Tinda’s ‘Uber Eats moment’

UPDATE – January 25, 2019: Uber Eats seems to have listened and understood the context for localizing this communication. Today’s Times of India city ‘Times’ editions have local equivalents of tinda for at least 3 cities – Kochi, Chennai and Kolkata. Bengaluru and Hyderabad mein tinda chalta hai, I suppose.

However, ‘podalanga‘ has a different, risque connotation in Tamil Nadu, courtesy director K.Bhagyaraj and his superhit film Rasukutty (which was remade in Hindi as Raja Babu) 🙂

Original post:

After years of being associated with ‘banal’ in some parts of Hindi-speaking India, I’m glad the humble tinda is having a minor resurgence of cultural interest… thanks to Uber Eats!

After years of being associated with ‘banal’ in some parts of Hindi-speaking India, I’m glad the humble tinda is having a minor resurgence of cultural interest… thanks to Uber Eats!

Uber Eats’ new India campaign was launched last week and of the 3 videos, one has 34 million views, while the other 2 have views in 4 digits… going on to prove again that promoted videos, no matter how good or bad they are, rake in the views.

The print campaign went live on Saturday (January 12th) with an all-edition Times of India front-page ad. Incidentally, Times Internet has a stake in Uber India, so an all-edition front page campaign is only expected.

The campaign, conceived and produced in-house, focuses on ‘moments’ when one feels like ordering via Uber Eats. The moment they decided to advertise in print (and also promote on YouTube) in the front page was ‘Tinda moments’ (there was another moment on the other side of this page)! The following are the ads from the Chennai and Kochi editions of The Times of India.

Chennai
Kochi

Now, let me list a few scenarios.

  1. The number of people in India who know what a tinda is: X1
  2. The number of people in India who do not speak Hindi and know what a tinda is: X2
  3. The number of people in Chennai and/or Kochi who know what a tinda is: X3
  4. The number of people who know what a tinda is, but don’t know its cultural context (the reason why it being used as a ‘moment’): X4
  5. The number of people who thought the ad was a clever wordplay on Tinder, for some bizarre reason, even though when you really sit and think about it, it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever: X5
  6. The number of people who thought Alia actually craved for tinda and ordered herself a tinda-filled burger: X6
  7. The number of people who had not seen the video before seeing the print ad: X7
  8. The number of people who like tinda: X8

When you are spending a lot of money (despite the Times private treaties part) to communicate something to your audiences across a large, diverse country like India, I’m reasonably sure you cannot make sweeping assumptions about point no. 1. X1 has to be a large enough number to begin with, to even consider dropping the tinda on all of India.

Point no. 2 is a fairly easy and logical direction of thought. You just need to ask around and you could get that idea very easily even without elaborate market research.

Point no. 3 too is fairly obvious, if only you knew someone in those 2 cities and you were curious enough to ask, before spending money for those editions too. Or, you could argue that no matter how small the number is, reaching that small number is good enough for us. That’s a decision I cannot argue with since it is just a matter of opinion and not based on any business or monetary logic.

Point 4 becomes obvious when you Google ‘tinda’. This is also a counter argument to those who say, ‘If someone doesn’t know what it is, they’d simply Google it – it is that easy!’.

The wikipedia page for tinda comes on top of a Google search and most people would naturally click that and read about tinda to know about it.

What they’d get is simply functional, factual information about the vegetable. There are hardly any links in the Google results that explain the cultural context of why ‘tinda moments’. What is it about tinda that made Uber Eats use it in the frame, ‘tinda moments’? In fact, going by the number of tinda recipes on a Google search result, you’d wonder why tinda is even used in the ‘tinda moment’ if so many recipes are happily being shared online!

I have had the benefit of working in Delhi for a brief period in my life. I was a paying guest with a wonderful Punjabi family in GK 2 Enclave. The lady of the house used to cook fabulously, but it was at their place that I first realized that some people in the Hindi-speaking zones hate tinda. The kids in the family used to hate it – I didn’t have any particular problem with it, but I could see why they hate it – it felt like a cheaper, substitute vegetable over others like potato, cauliflower, brinjal etc.

So, for some people it is obvious – tinda is perceived as a boring vegetable. So, if you have tinda at home, you order food from outside… goes Uber Eats logic. But you do have to contend with point 8, though, even if my gut feeling says it’s a fairly small number. It’s like replacing ‘tinda moment’ with ‘curd rice’ moment in the Chennai edition. I’m sure a LOT of Tamilians love the curd rice (as comfort food), but it is also true that it is simple and largely bland (and that IS the very point of curd rice, I get it).

