With increasing smartphone penetration and internet accessibility, a new wave of 500 million consumers is emerging, providing opportunities for tier 2 and tier 3 towns to become consumer hotspots and attract businesses. The rise in disposable income and aspirational value further fuels demand, making it attractive for companies to invest in these regions. A 2022 survey by People Research on India’s Consumer Economy (PRICE) highlights that 63 cities with populations exceeding 10 lakh in 2021 constitute a significant share of the country’s middle class (27%) and rich (43%) populations, generating 29% of the household disposable income and 27% of total spending.
Reports also estimate that online service transactors in Tier II and III cities are currently growing at 2.1X, hyperlocal users are growing at 3X, and online ecommerce users are growing at 3X. According to Google, the number of internet users in Indian languages is expected to reach 536 million by 2027, and contribute to 35% of the digital ad spend in India (as compared to the current 5%).
In this scenario of hyper growth, it is not surprising that both online and offline businesses are looking to tier 2 and tier 3 towns for long term growth. The Dailyhunt group boasts of having 252 million monthly total active users. E-commerce players across the board- Amazon (online shopping), Swiggy and Zomato (food), Rapido and UberMoto (mobility solutions) are betting big on these towns for their growth, and even launching products that specifically suit the needs of these markets.
As regional markets become the focal point for brands and marketers seeking to tap into the aspirational consumer base, it becomes essential to adjust communication strategies accordingly. In India, where languages and dialects change every 100 kms, relying solely on English as the communication medium is no longer sufficient. Recognising this, tech giants like Facebook and Google have incorporated regional options to cater to the diverse linguistic landscape of the country.
Regional PR plays a pivotal role in bridging the language gap between organisations and local communities. Communicating in local languages fosters trust and connection with the public, enabling organisations to convey their messages effectively and meaningfully to the target audience. I feel by extension, regional PR is also a testimony of acknowledging the presence of local communities and the role they play in a brand’s growth. Almost half a decade ago, while working with an international NGO expanding its presence in India, I dabbled with regional PR to create awareness and helped them raise funds. We saw early success with our regional PR campaigns as it helped create deep connections with the audience and credibility and authenticity as it was not just about the language but also featuring local community members and speaking about hyperlocal impact.
As businesses expand into these markets, it is essential for PR and communications to keep pace. While metropolitan areas have well-established public relations and media networks, smaller regional markets pose unique challenges for the business. Although brands invest heavily in marketing and advertising in these regions, there is a need to recognise the relevance of PR for effective communication. Understanding the hyperlocal influence of small and medium-sized publications (with circulations of less than 25,000 and up to 75,000, respectively) is crucial in these markets. Brands should appreciate the power of these publications alongside their aspirations for national English newspaper front-page coverage and immediate ROI.
To leverage this potential, investing in regional PR capabilities by upskilling talent or hiring specialists is crucial. Collaborating with local PR organisations can also deepen the understanding of cultural and linguistic nuances specific to the region, ensuring that messages conveyed through regional public relations are precise, relevant, and impactful. Additionally, as Indian languages gain prominence in digital media, businesses should consider the rise of “desi” influencers and integrate regional PR into their overall communication strategies.
In conclusion, storytelling that connects a brand’s narrative with the stories of local communities should become an integral part of communication strategies for the next decade. With the rise of regional markets and regional communication, investing in regional PR capabilities will be the key to tapping into the immense potential of these markets and fostering meaningful connections with the evolving consumer base.
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