos related to the bombing has been limited to the immediate area of the attacks. If we hadn’t received word about the bombings from the university and had neglected to tune our televisions to an English-speaking news network, it’s possible that our group wouldn’t have even heard about the attacks until we picked up a paper tomorrow morning.

The odd thing about this event is that even though I’m only a few hours from the location of the attack, halfway around the world from every person, place and thing that normally gives me a feeling of security, I have absolutely no fear about getting on a plane and flying to Mumbai tomorrow.

This feeling is not shared by many of the students in our group and I don’t blame them. Perhaps I should be frightened, but I’m not. In fact, right now I feel a stronger urge to be here than I have the past thirteen days. I want to stay here and speak to people in Mumbai. I want to learn how they feel about this attack and what it is about their beliefs that allows them to stay so strong in the face of something that would bring the citizens of other cities to their knees. I think that this event will allow all of us to learn far more about the Indian people and culture than we could ever learn from a book or hear from a tour guide. I just hope that Dr. Alvey and the university can find a way for those of us eager to continue with the trip to be able to stay while the rest of our group returns home.

More to come…

Ethnographic Report: India Emerging Part 2

12 Jul

The first educational aspect about this trip was for us to visit ad agencies to see how the industry is different in an emerging economy. It is difficult as Americans for us to understand the ways in which emerging economies operate. We were raised in a culture where our economy and consumption grew with the advent of technologies. In an emerging economy like India, the same rules do not apply. Rather than slowly graduating from the slow dial-up Internet connections we began using in the 1990s to the lightening-fast digital connections and mobile connectivity we have today, the consumer class of India is jumping into technology head-first and the stark contrast that has been created by these changes is remarkable.

In Ethnography for Marketers, A Guide to Consumer Immersion-Hy Mariampolski notes the importance of ethnography in marketing. He notes that while researching a culture for consumer marketing purposes provides a foundation for marketers, change is ubiquitous in contemporary societies, so the best way to fully understand the target of your marketing efforts is to get into their environment. Our experience here has shown this to be true.

For a country that has so recently begun it’s climb up the consumer culture ladder, the influence of Western business can be seen everywhere. From franchised coffee houses to branded tarps, sheet metal, picnic umbrellas, etc., western, commercialized influences are omnipresent. While the traditional street markets and food carts are still prevalent, there is a stark contrast between these traditional vendors and the westernized shopping malls and multiplexes that have permeated cities and towns, capturing large chunks of marketable real estate.


In The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, C.K. Prahalad notes how the emerging consumer class wants to embrace these changes, but these changes cannot happen overnight. When it comes to economic growth through the expansion of Multinational Corporations into these economies there are several hurdles that have to be overcome. There are changes to business models that must be made, such as changes in package size and distribution models. There are often challenges that involve adapting to a lack of infrastructure or the investment by the MNC that have to be made. There are also environmental factors and cultural and religious biases to take into account. In short, for countries such as India, the move to becoming a fully developed economy is a marathon, not a sprint. During this trip we’ve been able to see all of these things firsthand.

In the coming years it will become increasingly important for MNCs that plan to expand into these burgeoning economies to learn these things and plan ahead for the challenges that these economies present. If performed correctly, there is a fortune to be gained by expanding into the Indian economy. Hopefully it will be leaders like those of us in this program who can help guide the way.

Ethnographic Report: India Emerging

12 Jul

When preparing for this trip nearly everyone asked me what India had to do with getting a master’s degree in advertising. This seemed like an odd question to me. Shouldn’t it be obvious? Hasn’t nearly everyone heard about the growth of the “BRIC” countries, the four largest emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, and China? Then I remembered that it was only since I had begun taking the courses in this program that I fully realized the power of what the growth of these markets meant to the world.

So then I would explain that the purpose of this trip from an educational standpoint was two-fold. The first was for us to gain insight into the advertising practices within an emerging economy. The second purpose of this trip was to provide us with an experience of cultural understanding in which we would become fully immersed in the lifestyles, customs, beliefs, and behaviors of a culture vastly different from that of our own.  This cultural immersion would help us to better understand the nature of progress in these burgeoning countries. Both of these aspects will greatly serve us in the future as we pursue jobs working with or for multi-national corporations.

Although I knew exactly the purpose of the trip and I could give examples of things we would be seeing and doing, I had no idea just how powerful a learning experience seeing these firsthand would be. From a marketing and advertising standpoint, I feel truly enlightened by this experience. The following is just some of the great insights I have gained while being here.

Part of what makes the BRIC economies so important for the future of the world economy is the sheer size of their populations. As we learned from Professor Atul Tandan, India, the world’s largest democracy with over 1 billion people.

As an American, those numbers are hard to grasp. What’s even harder to understand is how a country with over 500 million people living on less than $2 per day, could represent the largest consumer class in the world. Over 300 million Indian people have become part of the consumer class and segment will only continue to grow as the largest portion of the population, over 600 million people, are below the age of 25.

Although a far cry from what we consider the middle class by American standards, this Indian consumer class stands to have a HUGE impact on the world.

As Americans there are several things about the growth of the Indian consumer market that are difficult to grasp. This is largely because the U.S. has been on the forefront of technology development since its inception. Our economy and consumption grew gradually as technology improved. In a developing economy like India this is not the case.

In The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, C.K. Prahalad outlines why this segment is so powerful. One the examples he gives is the connectivity that is present in this class. At this point there are over 850 million cellular phones being used by the Indian population. According to Atul, in India, there are actually more cell phones than there are toilets! Another example Prahalad points out is the way in which this consumer class embraces technology. As per the TAM Annual Universe Update – 2010, India now has over 134 million households (out of 223 million) with television sets, of which over 103 million have access to Cable TV or Satellite TV, including 20 million households are DTH subscribers.

This is something we witnessed while driving through Delhi. Although you cannot see them in the photo, the slum pictured below actually had two digital satellites mounted to the top of either end.

More to come…