MUMBAI: Hindustan Unilever, the consumer goods group, believes marketers in India will rapidly have to learn a range of new skills, as digital media gains ground in the country.

At an event held by exchange4media, the trade title, Nitin Paranjpe, CEO of Hindustan Unilever, argued new media is quickly assuming a central role.

"It is not surprising to see how digital has made [its] way into the overall mix of how we communicate with the consumer," he said.

Currently, this channel only takes a minimal share of total advertising expenditure, although the surging interest among brands should change this situation.

"At 4% in the Indian market in 2010, it is small, but you know the rate at which it is growing," Paranjpe said.

He cited the example of the UK, where digital spend has surpassed newspapers and is vying for the top spot in category terms, with TV, and predicted similar trends could take shape in India.

In a further indication of how India is starting to catch up with other nations, DVRs are also seeing a rise in demand, albeit rather more slowly due to their comparative expensiveness.

"What this technology does is that it simply provides the power to choose what to watch, when to watch and where to watch," Paranjpe said.

"It liberates the consumer from the normal module of being dependent on schedules that are published."

Social media platforms like Facebook and Orkut are also attracting increasing numbers of members across India, where the freedom such sites give for interaction and expression is proving popular.

"We should not underestimate how deep this desire in human beings is and that is why all of this is becoming so significant," Paranjpe said.

"All of us realise and are moving to leverage social media for our brands and connect with our consumers."

Taken together, the major shifts supporting such trends mean that marketers must develop a more nuanced understanding and set of capabilities.

"Because the consumer will decide what he wants to watch, when and how, the big implication will call for new skills and new expertise," he said.

"Understanding consumers and picking up data and converting it into information and quality analytics will be the differentiator between one company and the other, between success and failure."

"And while we realise this, I fear that the amount of resources and time we need to be putting into this may not be at the level it needs to be as we move forward."

Data sourced from exchange4media; additional content by Warc staff