Brands target Indian youth

14 September 2012

NEW DELHI: Brand owners like Mercedes-Benz, Philips and Arrow are attempting to attract younger consumers in India, reflecting the growing affluence and influence of this audience.

Mercedes-Benz, the automaker, recently launched a reality series called Date with Speed, seeking to find budding racing drivers, with MTV, the broadcaster. The companies also held events in colleges and popular social venues among this demographic.

Over the coming two years, Mercedes will roll out four new vehicles – one B-class and one A-class car, as well as a "baby" sedan and SUV – with starting prices of around $45,000, and aimed at 25–35 year olds.

"In India, Mercedes is synonymous with luxury and wealth but globally we are known as a sporty brand," Debashis Mitra, its sales and marketing director, told the Economic Times. "We needed to bring our sporty face to India."

Elsewhere, Philips, the electronics group, is pushing a range of lines for 16–30 year olds, from headphones and docking stations for MP3 players to Blu-Ray players and styling products for men and women.

"If you can catch them in their early life stages, chances are they will stay with you later and become consumers for life," Vivek Sharma, chief marketing officer at Philips, said.

Harish Bijoor, the founder of Harish Bijoor Consults, reported that 54% of the Indian population are under 25 years of age, and 72% are less than 35 years old.

"Young people today are earning better than their parents," he added. "They're also postponing marriage, which leaves them with single, undisputed incomes to spend on themselves."

Arrow launched in India during 2003. Its high-end shirts were some of the most expensive in India, while the wood panelling and layout of its stores had an antiquated feel. 

"The stores had the look and hushed reverence of a library. "Each shirt had its own shelf; that's how exclusive it was." Rishi Vasudev, chief operator of Arvind Lifestyle Brands, the parent of Arrow, said.

Research conducted by the company in 2006 indicated the extent of the problem. "Younger people saw it as their father's or uncle's brand: very expensive and inaccessible."

The firm has since rolled out fashionable lines like T-shirts, shorts, jumpers and businesswear for young professionals. Sales have grown by an average of 38% since 2007, and the typical customer is now 31 years old, compared with over 40 years old in 2006.

For its part, Titan, a unit of Tata Group, promoted its Fastrack watches with an ad deemed too risqué for TV but which spread rapidly online. Timex, in the same category, also launched the Helix watch for 19–25 year olds in 2011.

"Timex already had watches for the 25-35 year demographic," V D Wadhwa, its chief executive, said. "But we found a gap in the market in which to position Helix – people joining their first job, who typically want watches that are trendy but not totally casual, something they could wear to work."

Data sourced from Economic Times; additional content by Warc staff