NEW DELHI: An increasing number of brands are building their own online communities in India, as they seek to engage members of the country's growing internet audience.

Samsung Mobile was one of the first major advertisers to take such an approach in the rapidly-developing economy, having launched the Samsung Fun Club in 2004.

This site, which now has more than three million users in India, offers a range of exclusive ringtones, games and videos, and the company plans to extend this range of services going forward.

"We have just launched applications for Samsung phones through the Fun Club, which will be expanded into areas like maps, instant messaging, sports and news," Ranjit Yadav, director of mobile and IT, at Samsung India said.

Canon, the camera specialist, has also registered some 80,000 members for Canon Edge, which contains a forum, blog, and hosts a range of competitions.

"Since a lot of consumers participating in our community are interested in serious photography, this translated into nearly 100% growth in the digital SLR camera business," said Alok Bharadwaj, senior vice president of Canon India.

"Next month, we will launch an online photo gallery that will provide further thrust," he added.

LG Electronics, one of the biggest firms in its category in the Asian nation, is also in the process of establishing this kind of offering, according to L K Gupta, its chief marketing officer.

"The internet is emerging as a potential media for marketers to interact with consumers rather than just communicate with them. Online consumer communities provide an ideal platform," he said.

Ultimately, Gupta added, it is hoped this will enable the organisation to "receive consumer feedback and directly talk to them, and thereby increase consumer bonding with the LG brand."

Tata Teleservices, the telecoms arm of one of the country's biggest conglomerates, is using its branded "Forum" to track popular preferences relating to Tata Indicom, Photon and Tata Docomo.

"In a category like telecoms, where tariffs are changing every day, it helps us to hear the inherent voice of consumers," said Lloyd Mathias, its chief marketing officer.

Philips, the electronics group, is aiming to tailor this sort of strategy to focus on business-to-business audiences, including experts in the lighting and healthcare industries.

"We are already running a couple of pilots targeting doctors, radiologist and architects," said Vivek Sharma, chief marketing officer of Philips India.

Data sourced from Economic Times; additional content by Warc staff