New Delhi: Now that India’s ambitious identity programme has got a name, project chief Nandan Nilekani is preparing for the next stage—making sure his compatriots sign up for Aadhaar.

Five communications specialists from the private sector are working with Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) officials to advise Nilekani on a branding and advertising plan. Having unveiled the new name on Monday, the product—a 12-digit number— has to be sold.

Challenges ahead: Kiran Khalap, one of ACSAC’s members, says it’s important to make sure people aspire for such unique identity. Ashesh Shah/Mint

Organized in January, ACSAC is headed by Shankar Maruwada, UIDAI’s head of demand generation, communication and awareness. Maruwada scouted communications and marketing companies before settling on specialists in strategic branding, creative, social marketing and communication.

“This is a mammoth task. When the pilot run starts in August, there’s going to be a mass public contact explaining what the needs and uses are for this and what’s required to get one," Maruwada said. “There’s a massive education and awareness component that’s required."

Due to government regulations, the five specialists advise in an individual capacity and not as representatives of their organizations. Based in Mumbai and New Delhi, they communicate largely over phone and email and meet occasionally.

“Nobody’s looked at branding to an audience of 1.2 billion people, in as many diverse languages as we have here in India," Bangalore-based Marawuda said. “It’s a very complex, new-to-the-world, category."

A key hurdle to be overcome involves convincing the population of Aadhaar’s benefits, such as easier access to school enrolment, a bank account and mobile phones.

“In India, most of your identity is a social identity imposed at birth," Khalap said. “So why should anybody aspire to have this? You’re not legally bound to have one, so we need to make sure people aspire towards it."

Nilekani said the authority would draw lessons from previous such campaigns.

“Communication and planning is very critical because we have to reach one billion people and they must understand the importance of this number," said Nilekani, co-founder and former chief executive of Infosys Technologies Ltd, India’s second largest software firm. “This will require media, advertisements, word of mouth, village posters... We’re studied other initiatives, which were mass public change initiatives, like polio awareness, to understand what has worked."

The trick lies in using different branding strategies to appeal to diverse groups of people. The methods that work for young urban professionals, for example, would be lost on the rural poor.

“The large marketing segments are in place, including women, people below the poverty line families and migrants," Khalap said. “What we haven’t fixed on are what communication targets we’ll use. Like, when speaking to a migrant family, will we speak to the mother or the father? That’s not decided yet."

The choices will vary based on geographic location, and will be made in consultation with partners such as registrars and government organizations.

For instance, “women in Rajasthan and women in Agra might both have to be communicated to through different channels, and the messages might have to be customized", Maruwada said.

To advertise the product, the authority will use “each and every means available", including television spots, according to Maruwada.

The Internet will be used to reach out to the youth and urban affluent. Beyond that, mobile phone-based interactive mediums may also be used.

“This is not going to be a brute-force method of spending a lot of money and covering the country with ads," Maruwada said. “That wouldn’t work and it would be a waste of taxpayers’ money."

According to Madhav Lokur, senior vice-president of JMD Consultants in New Delhi, giving the programme a simple name was a critical first step.

“Even city people get confused between UID and UIDAI. People in the rural areas will have an easier time understanding Aadhaar," Lokur said. “To reach such a vast population operating with difficult infrastructure conditions, the shortage of power, illiterate people—that’s where the difficulty lies."