Business Today

Desi cool

Santosh Padhi        Print Edition: Jan 8, 2012

Somewhere in Los Angeles, a couple of years ago, a bunch of truly accomplished, highly qualified demigods of global cinema from various parts of the world were swaying their hips and losing their hearts to the pulsating 'Jai Ho' song played at the end of a movie put together by a leading Hollywood director. 

Somewhere in France, a few years ago, a bunch of truly accomplished, highly qualified demigods of the global advertising industry from various parts of the world were swaying their hips and losing their hearts to the pulsating nakka mukka song used in an ad promoting the world's largest-selling English newspaper.

Basically, when life gave us lemons we made nimboo paani. Not lemonade. Little wonder victory tastes this sweet.

What I mean to say is; these two identical, pride inducing accomplishments that transpired within two successive years across two separate industries (advertising and cinema) only stamped, signed and sealed a draft that had been in the writing for a while. The phrase 'We are like this only' sums it up best. And the moment we shout it out to the world, we've won half the battle already, and a few million hearts along the way.

Much to our collective relief, we have slowly but surely come to realise the importance of acceptance. Of being who we are and where we come from. Somewhere in our hearts and minds, we very well know that being ourselves is the right way forward. And one that will, without a doubt, take us places.

The identity has finally been restored. Desi is cool again. And it looks like we won't be seeing its back for good time. The concept of aping the West is gradually becoming as dated as the idea of West itself. Now, it's all about celebrating Indianness unabashedly. We're done with shying away from the mirror. It's time to look at ourselves a little more honestly.

Take the movies for instance. Or Bollywood, as we know it. What has been getting us to the theaters lately is unadulterated masala entertainment packed with punches, matkas, jhatkas and heavy-duty dialogue. It may not be what the doctor ordered, but it's what the fellow on the busy street asked for. A fellow from the heartland of India, or as we call it - the bottom of the pyramid.

When Bollywood leads the way, advertising can't be too far behind. In the past decade or so, an increasing number of brand and brand messages have been embracing Indian insights and cultural nuances. Despite the barrier of diversity in language, food, tastes, likes and dislikes of a billion different people, it seems we have managed to crack the code.

Values never go out of fashion. Often, they reinvent themselves with the changing times and surprisingly become cool again. Like it happened with antique furniture. Like it's happening with vinyl records. Like it's also going to happen with things inherently Indian. If we look closely enough, these things were always around. Not in metros, but at the bottom of the pyramid - the outskirts, the fringes.

Truly, being Indian was never this cool. It's what separates us from the rest of the world and hence is refreshingly different. Not surprisingly, almost every Indian brand wants to sink its teeth into this deliciously desi pudding. They want their celebrity endorsers to walk and talk and dance and prance around like the fellow on the street. The mantras are being rewritten. And it's a calculated move. They rather sell 500 shampoo sachets for two rupees each than sell five bottles at Rs 200 per bottle. The bottom-line being: the numbers are far greater at the bottom. And they are still growing. It's where the brands are aiming at and rightly so.

Along with 'desi cool', another buzzword that seems to rule the times is 'youth'. But this was only waiting to happen. We've undergone a bit of reverse ageing to become a much younger nation. When the average age of your target audience is around 24, 50 to 60 year old brands have to evolve too. We have already seen 100-year-old brands like Godrej going through a makeover, and there are many others who have understood the need for a change and many more will go through the same in near future.

Sooner than later, young India will demand more transparency, more power, more attention and the need for expression. Brands will have to converse with it instead of talking to it. They will have to tell, not just sell. Express, not impress. The focus will shift from rational benefits to emotional connect. Mere ads will slowly go out of fashion. Brand building will have to rely on acts. Or communication that becomes a piece of news itself and involves its audience. And this is where digital will play a big role in delivering brand messages to this new breed of target audience that can be found online for 4-5 hours a day at an average.

Bollywood and Cricket the current two big giants of the brand world will have to go through a change for good. Even TV as a medium will be relooked at. Maybe even reinvent itself in another form. More and more Dhonis, Vijendars and Deepikas will emerge from the bottom of the pyramid and will be the face of many brands to connect with consumers better.

The pyramid will have been inverted. Rules will have changed. The transition from Desi cool to Desi young will have happened. Don't be surprised if Kabbadi Premier League becomes the toast of the nation.

The author is Co-founder & Chief Creative Officer, Taproot India


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