Big Data
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Tablets hold the promise of a measurable India

In September 2007, Haymarket Media launched the Indian edition of their advertising, marketing and media magazine, Campaign, of which I was the founding editor.

For the first issue, I had requested Ogilvy’s Miles Young (now worldwide chairman and chief executive of Ogilvy & Mather) to write a guest editorial, given that he was “global”, yet rich in India experience.

In his edit, Miles wrote of India as a land of great opportunities, because it was so “undermeasured”. He believed that measurement would have to improve, and with the improved measurements, brands would have a better sense of where to park their media money and profit from it. In addition, he referred to the advances that India was making in the area of retail infrastructure, hitherto an impediment to marketing efforts.

It has been five years since Miles wrote that piece. Measurement of traditional media is still abysmal. An Indian broadcaster, NDTV, has taken TAM India, the TV audience measurement company jointly owned by Kantar Media and Nielsen, to court. The currency for print readership, the Indian Readership Survey (IRS), is rejected by many. Two of the largest segments of Indian media consumption, TV and print, have measurement tools that are not quite kosher.

At the crux of the problem – common to both TV and print measurement – is the inability, in a country as large as India, to measure niche viewership and niche publications and channels. So an upmarket product such as BBC in TV and The Economist in print, can never be confident that it would be measured with any degree of accuracy. In TV, for example, TAM uses a sample size of less than 8,000 households to measure all of India. The IRS tracks 250,000 households, which, while being considerably higher than TAM, is still inadequate.

That’s why digital becomes the great white hope – because of the implied and inherent measurability. Add to the measurability is the fact that Indians have taken to digital in general and smart phones in particular as ducks take to water. According to a recent survey conducted by Google and the research firm IPSOS, “Indian smartphone users are more active than their US counterparts”.

While smartphone sales data and the usage data that is part of the same survey tell a wonderful story on the future of digital inIndia, it’s in spotting other trends that makes the story more exciting.

- A Mumbai school has asked 840 students to buy iPads.

- Indian members of parliament are given Rs.50,000 ($900) to buy an Apple iPad or Android-based Samsung Galaxy Tab.

- Lawmakers in the state of Goa will get iPads.

- And this one takes the cake. Lawmakers in Karnataka, another Indian state, want not just iPads, but better iPads.

The iPad and other tablets such as the Samsung Galaxy have proven their utility. With the headlines that iPads and iPhones make in Indian media, they’ve become cool as well.

They’re useful and cool – and everything you do on the tablets is measurable. As tablets and smartphones get even more popular, the jobs of media planners and marketers focusing on India will become easier.

Tablets and smartphones are getting the world closer to what Miles Young saw five years ago. An India that could be measured – therefore, an India that spells opportunity.