Digital has become very important in the rural marketing mix: Ravindra Shahane

The VP – Marketing, Mahindra Farm Equipment Sector, speaks about using 3D technology in TV campaign, how digital is changing the face of marketing in rural India and more…

BestMediaInfo Bureau
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Digital has become very important in the rural marketing mix: Ravindra Shahane

Digital has become very important in the rural marketing mix: Ravindra Shahane

The VP – Marketing, Mahindra Farm Equipment Sector, speaks about using 3D technology in TV campaign, how digital is changing the face of marketing in rural India and more…

Jagadeesh Krishnamurthy | Mumbai | April 7, 2015

Ravindra-Shahane Ravindra Shahane

Mahindra's Farm Equipment Sector (FES) recently rolled out a marketing campaign for the Mahindra Arjun Novo tractors, which featured a television film, leveraging 3D animation to demonstrate technological advancements of the tractor.

The TVC is set against the backdrop of Mahindra Research Valley, the centre for design and development for Mahindra's automobiles and tractors. The TVC, conceptualised by Interface Communications, showcases a true farm performance, bringing to life proven product performance using 3D animation. The product features have been explained and dramatised, depicting the product's superiority and advanced technology and highlighting its key message for customers.

View the TVC below:


Agency: Interface Communications

National Creative Director: Robby Mathew

Creative Team: Robby Mathew, Vipul Salve, Aditya Tripathi

Account Management Team: Shailesh Gupte, Abhay Godbole, Amogh Kanade, Vinay Sawant

Production House: Perfect 10

Director: David Alcade

Further to the film, BestMediaInfo caught up with Ravindra Shahane, VP - Marketing, Farm Equipment Sector, Mahindra & Mahindra, to talk about this film and the surrounding campaign, as well as what the brand has been doing in the rural markets. Excerpts from the conversation:

What was the need to use 3D technology for the campaign?

The Mahindra Novo tractor is technologically very advanced from what you otherwise get in India. And, the whole picture has to be transmitted to the consumer. Even the film represents a technological product. So, in doing that, we went through various scripts and it was important to communicate that this is coming out of the Mahindra stable and we have done a lot of investment in terms of research and development. The second part was the benefits of technology from the product itself. How do we portray the benefits of the technology in real usage terms for the farmer? We could have shown it on the farm, exactly in the same domain that the farmer works, but then it will be quite boring. Then there is no visible change in the technology that I can depict with respect to other ad films. That was the reason why we chose to show it in the backdrop of Mahindra Research Valley and used CG (computer graphics), where we had the flexibility for showing multiple things in a short span.

In terms of production costs, how does this compare to a regular ad film?

I would not say it is more expensive than a regular ad film. We have created films which are as expensive as this one. From tractor advertising point of view, there is no doubt that it is expensive than a regular tractor film. What I personally learnt from this is the time required for CG. It takes a lot of time to make sure that the details and feel are right, which in a normal shoot are taken for granted.

How long did it take from ideation to execution?

It took us around three months, which is a little bit longer than a regular ad film's concept to edit.

What kind of media mix have you planned for this campaign?

We have to use regional television because of the farming consumers that we have to address. News is very important for us. Given the recent elections in Delhi and the Cricket World Cup, news and current affairs were important. We are using digital in a big way. We have received over one lakh views for the film online, across social media platforms, including Twitter and Facebook.

Why is digital an important touch point for reaching your consumer base?

I don't think there are a lot of tractor purchasers on the Internet, but there are a lot of influencers. There are people who would talk to their parents or uncles. It is the next generation that is getting into digital. People typically have someone in the city, in a job or studying. These are the people who will influence people back at home. That's one part of the thing. There is a lot of this mobile technology coming into picture right now. Farmers are no exception. Today, the penetration of mobile even in the farming community is increasing very rapidly. They have access to the Internet because of that. So, it is allowing us to communicate with them. It is certainly not the same as the urban setup, but it is catching up very fast and will act as an influencer in a big way. Other than television and digital, we are going through the CRM route to get people to visit the dealership through various WhatsApp contests.

Rural has traditionally been an activation-driven approach. Are there any specific initiatives in that space?

