New Delhi: These days, when Wipro Ltd employees have to buy something, they first log on to the company’s internal online marketplace to look for deals before scanning e-commerce websites. From cars and consumer electronics to books and beauty products, Wipro Advantage, as the company’s Intranet is called, features discounted offers from top domestic and overseas brands.
“Reebok, Bajaj, Maruti, Samsung, Nokia, Montblanc, Cartier, Burberry, Benetton, Compaq, Kodak and Phillips are some of the companies that are currently running deals on the portal," says Shravanti Chaudhuri, a senior manager at the Bangalore-based computer services provider who handles internal communication portals.
Wipro Advantage, developed internally by the company, mirrors popular e-commerce websites such as Flipkart.com and Snapdeal.com in terms of deals and discounts offered. The only difference is that employees purchase online and the cost is deducted from their salaries, sparing them from using credit or debit cards.
The reason is not difficult to guess. Wipro’s information technology (IT) business employs 131,000 people, with a large chunk of them in their early 20s, who make up a potentially lucrative market for consumer brands. The IT industry overall is one of the largest employers in the country, with 2.5 million people working for it.
“IT professionals are an extremely focused group, with high disposable incomes and a great propensity to spend," says Mona Jain, chief executive of media buying firm VivaKi Exchange.
Reaching out to that kind of demography is any marketer’s dream.
Wipro’s online marketplace is just a case in point. Marketing executives at various consumer goods companies are flocking to the internal communication platforms of IT companies, be it for plugging or for selling their products and services.
Take the example of the country’s largest IT firm, Tata Consultancy Services Ltd (TCS). The company’s in-house magazine, @TCS, no longer depends on money from TCS; it has become self-sustaining thanks to the advertising it receives from consumer brands.
Each of the 220,000 employees at the company, where the starting salary is ₹ 3.2 lakh per annum, receives the magazine every month by email while some 20,000 copies are printed, said Pradipta Bagchi, vice president and head of global communications at TCS.
The yearly cost incurred on @TCS is around ₹ 5 crore. Most brands that advertise are national-level companies and are largely in the real estate, financial products, automobile and hospitality sectors.
“They (companies that advertise) know what they are getting in terms of eyeballs, which is engineers with disposable incomes who tend to invest, whether for possessing a car or a house, or for tax-saving purposes," Bagchi said.
Apart from a chance to reap the demographic dividend, there is another reason for consumer brands to tap these employees through the internal communication avenues at their workplaces: few employees would risk missing the messages put out by their employers on such forums, be it the in-house magazines or through the Intranet.
Advertising in the internal magazine of a company is a great way of reaching out to buyers, right from the managing director to the shop-floor worker, says Shashank Srivastava, chief general manager (marketing and sales) at Maruti Suzuki India Ltd.
“Because everybody is interested in reading about their company," Srivastava said. “So you can get across to 100% of the workforce, which otherwise is not possible."
Such companies have a high percentage of white-collar employees with high income levels, and their career development by way of pay raises and promotions is closely monitored.
“They are potential high-ticket buyers," Srivastava said. “We try to keep tab of people getting promoted or salary increments or if a person is entitled for a car from the company."
Companies with large workforces are also devising interesting ways of attracting more and more employees to internal communication portals.
Wipro’s bigger rival and India’s second largest computer services firm, Infosys Ltd, has a social and professional networking platform called Infy Bubble, apart from dedicated radio and TV channels.
Gaurav Kumar, a senior project manager at Bangalore-based Infosys, said he uses the platform, which combines the features of “Facebook and Twitter", to track the views of senior people at the company. “You can’t send a colleague request to somebody like Kris (S. Gopalakrishnan, co-founder and executive co-chairman), but you can surely follow them."
On Wipro’s Intranet, “we have built in a lot of pull factors", said Chaudhuri.
“Apart from the official announcement and directives, there is a lot of content on wide-ranging subjects such as travel, cuisine, sports, literature, etc. The general mindset is that if it is just a boring corporate portal, people would hardly go there. But our content is so rich and vibrant that we get around 3.8 crore hits in a month on an average," she said.
Given that TCS has offices in around 67 countries, it recently started an initiative to build a “great Indian food guide" of sorts. The idea is to tap the collective knowledge base of its employees spread over the world and identify the best Indian restaurants through crowd-sourcing in places from Iceland to Australia, coming to the aid of thousands of TCS employees who miss Indian food.
For instance, one of the posts on its portal reviews a Taj restaurant in Seoul, South Korea. TCS employee and writer of the post, Yatrik Badrikesh Buch, said it serves the best Indian tea in Seoul.
“We already have a few hundred entries and it will increase as we go along," said Bagchi.
VivaKi Exchange’s Jain said that unlike traditional media, when advertisers choose to plug their products and services on internal corporate communication platforms, there is very little chance of a “spill-over"and the return on investment is greatly multiplied.
“All this comes at a very small cost, which makes it a very attractive proposition," Jain said.