According to a study conducted by RITES, the Indian railways can raise upto INR 9000 crores in revenues by branding not only its coaches & trains but also complete stations. Now on the criteria of marketing innovativeness, this idea by the current railway ministry definitely ranks at the very top. But then, why was it not implemented earlier?
There is little doubt about the poor financial health of Indian railways: cash strapped, debt laden and always in need of financial assistance. With over 65000 kilometers of laid tracks, the Indian railway network is one of the largest and most poorly managed railway networks in the world. This is partly owing to the wide scale regional politics played by various political regimes in India, but largely owing to the politics of subsidy played by the government.
The current railway minister Mr. Sushil Prabhu seems to be slightly different. For a change, he delivered a budget with no announcement of new trains , itself spoke volumes that his plan for railways was not going to be driven by populist policies. The current branding proposal seems to be on similar track.
Imagine you are travelling from Kolkata to Delhi and your printed ticket reads like:
“Travelling from McDonalds Howrah Station to KFC New Delhi Station by Pepsi Rajdhani Express ”.
This is completely eye grabbing and is an absolute delight for any marketer. This is a much better alternative than paying INR 10-25 lacs for a 10 second slot during IPL or World Cup matches: Not only cost effective but also having a far greater ROI. 23 million passengers a day, more than 8 billion passengers annually: If this is not a marketer’s paradise what will be?
Here is what the railways intend to do:
- Branding stations: Each and every station can have a sponsor. So, a McDonalds Howrah or a KFC Delhi or Reliance Ahmedabad may soon be a reality.
- Branding services : This will be beneficial for the consumers as companies will strive towards improving services to protect their brand image (especially when it comes to the pathetic food or long queues)
- Branding Trains: While this sounds funny, it is purely an awesome idea to brand trains. This will also benefit the Swacch Bharat mission as no brand will want to associate with a dirty train.
Here is what the railways should do in addition:
Branding Employees: The railways employ more than 1.3 million people, why not brand their uniforms and use them for marketing? If Emirates can sponsor umpires in cricket matches, why can’t other companies sponsor railway employee uniforms?
In train branding: How about branding meals, carpets and walls of the train with advertisements? Additionally meals can be sponsored like say: “Lipton Tea Snack time”
Surveys and Sampling: Oh yes, and that too with proper customer segmentation. The trains and passengers in India can be properly segmented and this in turn enables proper targeting for any product whether it is conducting surveys or distributing free samples.
Entertainment : Why can’t railways offer an entertainment service for passengers in premium trains / coaches. This can be the launching space for showing ads, new tv serials, movie trailers or music channels. If airlines can do it, should railways be far behind?
Restaurants & Merchandise: If China can do it, why not India. Why can’t Indian rails have a dedicated restaurant or book shops? Surely, this is an area that can be looked at.
On a lighter note, this entire branding exercise can also be looked at as a smarter way of attracting FDI in railways without facing much opposition. But how will the ads be censored? Will tobacco and liquour companies be allowed to sponsor under the guise of premium sodas or mineral water? And more so, who will decide what is allowed and what is not? Will trains and stations be auctioned in an IPL model ?
Clearly, this is one of the boldest moves by the Indian Railways and Mr. Sushil Prabhu. Perhaps, the next Pepsi ad campaign will be featuring a railway station and not a cricket pitch. We hope to see it happen soon![/sociallocker]