A message to India: it’s time to get creative with digital

Piyush Pandey

Piyush Pandey


The digital challenge in India, in a way, is no different than is the case with any country that is experiencing a digital transformation. The only difference is in the size and complexity.

The challenge is to address 1.2 billion people who speak 23 different languages and countless dialects. Add to the mix the disparity of literacy in the population and the varied socio-economic backgrounds.

At first, a huge population is getting accustomed to the basic functional benefits of a digital life — search, maps, mobile banking, buying train tickets on the internet, the ability to book rides on Uber, and so on.

None of these functional uses needs ‘creativity’.

Creativity in content is at a nascent stage in India; therefore, creativity in technology is the first task that stares at us.

About a year ago, I asked two senior media professionals whether they included the viewing of Bollywood movies and songs (which forms a significant percentage of consumption) in their definition of ‘digital’ growth, and they answered in the affirmative. My question is: what is digital about this consumption apart from the convenience of being able to carry the content in your pocket?

Where is the digital creative transformation that can help brands grow stronger and bigger?

It is not that we are short of ‘digital’ talent. There are amazing young people who are doing wonders with technology — but they need to learn how to marry brand objectives to the digital possibilities.

Unfortunately, not many clients contribute meaningfully; most of them view digital as a new and cheaper media vehicle for running the same content created for older media.

Engagement, interaction, building relationships with consumers and giving brands purpose are the biggest creative challenges on digital in India. Moving from mere delivery to amazement, from functional to emotional and from cheap to high RoI is the opportunity. The faster clients and communications professionals get it, the better off we will be — on building brands and on solving social issues.

It took us a decade or more to convert television from being a delivery boy to becoming a creative, problem-solving partner. India doesn’t have the luxury of that kind of time to embrace and harness digital — and that makes digital adoption the most exciting and challenging task. If we can get it right in India, it can be got right anywhere in the world.

I’m hugely optimistic — because, as India saw with print earlier and TV later, it takes just one significant success to spark a revolution.

Remember Bjorn Borg – and what happened to Swedish (and world) tennis after we discovered him.

Harriet Palmer