Ujaya Shakya
Oct 23, 2015

Dispatch from Nepal: Building respect for a young industry

Book excerpt: Assessing the state of Nepal's advertising industry.

Ujaya Shakya
Ujaya Shakya

The following is an excerpt from Brandsutra, a new book by Ujaya Shakya, who has contributed here over the last year and a half from Nepal. The book compiles his contributions to a column called 'Brand Basics' in The Himalayan Times Perspectives, a leading English national daily. More information on the book is available at www.brandsutra.info. 

Nepal's ad industry is still very marginal when we compare ourselves to GDP contribution. We are only about 0.25 per cent of GDP of Nepal. If we compare this with other economies, you will notice that most organized markets have above 1 per cent contribution from the ad industry. This strongly indicates that there is a lot of room to grow the ad industry in Nepal. There are examples in our region itself where countries that have similar populations as ours are enjoying over five times bigger ad industry as compare to us. Our immediate two neighbors look very vibrant in terms of their respective ad industry, achieving big recognition in the most respectable international platforms like Cannes Lions uninterruptedly in the recent years. All major international networks of agencies are officially present in most of the countries in the South Asian region for more than a decade except Nepal. This gave them the opportunity to bring in globally putative practices in these countries, which in return helped their respective ad industries to become more lucrative sector for young talents to join and contribute in bringing lots of professionalism to the business.

Having spent over 15 years in communication business, I still come across many contexts where our profession does not get the respect it deserves. Many advertisers are yet to realize that their agency partners are not just another set of vendors but can become true brand custodians if treated with dignity and trust. There are few chapters in the book that talk about the importance of agency- client partnership and how it can help achieve the common goal of doing great brand and marketing campaigns together.

Many other chapters are devoted on talking about different avenues in communication business and highlight some brief case-studies of global best practices which can be a piece of knowledge for the marketers to try and implement them locally in context to Nepal.

Another essential purpose behind this book is also to widen the horizon of ad fraternity in Nepal and prepare them for the bigger role where they are able to discuss not just ideas and media vehicles, but provide solutions to the client and thereby forecast possible business problems of their clients before-hand and suggest strategies on positioning, desired consumer actions and target market.

When I started my career with JWT some 15 years back, media planning was straightforward. There were hardly five key national dailies, fewer than 15 key weeklies and magazines, fewer than five radio stations and about two to three national TV channels. And to top it all cable penetration was low. Competitors of our clients were not advertising heavily.

Fast forward to the current situation. Things are completely different today from the media planning perspective. There are over 17 key national TV channels and more to come, and over 60 per cent cable penetration in urban Nepal beaming over 50 foreign channels, over 10 key national dailies, over 50 key weeklies and magazines, about 300 FM stations across Nepal, about 30 per cent internet penetration, over 80 per cent mobile penetration and over 5 million people registered in Facebook alone from Nepal. Media is widely getting fragmented not only in terms of the media consumption habits of our audiences but also in terms of the way the contents are getting consumed. It’s a complicated situation. Hence there are few chapters in the book dedicated to this challenging media. In this context, it is getting ever more important to have proper media measurement tools in place to be able to conceive the most effective plans for the clients. These data driven exercises that are already globally accepted will help our ad industry in gaining more respect for our profession.

There are also few chapters that talk about new media opportunities like digital, activation, ambient, social media, search engine optimizations, mobile applications and public relations. There are already few agencies in Nepal successfully offering some of these services to the client and only recently one such brand property conceptualized with the theme of school level competition for the brand Dabur Real was up for the international recognition representing Nepal in the global forum for the first time. I am sure these chapters will help in triggering more such ideas from our fraternity.

As per the government census figures, 80 per cent of Nepalese are residing in rural Nepal. Rural opportunities are not to be neglected due to the recent spurt in increase in rural household income particularly owing to rising contribution of remittance income in the GDP of Nepal, which is today more than 25 per cent. This is leading to rising aspiration for higher standards of life among the rural folks. Increasing lifestyle orientation of rural audiences due to media penetration and exposure received by their family members now residing in Middle East or Southeast Asian metropolitan cities further activate this consumerist demand for a higher lifestyle. There are other facts like an increase in literacy level and relatively high inflation in agricultural products that again help them in increasing their purchasing power. To top it all, there is increasing road accessibility that is also helping brands to reach out to them in every nook and corner of the country through their wide distribution network. High penetration of mobile phone also helps in making them today a vibrant consumption economy of the country that cannot be neglected by any nation-level brands. There are few chapters on rural opportunities as well.

Ujaya Shakya is vice-president of Advertising Association of Nepal and founder and MD of Outreach Nepal


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