"My healthy respect for research is well-known. You guys are lucky. You get paid for something I said 20 years ago."
Piyush Pandey, executive chairman and creative director, south Asia, Ogilvy gave the keynote address at the launch of Ernst & Young’s 'The New Market Shehers’ report.
Pandey, who has born in Jaipur is possibly one of the best Hindi copywriters in the country and on Tuesday, speaking at the conference, he was in ‘I-told-you-so’ mode as he reflected on what’s right about the urban towns and the opportunities that have always existed.
"The small town growth story has been happening since the last 50 years. When I joined the industry as a Hindi copywriter in the 1980’s, people in our agencies – used to a culture of learning and reading only in English - thought I was encroaching on their territory. But the fact was that I was creating new territory."
Pandey was critical of the current talent pool – both at senior and junior levels – which in his view, keeps its knowledge confined to management and strategy books. "You read books written by management gurus from abroad and think that it is enough to help you market your product to a country of a billion people that is unlike any other," he observed.
"Most of us sitting in this room have our roots in small towns, but when we came to settle down in metros, what made us think that we would know more than the guy who sat next to us in school?" he said.
Pandey asserted that insights cracked sitting from metros about the hinterland may often prove to be myths. "The fact is, people in small towns are different from us. And they are a little more priviledged than us. They were always more evolved than us. Today they have the advantage of being equally aspirational as people in big cities. I read in the papers about growth stories from rural India…there’s about 40% growth in automobiles, most of which is in the two-wheeler segment. Who is being these vehicles? I’m not buying them, you aren’t buying them. It’s they who are buying."
Pandey however was glad that advertising – his own work being a big part of it – had taken cognisance of small town insights and value systems. "Thankfully if you look at it, advertising has always been a step ahead in recognising this trend. The stuff that works across masses always its roots in cultural insights, something which originates in small towns. DDLJ works outside the country, because it gives NRIs what they’re missing about India."
Pandey’s advice to marketers was to address local problems first before crafting global philosophies. "Let’s start thinking local and stop talking about global. There’s a huge market there and all our television commercials can be based on insights obtained from the heart of India. Let’s stop looking down on them. Just because we’re earning more money than them doesn’t mean we’re living a better lifestyle than them. The approach towards addressing small towns has to be on an equal level, not a top down level," he said.