Rajeeb Dash, Marketing Head, Tata Housing, sees huge potential for growth in the real estate market in India. Dash urges marketers to reward innovation and break away from stereotypes
Q] Tata Housing offers projects from value to high end. How does the communication differ for these different segments?
We believe in designing products based on thorough in-depth consumer research so that it can meet consumers’ future needs. Communication differs significantly for each consumer segment, as their needs differ. Marketing of the projects is done innovatively to reach the target segments with minimum spends. Theme-based marketing is used for premium projects to break the clutter, for example, the Bangalore project was launched with the master plan designed as a sand sculpture by famous artiste Sudarshan Patnaik and kept in a mall atrium for public viewing to create excitement in the market. Similarly, our Gurgaon project was marketed and designed with the theme of ‘Art and Culture’ to break the clutter in the market. Regional local media and mediums are used for low cost housing projects with local train branding, dabbawalla activity and branding in the industrial areas. While the luxurious projects are being advertised in premium magazines and race course activity, direct mailers have been sent to the High Networth Individual (HNI) database. Innovative and disruptive marketing has helped us minimize marketing spends to 2% of the revenue with faster turnaround for the project. The fundamental approach that helped us differentiate marketing in both segments was from the philosophy that affordable housing is an opportunity and luxury housing is an offer.
Q] Tata Housing is a strong supporter of Direct Marketing. Can you share some successful direct marketing campaigns with us?
About 20% of our marketing budget goes to Direct Marketing. We have linked many innovations to the project theme to make it relevant for the target segment. Some of our direct marketing campaigns include:
Olive bottle as DM: As part of a consumer engagement initiative for La Montana project based in Talegaon, designed on a Mediterranean theme, we sent out a small bottle filled with olives to customers who have bought into the project. This was a simple reminder of the lifestyle they would be enjoying when they move there. The bottle also had referral scheme offer attached to it, which drove in a good number of referrals.
Dabbawalla activity: Leveraging the network of Mumbai’s dabbawallas, we were able to tap 24,000 prospects. For two consecutive days, dabbawallas gave ‘New Haven’ leaflets with detailed information as well as a ‘New Haven’ key chain that served as a reminder along with dabbas to their entire network.
Pongal DM: For our Crescent Lake Homes project customers, we sent out a small earthen pot filled with rice, jaggery and sugar (ingredients required to prepare pongal rice) wishing them a Happy Pongal, along with special referral schemes.
Q] How are you using the digital medium as a tool to engage consumers?
Property buying is a high involvement decision and generally, a property amounts to about 40% of an individual’s total net worth. Inevitably, property buying involves tremendous research and innumerable interactions with various influencers. Most conversations in the Sec A & Sec B segments happen over the Internet, via social media, blogs, forums, review sections, etc. Our approach towards Digital is two-pronged: to be present in all these conversations via internet advertising with Google Adwords, banner ads, PPC & PPI campaigns, and to engage with prospects over the long term by integrating our marketing initiatives with our social media outreach through non-business content aimed at a conversation with people aspiring to a certain kind of lifestyle. The results have been phenomenally encouraging, in case of our Pune project Inora Park; the entire Phase 1 has been sold online. For La Montana at Talegaon, we have been able to fetch 25% of our sales via Digital at hardly 10% of the cost of print ads. Our philosophy and brand ideology is to catch people young so that they become our customers in future. We have more than 40,000 fans on Facebook as part of our customer engagement.
Q] How important are Tier II and Tier III cities to Tata Housing? What is the marketing strategy used to tap these markets?
Emerging cities are poised to become the growth engine of the country; we have already forayed into Tier II cities such as Pune, Ahmedabad, Bhubaneswar and plan to enter many more. The marketing strategy is unique for each project as the expectations and mindset of customers is different. Local culture is kept at the fore of our marketing.
Q] How has the real estate luxury segment changed in India? How does the brand leverage its presence in this segment?
As the Indian economy is growing vigorously and welcoming more foreign brands in the luxury space, the luxury real estate market has also been witnessing high demand. The fundamental change is the shift from one-size-fits all to community-based developments to find a clearly defined niche of consumers to be targeted through Digital & Events marketing. We identified this trend at the height of the slowdown in India in 2008 and developed Prive, an exclusive residential development, nestled in the foothills of Lonavala. Taking a cue from success of Prive, Tata Housing has developed luxury and super luxury projects such as Raisina Residency and Primanti in Gurgaon, Aquila Heights and The Promont in Bengaluru.
Q] What role does mobile marketing play in your marketing mix?
We have given mobile marketing a fair share in our marketing mix by developing apps and targeted mobile advertising. It currently forms 5% of our overall marketing mix, but this will increase and eat into the pie of our print advertising.
Q] Can you share with us any growing marketing trends in the real estate sector?
Real estate marketing is continuously evolving and increasingly, developers are looking at targeted mediums to reach out to their customers. Some of the trends that I see shaping up in the industry are:
• Consumer research: Developers have woken up to the importance of consumer research and are using various tools and research agencies to identify consumer needs and expectations to design products
• Theme-based projects: To differentiate their offerings, realtors are developing projects with distinctive themes such as Mediterranean Lifestyle, Golf Country, Sports, etc.
• Increasing use of Digital media: Digital media has really transformed real estate marketing and is an extremely engaging platform
• Corporate brand-building: Realtors are focusing on building their corporate brand identity rather than just project-based marketing. The crisis of 2009 and the current turmoil has showed that bigger brands have been hurt the least in these times, at least on the sales front, and new players have taken a beating
• Disruptive marketing: This is being used to break the clutter and make it interesting for consumers.
Q] How do you see the real estate industry five years from now?
The real estate industry will get more corporatized, regulated, transparent and ethical. The real estate market in India is still in a nascent stage and the scope is huge. It does not resemble a bubble that will burst.
Q] What are the biggest challenges faced by the realty industry today?
Sharp rise in prices and interest rates have affected the real estate sector adversely. The domestic construction industry has been jostling with steep rise in prices of cement, steel rods, bricks and other input materials, which have risen by over 30% since 2010. The cost of raw materials has increased, putting pressure on profit margins of developers, which has ultimately impacted selling price of apartments. The industry is also grappling with labour shortage of about 30%. Due to this, construction projects are getting delayed or cancelled all over the country.