Nimish Dwivedi
Aug 15, 2018

Opinion: The pothole proposition

Pothole deaths in India increased by 50 per cent in 2017 to reach 3,597. The author has a few marketing tips that can help get rid of them

Screen grab from Jose Covaco's video on potholes
Screen grab from Jose Covaco's video on potholes
Mumbai. Mention it and associations that spring to mind immediately are pav vada, pav bhaji and unique colloquial phrases like 'patli galli se kat le'. And given the text bookish approach that we are all attuned to of putting everything within a three word or in case of marketing a four word framework like the 4 Ps, it is time to add another word that can be immediately associated with Mumbai .
Just like the 3 Ps- Pav Vada, Pav Bhaji and Patli Galli, the fourth P that has now become an integral part of the Mumbaiya lexicon and of Mumbai's landscape is  sadly - potholes. Also the pothole phenomenon is not just Mumbai centric but seems to have spread across India along with pollution.
No matter how hard we try this attribute that has sprung up on Mumbai's surface like an unwanted boil discovered on one's face on the day of an important meeting and then erupting all across one's body with no Vicco Turmeric Ayurvedic concoction or even a premium Neutrogena like international concoction which can cure it.
And now that potholes will not go away it is time to add some marketing razzmatazz to these rapidly spreading potholes and make them tourist worthy. 
First off these potholes should be classified. Nowadays the first thing we search for in any city are  'Heritage Sites'. In the same way potholes can be classified as 'Hospital Sites'- a site which has sent more people to hospital than any other site. 
Second, we need to define the unique characteristic of each pothole which becomes a compelling reason to visit that pothole. So one can classify potholes as - the longest pothole, the deepest pothole, the pothole that has broken most legs, the pothole that has created maximum spinal problems, the pothole that has survived most repairs, the pothole that has rebounded in record time after being repaired. The pothole on which Mukesh Ambani's Bentley passes every day, the pothole on which Salman Khan cycles in Bandra. All of these merit not just a visit but a mandatory 'pelfie'. A selfie with a pothole. 
Third comes the opportunity for brands to create a range of pothole protecting products. 
The Honda Activa Khadda range of scooters. Ready to fly - not just over any path whether well travelled or less travelled but over any pothole, big or small, shallow or deep. 
For poor pedestrians that need to navigate these potholes. Well, there is an immense opportunity for say the 'Hush Pothole Puppies' range. Shoes designed to help one walk through potholes which are not just water proof but also slush and much proof. And besides their unique pothole proof design the shoes can come equipped with unique sensors which light up when a pothole is too deep or too long so one can walk through the edges of such potholes even in blinding rain rather than plunging right into them. 
While there have been jackets and track suits created for different weather conditions there is also an opportunity for  brands like Nike or Adidas to create an advanced apparel range which is pothole proof. We have all seen dirty shirts being dumped into a bucket of water and coming out sparkling white. Am thinking now of a celebrity cricketer wearing his Nike Pothole Proofs, falling into a pothole and coming out squeaky clean with no injuries. 
Mention injuries and another category opportunity comes to mind. Medical insurance providers that seek to expand their customer base rapidly should consider a new range of insurance products- Pothole Protection. Cashless medical care available at premium hospitals for any pothole related injuries that happen while walking or on a bike or even in a luxury car. 
Mobile phone makers wanting to rapidly gain market share should consider adding a new icon to their emergency mode function. Besides share location or call a family member there should be a pothole alert which senses and auto activates whenever the phone is near or on a pothole and alerts family members as well as a nearby hospital for an emergency ambulance.
Also, as visitors to potholes increase there is also the food and beverage opportunity. The Pothole Potluck Cafe omnipresent near every major pothole spot and serving adapted dishes like Khadda Pav Bhaji instead of Khada Pav Bhaji. Or Pothole Parathas - odd shaped, never perfectly round with layers of stuffing to give it depth. The culinary possibilities are also limitless like the limitless growth of potholes. 
And finally the franchise opportunity. Potholes also deserve a movie of their own. Perhaps Subhash Ghai will announce a sequel to his blockbuster- Khalnayak. Adapted for today's times it can be called Khaddanayak. 
As potholes become a franchise and generate funds as tourist spots, through new brand propositions, through food chains and such sources, these funds can be used for that one purpose- saying goodbye to potholes now and forever. Hopefully. Let's nourish that thought with some Pothole Parathas. 
(The author is a senior consumer marketing and financial services professional based in Vietnam, who has lived and worked in India, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Dubai. His book "Marketing Chronicles" is available on Amazon India, Flipkart and at key online/ physical book stores.) 


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