I do wonder if Uber Eats team could have considered adding the cultural context of tinda’s likeability (or the lack of it) to the Wikipedia page! It is a relevant addition anyway and is not misleading readers.

Point 5 seems intriguingly large, if I go by the sample who commented (the post was read by about 96,000+ people as I write this) on my LinkedIn post about this campaign on Saturday. Ironically, it is nothing of that sort if you read the press release from Uber Eats! It was amusing to see people offering convoluted (in hindsight, after reading Uber Eats press release) logic of why and how the ad meant Tinder too, and not just tinda (swiping right for better food, fall in love with your food etc.).

Point 6 was a reality too, though I can’t assume any kind of numbers. If this was any large, poor McD may need to consider adding it to their menu!

Point 7 alludes to another post of mine, that I had written for Brand Equity (The Economic Times): One sentence went, “The print advertisement, based on the assumption that a reader is seeing them after seeing the brand’s communication in other media…

I’d love to know the other kinds of numbers Uber Eats marketing team referred to, to decide that this ‘tinda moments’ is apt for a pan-Indian campaign. I won’t assume that there aren’t any – I may be missing something.

Is it too much to expect a pan-Indian, all-edition campaign to localize the message and not assume one Hindi word is ok for all of India? For instance, a distant ‘tinda-equivalent’ in Tamil would be ‘Kovakkai’ (Ivy Gourd). Kovakkai is almost the default vegetable for making a curry in low-cost vegetarian thalis in South India (at least in Karnataka/Tamil Nadu). It’s definitely healthy and decent enough, but it’s image may have been tarnished by association, like the Tata Indica being used as cabs and hence people thinking less of buying it for their own use.

The lack of localization seemed like a missed opportunity to me. ET Money has tried that with mixed results last year! See:

  1. ET Money’s 6-language same-day campaign
  2. ET Money goes for 7 languages, but the quality of copy also goes for a toss!

The point is, they at least tried! There was awareness that localizing is a necessity if they need better reach.

That brings me to an unrelated article from ET’s Sunday Magazine, yesterday, by Shephali Bhatt. She writes about the growth and evolution of the subtitling industry in India.

While subtitling the title track of Hindi movie Badhaai Ho, Jahan Singh Bakshi, a Mumbai-based creative producer, turned the Punjabi chorus into a rap sequence. So, ‘Badhaiyan tere aut nu, tere paut nu, tere baap bante gaut nu…’ became ‘To the fam, to the gran, to the daddy and his clan.’

If you can do it for a song, to ensure it reaches a new audience with brilliant context, why won’t/can’t a marketing department of a brand spending a lot of money do it for their marketing/advertising campaign?

A related question is – if the team could customize the list of restaurants mentioned at the bottom based on each city, why not the communication context? Take a look at the selection of outlets in different city ads (at the bottom of the ads)!

Mumbai
Delhi
Hyderabad
Bengaluru

The larger problem with the campaign, though, is that it doesn’t give us any reason to choose it over the much-better-known Zomato and Swiggy while saying something seemingly clever and cool.

Here is Zomato offering a compelling reason to choose its service, in a front-page ad in The Times of India the next day (January 13th)!

But, on a broader level, I do wonder why many brands take this route of using Hindi as a singular point of cultural reference and release that ad in parts of the country where it may completely befuddle readers/audiences?

Is it that some people in marketing teams and ad agencies from Mumbai/Delhi don’t want to put in that extra effort (and cost)? To localize effectively (like Jahan Bakshi’s outstanding work for Badhaai Ho), you’d need to find the right people, pay them reasonably well.

Is it that some people in marketing teams and ad agencies from Mumbai/Delhi lack awareness that there are other ‘kinds’ of people in India too? Like people who don’t know Hindi the same way they do? They may know Hindi to survive in the city on a day-to-day basis, but don’t care beyond that.

Is it that some people in marketing teams and ad agencies from Mumbai/Delhi lack humility (to accept that there other kinds of languages that people speak and Hindi is not the end of India) or curiosity? The latter is a big problem, because curiosity is one of the most basic requirements to be in marketing/advertising. Lacking humility is a social issue; it’s not a crime to not be humble, but in the context of marketing and advertising, it is an impairment.

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