How the IPL just saved Indian financial markets

Introducing mutual funds to hundreds of millions nationwide

By Savar Sareen


IPL 2017 is over, but the game is just beginning

When you think about the IPL and money, you think about gaudy trophies, player auctions, corporate sponsors, fines, and maybe even ticket prices. You probably don’t ask yourself “what’s the best way for me to make a relatively safe but fruitful investment?” This year that changed. At this Sunday’s final — and throughout the past season — responsible and intelligent investing has become mainstream, thanks in part to the IPL.

What’s in an ad?

Advertising has kind of lost its mind in the realm of sports. If there’s a free inch on a jersey it’s likely to get plastered by corporate sponsors from CPG brands to smartphone manufacturers to insurance providers. For the IPL big money comes in from TV spots and sponsorships; this year over Rs. 1,300 crore was pumped into the broadcast advertisements with another Rs. 200 crore from streaming and other platforms. And who can blame them? It’s the biggest and one of the broadest audiences you can access in the Indian market with over 130 million distinct viewers reaching close to 1 billion impressions.¹ It’s the ideal platform to deliver a message to Indians of all ages and backgrounds. Enter mutual funds.

“Mutual funds sahi hai (mutual funds are correct)”

Is investing for me?

Mutual funds aren’t a new idea by any means. They’ve been advertised for decades with increasingly hilarious and largely unrelatable messaging to be reserved for retirement planning and linked to entertainment aimed at the middle aged and older. But that’s just one facet of the problem; India has had an issue with introducing the idea of financial markets to large swathes of the population for whom gold, real estate, and a high end smartphone are the only investments to be given a second thought. Despite considerable growth (total AUM has grown six fold in the past decade) this has resulted in a woefully tiny portion of the population invested in mutual funds in part due to lack of awareness and understanding. However that’s coming to a change.


The market has a long way to go

Closing the Gap

Driving the charge is AMFI (Association of Mutual Funds in India). Over the past few months they have spent over Rs. 15 crore and conducted a massive marketing campaign to inform and guide Indians on how to be smarter about their money and invest in mutual funds. This campaign is a distinct change in tone with each of the 8 TV spots made personal, relatable, and relevant for anyone who’s trying to figure out how to be financially responsible. Crafted by JWT Mumbai, addressing the rich, poor, old, young, male and female, these 8 impactful ads were presented throughout the cricket tournament driving home an idea with a new approach. The campaign made a point to use ‘non-models’ to simulate conversations between friends on a normal day stumbling upon a conversation about what to do with one’s money. It’s an honest, direct, and simple message summarized in a single line; “mutual funds sahi hai (mutual funds are right).”


Lagta hai ki sahi hai

Reaching a new audience

Though it isn’t AMFI’s first efforts for outreach and education, this campaign increases the reach exponentially due to the opportunities created by an increasingly digital India. As a marquee sponsor via streaming app Hotstar, AMFI targeted the already-online audience across millions of connected devices. These are people who now not only have smartphones and access to the internet wherever they are, but are more able and likely to invest due to the rise of fintech and digital payment platforms like Paytm and Lendingkart. Add to this the Digital India push from the Prime Minister, and the Aadhar ID program; you see a number of different market and policy forces working together to build a new class of investors to grow the financial markets. By reaching over 130 million, tens of millions of potential new investors were introduced to the virtues of an asset class that is liquid, delivers returns, and that is largely (I’ll get to that soon) transparent.

These new investors have been encouraged to go to the AMFI website for guides to basic information to get them started and to learn about investing. However that’s just the first step; then what?

What do I do next?
After being introduced to the world of investing it’s an intimidating challenge to know what to do next. A key issue with Indian markets is accessing and using the data made available to you; the basic ability of tracking and monitoring your portfolio over time is a complex process of understanding your fund statements, aggregating them, then knowing what to analyze and what that means for your investments.

For those new to the space, and without the time or interest to jump into a potentially multi-month effort, it’s a steep learning curve and a high barrier to entry to go from invested to informed. This is a key reason why there has been relatively low penetration and interest across demographics into the markets in the past. To get ahead you must rely on expensive financial advisors or consultants to learn what to do, or on a cadre of researchers understand how to aggregate and sort this data. It’s maddeningly difficult to access updated information for your own mutual fund portfolio without needing to pay, download, upload, or confuse yourself a dozen times over.

Access to data reduces the fog of confusion in front of Indian financial markets, and is a step towards greater activity and investment from all Indians.

¹130 million projected viewers, and 1 billion impressions based on estimates and early numbers that this year showed an increase over previous years

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