Sahi Hai needs some more
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Questions around effectiveness of the recently done mutual funds Sahi Hai campaign came up as I watched its videos while trying to get my son to finish his milk. Drinking milk is important, I implored for the nth time. “Why, why, why,” he responded and instinctively (exasperated by this daily ordeal) I said, “Because milk sahi hai(it is the right thing).” An equally exasperated child didn’t calm down and retorted with another, “Why”. Of course, that led to more detailed explanations about the benefits of milk but also led me to think, is Sahi Hai a good enough explanation for mutual funds, if it isn’t for milk?
Launched a bit more than 2 months ago, this is really the first time that Association of Mutual Funds of India (Amfi) has taken up a media initiative at such a large scale and across platforms like television, radio, digital and banners. Amfi now has a pool of money, received from fund houses, to be used towards investor awareness and it has taken its role in shaping the investor awareness programme seriously.
Personally, I like their feel: recent, crisp and showcasing people from different social backgrounds. Each advertisement talks of one aspect or a value that mutual funds bring forth, which makes you want to see the next one, just to know more. They are meant for those who haven’t yet experienced mutual funds and who perhaps haven’t experienced the entire gamut of schemes around.
There were several rounds of deliberations among the voluntary committee formed for this initiative. Marketing and communications professionals from the industry—eight of them across different asset managers—formed a committee (under Amfi supervision), which fed into and evaluated the final advertisement campaign. A. Balasubramanian, chairman, Amfi, has also been actively involved with this committee, giving ideas and suggestions. Bids were sought from various ad agencies and finally it was J. Walter Thompson India that got the mandate. The discussions did not end there. Balasubramanian talks about the suggestions received from Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi), around the messages put out by these ads. The success of this attempt can translate to more people investing in mutual funds. There are already green shoots pointing to this positive outcome.
But are the Sahi Hai explanations enough? Addressing the basic human instinct of curiosity, meant saying just enough to get the viewer interested in mutual funds. Further information is available on www.mutualfundssahihai.com (Hindi version is also available). I got some friends and family, all at different stages of awareness about mutual funds, to go see the videos. Reactions were mixed but positive. Mostly about the simplicity and appeal, with ideas for making them more relevant, say making them shorter or by featuring younger people. One criticism was the lack of emotional appeal that connects with the middle-class audiences. For example, how will mutual funds make my life richer or my children happier? The sort of appeal that we know insurance ads get right. We also know it’s such false promises, tugging at emotional strings, that one shouldn’t fall for. The most sold insurance traditional plans fall short of delivering anything close to the returns and emotional fulfilment that the ads would like you to believe. The Sahi Hai campaign focuses more on practical aspects, without making any flowery or teary-eyed claims about life-changing experiences.
Unfortunately, the Sahi Hai logo, colloquial and simple in delivering the message, didn’t register with most of the viewers I spoke to. Amfi, with a view for a united stand, intends to nudge individual fund houses to use this logo on their individual ads. While some of that is happening, where members worked actively with Amfi on this campaign, many others are yet to take it up.
What’s missing? We know mutual funds are a good choice for retail investors: there is liquidity, wealth creation and regular income. But let’s not overlook the risks. It is not about overnight wealth. Also, every now and then, with the wrong fund choice, things can sour. Its not just market-linked risks that take down products. Your fund could be invested in poor-quality stocks and bonds. Risk of fund manager behaviour and skill when it comes to products that are actively managed. There are external risks of mis-selling and the unseen risk where in the past fund houses have catered to interests of large investors at the cost of the smaller-ticket retail guys.
Coming back to making kids agreeable to drinking milk or eating healthy food regularly, I for one, find myself repeating the benefits of dairy over the dangers of processed juices ever so often. But, it’s not practical to assume that the mutual fund ads will talk about risks and detail them out; the platform is brief and not the most appropriate for this.
A combined industry-level effort at awareness should definitely be lauded but maybe it’s worth indulging in a collective effort towards awareness on risks as well. More is needed in process and in perception to ensure that industry standards are also keeping up at a combined level. Along with the ads, to convert long-term investors, it is experience that will be the ultimate guide. Higher penetration from a long-term perspective requires a unified industry-wide intention on service and risk standards. At times, drinking large quantities of milk too fast can often result in regurgitation. Ease new investors into this life-long experience of investing. They should be made aware of risks too; not via ads but surely a medium that is as widespread and impactful. Single-product failures for lack of risk processes at individual mutual fund houses can sometimes result in setbacks, which too have a collective impact on the industry.
Lisa Pallavi Barbora is a consultant with Mint