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Friday, Feb 27, 2004

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The message comes with the meal dabba

Poornima Mohandas

Mumbai , Feb. 26

GUESS what has come with the dabba today, not the run-of-the-mill sachet of digestive to follow the heavy lunch; strung on to the rusty handle is a mailer from an insurance company to sell its policy.

With the year-end approaching and tax saving being top of the mind recall for the average Indian, the financial intermediary is adopting marketing practices that are distinctive of the FMCG sector.

ICICI Prudential Life Insurance is piggyback riding on `dabbawallahs' distribution network, which delivers 2 lakh lunchboxes to office-goers every noon in the metropolis.

Said Mr Abhishek Bhatia, Marketing Manager, ICICI Prudential Life Insurance, "We wanted to reach out to the customer through a channel that is not cluttered unlike TV and radio where he sees/hears messages from 300 other companies. It's an age of micro marketing where we try to understand the local medium. We sent out about 50,000 direct mailers on a pilot basis to the areas of Churchgate, Bandra and Andheri where maximum offices are located.''

The glossy envelope with a bitten red apple on the front is strung on to the rusty, metal handle of the dabba. The mailer inside plays to the sentiment of the conscientious tax-planner with the opening line, `Yes! I want to save more tax and add to my retirement savings.'

One is asked to fill up and mail a form giving contact details and a convenient time and date for the company's financial services consultant to come for a meeting.

On a broader platform, the company sends out mailers to customers of Dominoes Pizza and BPCL loyalty card-holders in select cities across the country.

Even the competitors laud the innovative effort. Says the Communications Manager of SBI Life, Mr Pradeep Pandey, "Insurance companies are attempting to demystify themselves and create brand awareness.''

"The dabbawallah network is a good way to reach out to potential customers, but the success depends on how suitable the audience is and the cost associated with it. The whole advantage of direct mailers is the minimal cost associated with it.

"Even if 4-5 per cent of the mail receipts turn into policyholders, it would compare to international best ratios in the sphere of direct marketing initiatives.''

Messages from financial intermediaries seem to be taking a less sober tone these days with HDFC Bank running a TV campaign on a lighter note and ICICI Prudential having a cartoon character, `Chinta Mani' in its advertisement.

"There is no need to make financial products seem serious and morbid. We are trying to break the mould,'' said Mr Bhatia.

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The message comes with the meal dabba

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