Let me expound the above with a recent experience. I went to a small town near Surat with my family, to spend time with some relatives who choose to stay away from the frenetic hustle and bustle of Mumbai.
After settling in to the forgotten familiarity of an extended family, my first surprise came over lunch. Of all the things I imagined would feature in lunchtime conversation, it was the current NBA season.
Call it the arrogance of ambition or the innocence of ignorance, I had incorrectly imagined that living in one of India’s most progressive cities would broaden my mind, rather than have it undergo the jitters of culture shock via my own family, that too in global sport.
Here I was, living in what I imagine to be India’s gateway to global zeitgeist, and I couldn’t name the team that was favourite to win, the players that were performing best, and which teams they played for (I thought LeBron James was still in the Cleveland Cavaliers).
These kids were all over basketball, discussing it in the objective detail that even cricket doesn’t see (barring Sachin, MSD, Virat, or Bhuvneshwar Kumar in recent times, it is quite the polarising sport). India may not be a footballing nation, but it definitely is more so than a basketballing nation, right?
Yet, here were kids who were making plans to wake up early in order to catch the upcoming games live (that are aired in the morning due to the time difference). This was the first time I saw children taking the initiative to finish homework, eat dinner, and go to bed early, all for the sake of viewing a sport. Back in my day, I would play cricket in the building during a live match simply because it wasn’t India’s batting.
My second surprise (and this was the big one) came when their mother got in on the discussion. She was the one who informed me that King James now plays for the Lakers, and that I am more than welcome to join her in catching the afternoon rerun of the games (some of which, bless her heart, she napped through).
I had known that in recent times India’s urban youth has had more than a tryst with basketball. I had known that Kevin Durant had visited us, and that we had reamed him for comments we presupposed to be laced with malice. I had known he had cleared that up.
What I hadn’t known (nor could have imagined) was that children and adults well outside India’s metro-sphere were playing and following a western sport with the same fervour that I display when following politics or the market. What I hadn’t known (nor could have gleaned from statistical data) was that niche interests exist in much greater quantities outside India’s metropolis circuit, and that they’re as western as we get.
No set of numbers can give you the kind of insights that a real local experience can. As a marketer, the more diverse you make your palette of experience, the more relevant your insights are, and the more impactful your digital footprint.