Activation is very important to reach this community. People want to touch, feel and see the performance before they buy because a lot hinges on the product. What we have done is we have created an advanced demo module, where we have incorporated sensors on tractors that display the relevant performance parameters on an LED screen to show how it performs on the field as not everybody can sit on the tractor. These demos are held in our potential markets, and we try to get the influencer group for the activity. And, with this technologically superior activation, we are seeing a lot of conviction coming through.

What has been the initial feedback for this particular activation?

People have really liked it, as there is proof of what is happening. We give them a printout at the end of the day, with details on how the tractor has performed. We have had instances where the farmers have got their tractors to get them tested with our sensors, which unfortunately is not possible. That's the big change we are seeing. We have seen that the conviction has gone up manifold. People want to take a test drive and see how it performs.

How important a role does language play here?

Very important! Even if you look at our TVC, we have dubbed it in six languages. They need to feel comfortable dealing with you. You can't put down something. You have to be realistic and give them the right information.

How many markets are you tapping with this product?

We went in a phased manner. So, we launched in August and went to the second set of markets in November, and now we have covered all our markets. Unlike other automobile categories, in the FES business, one has to wait for the harvest season. That's the window we were targeting for the TVC.

What is the typical time period for purchasing the tractors? Is it only around the harvest season?

Farmers start preparing for the harvest season and start looking for tractors. With the field having crops standing and ready to harvest, they know how much they are going to make. Since they know what the status of income is for the next six months, it gives them the confidence to make an investment like this.

Moving away from this particular campaign, what are the other products that FES deals in?

Tractors are our main line of products. Then we have AppliTrac business, which deals with implements. So, they naturally go hand in hand. Then we have something called as Samriddhi, which deals in soil testing, fertiliser testing assessment, etc. Along with consulting, we can also give the products pertaining to that. We also have ShubhLabh, which is the end product. We export grapes, bananas, apples, pulses, etc. So, the whole value chain from land preparation to selling the end product is getting covered.

We have a scenario where digital penetration, especially smart phone usage, has quadrupled from what it was, say three years ago. How has that impacted your marketing plans?

As I said, digital has become very important in the rural marketing mix suddenly. It wasn't that case one year back. It has even changed the way we approach our consumer, and even plan our CRM. It gives us tremendous opportunity to create relationships and making connect with our consumers as it is a two-way process now. It has become a dialogue now.

What is the role played by influencers in the FES space?

The role played by an influencer in the farming space is slightly different. Here it is important for the guy seeking the information to know that the other guy is knowledgeable. So, people will not just go out and try things because too much depends on it. So, the influencer has to be someone who can be trusted like a family member, or is already engaged in farming. He may not just read a magazine and say, 'I will buy this'. But, professors in an agricultural university or the village sarpanch are a part of his influencers' circle.

Will we see a significant shift in marketing spends towards digital in the case of rural markets?

Right now it is an additional spend as it is not replacing any other spend. Activation, print and television are so important. Digital is an investment. We are looking at it as something which will come over a period of time. In terms of percentages, digital will be heading into double digits in the next year.

How important is social media for a company like yours while dealing with rural markets?

It is very important, but it is yet to mature. A lot of our digital engagement happens from the community that we want to address. There are not millions of them, but the thousands that we engage are genuine. To that extent, it does help. Our focus is on influencers at this time. Going forward, we will see a lot of information being disseminated to farmers through mobile. The Government is taking some efforts in that area. We have also started something called Agripedia, which is part of the Samriddhi initiative.

How important is weather, especially monsoon, while planning a campaign for this sector?

(Laughs) A lot of it depends on the rain god. It is a very important factor. One has to wait and watch how monsoon pans out every year. We have to wait for the right window and see when monsoon starts in the country and how it spreads all over. Most of our products and services are dependent on monsoon. So, one has to be aware about the quality of monsoon, whether it delayed or early, etc. So, one has to be very sensitive to all these aspects while planning a campaign.

Moreover, we have to be sensitive to issues like when the money is going to flow into the system, which is the harvest period, and so marketing is very seasonal. Hence, timing is critical.

As a marketeer, how difficult was it for you to adjust to these sensitivities?

I spent half my career in farming, and then went into auto. But it is certainly different. It is very challenging. It is a very heterogeneous market. There are no high levels of commonalities between, say usage of Punjab or Maharashtra and Bengal or Gujarat. Every state has a different way of using the same product. There will be nuances that one needs to know. Implements and speeds will change, and all these will result in product value proposition being different for X versus Y. This typically doesn't happen in any other category.