Mumbai: He was hoping to trade advertising space on his forehead for an air rifle, but 30-year-old call centre employee Sanjay Nair got more than he bargained for.
Not only did his innovative attempt at live branding bring him considerable media coverage, it also helped him land a job as brand ambassador and consultant at Bartermanic.com, the barter website hosting his request.
Driven by economic pressures, a growing number of people such as Nair are looking for increasingly creative ways to supplement their incomes. Classified “sellsumers” by the independent consumer trends company Trendwatching.com, they are a breed of consumers who no longer just consume, but also sell what they create or own, from extra rooms and parking spaces, to advertisement space on their blogs and websites.
Bull’s eye? Screenshot of Sanjay Nair’s forehead marked for ad space.
“In the current economic scenario, where people may not have received any increments or raises, people are definitely more aware of how much they are spending, and are looking for creative resources to raise money,” says Deepa Thomas, senior manager—pop culture, eBay India, which registered a 60% jump in the number of new members in the fourth quarter ending December, and a 22% leap in the first quarter of 2009, against a more typical growth rate of 10-20%, symbolizing an increase in online activity.
Among the goods being hawked on the online marketplace are those as diverse as second-hand phones, books, stamps, coins, wall-hangings, and clocks.
The exchange or recycle economy has always been strong in India where, for a few decades now, people have been exchanging old clothes, papers, even plastic garbage for cash or new plastic or metal utensils. Big Bazaar, the retail chain owned by Future Group, has institutionalized this process by allowing consumers to exchange household junk for hefty discounts during the exchange mela.
“We had people coming in with all sorts of junk, from old newspapers and clothes to broken toilets,” says Sandip Tarkas, president, consumer strategy, Pantaloon Retail (India) Ltd. This year’s exchange mela saw a 12% increase in sales over last year’s, adds Tarkas. “It’s a combination of the economic scenario and the fact that this year, we set up collection centres all over the city.”
But increasingly, people are also turning to renting out assets such as parking space, an extra room, even a second apartment that until now served as a storeroom for junk, in a bid to raise additional income. “We’ve registered anywhere between a 20-30% rise in the number of people looking to rent out extra space, whether it’s a room in their apartment or the apartment itself,” says Rita Dhawana, a real estate broker who operates out of the Mumbai suburb of Lokhandwala.
A number of housing societies across Mumbai are also encouraging members to rent out extra parking spaces to fellow members at rates starting at Rs1,000 per month.
Furthermore, publishers such as Google India have registered an increase in the number of people using applications such as Google Adsense, which allows consumers to make money by hosting Google advertisements on their webpage, or blog.
“We are definitely registering a good growth, especially since the last quarter,” says Atul Satija, head of syndication, Google India Pvt. Ltd.
“With the way the economic scenario is, Web publishers, both old as well as new, have been very aggressive in monetizing their assets—by allocating more of their online space to earn more money.”
Sellsumers are also being wooed by direct selling companies that see this as a great recruitment opportunity. Tupperware India Pvt. Ltd, for instance, now reports conversion rates of 70% up from the usual 40-45%.
The trend is very visible internationally, according to Trendwatching.com. In California, for example, solar power producing consumers can sell excess electricity to their utility. French car-vertiser, Liberty Drive, offers up to €100 (Rs6,690) a month to car owners willing to turn their cars into driving billboards.
And sites such as Ex-boyfriend Jewelry ( Exboyfriend.com ) and MyGoldParty (Mygoldparty.com) facilitate Tupperware-style parties where jewellery can be sold, and bought. And for the really uninhibited sellsumer, website Sell Your Sex Tape (Sellyoursextape.com) pays $2,000 to “cute couples who document their love life on camera for one week”.