The New Indian-American Dream is Alive and Well. So Where Are the Marketers?

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a big splash this Sunday when he drew a crowd of 18,000 people. It wasn’t just his choice of venue – Madison Square Garden – or the size of the crowd. It wasn’t even the supporting pageantry of dancers and singers performing hit Bollywood songs, nor the fact that his victory in May was a groundbreaking landslide, though any one of those factors would seem to stand on its own.

What really drew attention Sunday was the message that Mr. Modi stood up to deliver: There is a new dream in India, accompanied by an unprecedented era of public progressivism. It looks and feels a lot like our own American Dream of prosperity. It makes even more sense when you consider what is happening with Americans of Indian ancestry.

Niharika Mandhana shared some eye-opening figures in the Wall Street Journal late Sunday evening, proving the virility of the new Indian-American Dream. While other Asian countries appear to be running away with the glory and spoils of economic development, Indian Americans are quietly leading all other immigrant groups here at home. In the United States, when it comes to income and educational attainment, Indian Americans have more than arrived. Indian Americans boast a median household income of $88,000 and 70% have a college degree or higher.

As a multi-cultural marketing firm serving a number of Indian-American markets and clients, we find ourselves in a state of confusion. As the world’s leading consumer product brands shift ever-increasing focus onto emerging Asian markets, especially China and India, they are simultaneously failing to learn the nuances of those cultures right here at home. In the process they also forgo a massive opportunity to capture the attention of those same foreign markets, domestically.

For instance, Indian Americans spend a lot of time calling home. The telecom market in India reached US$ 64.1 billion in 2012 yet most of the major American carriers are not only underrepresented in the space, they are not represented at all. It’s not just the obligatory holiday calls, either. Cricket matches last upwards of 6 hours. Telecoms report a major uptick in call volume and duration during those matches. Telecoms are starting to see the same surge in call activity during popular reality television shows.

Breaking in to these underserved markets requires some real cultural savvy. But the opportunity is ripe. Advertising to multicultural markets is still most effective at the local level – read, inexpensive if properly implemented. And of course trends and brand loyalty tend to run from West to East (hemispheres that is). Meaning that, in establishing brand loyalty here, a brand is also establishing awareness and adoption overseas.

Indian Americans send money home, they invest in property and businesses back home, partly to advance the interests of their families but, equally if not more so, to set themselves up for retirement.

With less than 10% of the average marketing and advertising budget dedicated to multi-cultural marketing, even the biggest industry players are failing to capitalize on the obvious. Sunday’s event speaks loudly, the time to move ahead is now. The opportunity is urgent. Telecom is only one example – the same goes for banking, consumer products, et cetera.

There were plenty of protestors outside of Madison Square Garden Sunday but there were more than two dozen elected U.S. officials inside, like Corey Booker the junior Senator from New Jersey, a state which contains one of the largest Indian-American populations in the country. When the politicians start beating the marketers to the punch, we can only ask one question: What are they waiting for? The New Indian-American Dream is underway, they’re literally dancing in the streets to be noticed.

Daniel Ocner is the Strategic Director at MediaMorphosis , a full service multicultural advertising and marketing agency. He can be reached by Email and Twitter

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