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Come home to Kolkata, it's a new city now

July 18, 2006 12:42 IST

Kolkata's real-estate drive has already altered the landscape -- by way of advertising. Outsized hoardings of swank residential projects, glitzy arcades and other wonders dot the city liberally. Kolkata has never looked so good, even if it's mostly all imagery for the moment.

By one estimate, real estate ads occupy as much as 40 per cent of all out-of-home space in the city, including bus shelters and other street furniture. The local papers are full of it too. The sector is the second largest print advertiser, and "the fastest growing among all categories" in the words of Dinesh Jain, vice-president, marketing, newspapers, ABP.

The thrill running through the corridors of ad agencies is palpable. "Real estate advertising has been a huge boon for local agencies," says Amitava Sinha, executive vice-president, Rediffusion DYR. Concurs Noomi Mehta, managing director, Selvel Advertising, "It's been a lifeline for local agencies. Even the local offices of national agencies have thrown their hat into the ring since they found it difficult to sustain their operations otherwise." Real estate-focused agencies, such as Advertising Bureau and Consultancy and Trisys Advertising, are overjoyed.

The advertising expenditure is estimated to be a skyscraper in itself. "Together, the ad budgets of developers would be around Rs 50 crore (Rs 500 million)," estimates Jeetendra Khaitan, CEO of Pioneer Property Management Co. "That's around 25 per cent of the market," says Kanchan Datta, a director at Inner Circle Advertising, a local agency, referring to the total local ad spend. "It's really big," he adds, "especially since it's all incremental growth."

Ad budgets are a function of project sizes. "Marketing communication budgets are typically 1.5-2 per cent of building costs for projects between 5 and 20 lakh sq ft," says Khaitan, "For smaller projects, it's even higher. Even five years ago, this was almost non-existent." The Indonesia-based Salim group's Kolkata West International City has an ad budget of Rs 4 crore for this year alone. Another project, Diamond City North, is spending another Rs 4 crore. And there are at least a dozen other mega-projects vying for attention.

Vying is the correct word. For, something major has changed, lately. According to the Confederation of Real Estate Developers Association of India, Bengal, housing in Kolkata has gone from being a sellers' market to a buyer's market. In other words, there is real competition amongst developers for customers, for once. And the customers are thought to be real property buyers too, not speculators -- which is why apartments are selling like "FMCG products", complete with USPs, as the Association notes in a circular.

What's more, the messages and visuals keep changing too, thanks to a new competitive zing that's nudging aspirations. "The communication has become more involved and diverse," says Datta, "If earlier, a swimming pool was the aspiration, today it's a temperature-controlled, indoor one."

GenXX Valley, a 2,000-flat project, even ran a teaser campaign last November, emphasising the price advantage. The agency: Pioneer. Now, the project is talking about how its location, Behala, offers the best of both urban and rural worlds.

Developers are looking for eyeballs farther afield too. Kolkata West, for example, had ads appearing in all editions of a national daily. Besides, says Aveek Roy Chaudhuri of ABC, the project also plans to engage non-resident Bengalis via a string of websites.

The broad message?

Get a home in Kolkata, it's a new city now.

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Gargi Gupta in New Delhi
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