Bollywood sells in India. And trust Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer, to have learnt that never-fail marketing mantra real quick. Even as the retail giant works out the finer details of its entry into India in partnership with Bharti Enterprises Ltd, it has acquired a toe-hold in Bollywood, the world’s largest movie industry in terms of the number of films made, and whose actors endorse everything from chewing tobacco to cars to mobile telephony services.
Wal-Mart is sponsoring the 9th Annual Bollywood Movie Awards, an event organized by The Bollywood Group, a US-based company that focuses on South Asian entertainment events. The awards ceremony is aimed at the 2.5 million- strong Indian community in the US, but it will likely be broadcast in India. “This is the first time Wal-Mart is sponsoring a Bollywood event in the country on a large scale,” said Kamal Dandona, chairman and CEO, The Bollywood Group. Wal-Mart’s association with the event is significant because of the company’s imminent entry into India, one that could be opposed by small retailers and several political parties.
Showing your Indianness at such times helps, and Bollywood is as Indian as it gets. Sony Entertainment Television Ltd could telecast the awards ceremony on one of its channels, and that would increase its reach to millions of homes in India. “We are in talks with The Bollywood Group for telecasting the event in India and in all likelihood, we will make an announcement soon,” said N.P. Singh, chief operating officer, Sony Entertainment TV. Other advertisers such as Citibank, Dish Network (not to be confused with India’s Dish TV), Metlife and British Airways have previously used Bollywood awards to target the South Asian community.
When contacted, a Wal-Mart India representative declined to comment on the event and the retailer’s association with it. But the local advertising community thinks it is a smart move on the part of the retailer. “Wal-Mart is a well-known global brand. So the company may not need much push in terms of spreading its brand awareness. What it needs to do is to connect with Indian consumers at an intimate level and what better way than to start with Bollywood, the biggest passion of Indians,” says a senior executive at a leading ad agency who did not wish to be identified.
Wal-Mart and Bharti will roll out their retail operations in India by the middle of 2007.