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Augmented Reality: Marketing Landscapes In India

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By Ashutosh Singh:

When TOI came up with it’s augmented reality app “Alive”, built in partnership with AdStuck, it created a lot of noise among media and technology circles. Everyone thought it was going to change the print industry like never before. One of TOI’s competitors even took a frantic call and came up with it’s own AR app (Hindustan Times’s H), only to subside later. Sandesh, a regional newspaper published from Ahmadabad, joined the bandwagon by coming up with their AR app called Sandesh Smart, built in partnership with Telibrahma. But by and large, things remained calm. Media experts didn’t see much value in the technology and considered it another bubble which was to bust sooner than later.


Six months later, things have gone quite contrary to what experts had thought and AR market seems to have come out of it’s shell and is all set to fly. Or, at least that’s what the players say. Ashutosh Singh, Business Head, AdStuck, the company behind “Alive” seems bullish on Indian AR market. “Our business has grown some 25-30 times over the last few months.And this is just beginning” he says with a grin on his face. Numbers seem to suggest the same. Last week ,”The Sunday Guardian” did a story suggesting the same.

What exactly is augmented reality and what how much truth is there in it’s India story?

Augmented reality is changing the way we view the world by effectively blurring the line between reality and computer-generated graphics. It enhances what we see, hear, feel and smell and our perception of outside world. From being a scientists’ or researchers’ pet topic, it is fast becoming a subject in boardrooms of marketing departments. With applications ranging from healthcare to aviation to education to construction, there is no question of AR’s place in marketing over the near future.

The future of Augmented Reality is in the mobile space, because that’s where it will be most useful in helping deliver relevant content. But what does it hold for an Indian marketer? Time and again, the Indian consumer has proved a tough nut to crack for the marketer. Will this be any different? Let’s find out with a SWOT analysis on Augmented Reality marketing in India. Though the concept of AR marketing may be more than a decade old, it is still taking baby steps in India. Brands like Hippo and Shoppers Stop have been the pioneers in India in trying out AR marketing.

Some of the strengths we could find are that 97% of urban India owns a mobile, and 23% of them are smartphones. That is a huge number, and it’s growing. Even with the GDP growth touching the lower end of 6%, the long term interest on India as a potential investment destination has never been so high. And, with the policy paralysis getting out of the way with a flurry of reforms, it is only a matter of time before global firms engage directly with the Indian consumer and AR comes to the fore; primarily mainly because AR is a non-traditional marketing channel and helps in generating favourable word of mouth. It is important in this context that word of mouth is generally the best way to reach the Indian consumer who is wary of advertising.

The strength is the story of urban India. Unfortunately, the overall numbers are not so flattering. 65-70 per cent of Indians use feature phones, not smartphones. In that sense, AR may be considered as a self-restricting technology in that it demands smartphones for it to work. Moreover, users require GPRS and 3G in case of videos. Research shows less than 5% of phones in India have both. Again, most recent AR applications require GPS and digital compass and not many phones are built with GPS and digital compass. Lastly, India still has a lot of catching up to do as far as technology innovation is concerned — especially in the advertising and marketing space.

But opportunities do beckon. After all, according to reports, AR is taking off at a much better rate here than in other parts of the world. It is estimated it already has 5 per cent of the traditional media market place. With over 771 million users, mobile phones have formed a great and popular alternative to conventional modes of marketing. In a field like marketing which is looking out for innovation in every possible corner, AR will be an important component of the marketing campaigns of brands that are looking to be pioneers in the digital media space and break the clutter in traditional media. It is an additional benefit that it is cheaper than traditional media. Simply put, it is a cheap cluster buster.

Possible threats are that while Indian AR still is in its nascent stage, there is always a fear of overkill. Current AR marketing requires installation of a special app in a smart phone for every campaign and may not find fans every time whereas the required add-ons are automatically installed in a web browser. The same app may not work on all platforms (iOS, Android, Symbian) uniformly and put off many users.

While at a first look, it may be cheaper than traditional media, the real cost would depend on the features installed and it may well cross offline marketing budgets for a feature heavy application. Successful AR marketing is possible in India only when both hardware and software are seamlessly customized to suit Indian consumers’ tastes and usage patterns. As the Kolaveri phenomenon proved, the ingredients required for a product to go viral in anybody’s guess.

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  1. Sundeep

    India is the second largest mobile phone market with more than 930 million customers. According to IDC data, the domestic smartphone market grew 84 per cent in the second quarter of 2014 and is expected to grow rapidly. There is a feasible and demand driven concept of AR Advertising for brands in India and unlike other advertisements, it provides a realistic (to enrich the value the product) and an interactive (helps drive immediate sales) advertisement.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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