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Exclusive: The Market Research Society of India Has Launched ISEC

GDP and income growth, consumer durables penetration, and vehicle ownership have all increased significantly, resulting in a less discriminatory and more volatile socioeconomic classification today. The need to redefine the key variables resulted in the formation of a more stable and robust construct, ‘ISEC.’ The Indian Society of Advertisers (ISA), research users from various organisations such as ITC, Hindustan Unilever Limited, Marico, Dabur India, and others, research agencies such as Kantar and IPSOS, and key media agencies are all on track to adopt ISEC.

Mitali Chowhan, Director General of the Market Research Society of India, stated, “Socio-economic classification is the foundation of any targeted consumer understanding.”

At MRSI, we recognise the importance of an evolving SEC structure, and ISEC is a highly relevant system. ISEC was created by the industry, and unlike any previous classification system, it considers women’s education to be a key determinant of social capital, an attribute that is extremely relevant in the modern era. As an industry body, we are deeply invested in our stakeholders, and the establishment of ISEC is consistent with our commitment to assisting our industry in growing and evolving.”

Socioeconomic classification allows brands and agencies to better understand their target audience’s behaviour and profiles, as well as set price points. Updates to the current socioeconomic classification are critical, given the changing landscape of Indian households.

ISEC addresses this by classifying households based on education and occupation profiles.

In conjunction with the implementation of ISEC, MRSI hosted a panel discussion to reaffirm the importance of an evolved socioeconomic classification system for target consumers. Senior industry leaders Amit Adarkar, CEO of IPSOS India; Jasmine Sachdeva, Managing Partner of Wavemaker India; Muralidhar Salvateeswaran, Chief Operations Office, Insights APAC at Kantar; Rajiv Dubey, Head of Media at Dabur India; Vivek Malhotra, Group CMO of India Today Group; and Vinay Virwani, Head of Consumer Insights at Dabur India, echoed their thoughts.

The panel, moderated by MRSI’s General Secretary Shuvadip Banerjee, Chief Digital Marketing Officer of ITC Ltd., discussed the growing need for a better understanding of consumer behaviour, media targeting, and the challenges that the industry faces in light of the current NCCS framework.
Amit Adarkar, CEO of IPSOS India, emphasised the importance of a strong SEC system, saying, “Socioeconomic classifications are the starting point for any planning or decision-making, and they affect almost all industries. Following an SEC system that is relevant, evolved, and representative is therefore critical. NCCS was implemented at a time when digitization was gaining traction and women’s participation in household decisions was limited. Our country has evolved significantly since then, and it is critical that we follow a similarly evolved SEC.”

Ramakrishnan, Managing Director South Asia, Worldpanel Division, Kantar, agreed with Amit Adarkar, saying, “The challenges that companies face these days are innumerable, with the current SEC system adding to these challenges in terms of targeting and understanding behaviours. ISEC is a strong system that functions well in both urban and rural India. It has greater distinctiveness and better distribution, and we are confident that its structure will benefit brands and their decisions.”

Unlike NCCS, which only considered the chief earner’s education and the presence of certain consumer durable items in the household, MRSI’s ISEC takes a more advanced approach, taking into account the chief earner’s occupation, the education of the highest educated male adult, and the education of the highest educated female adult. A team of seasoned experts and professionals from across the research and insights industry created this report using data from the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER), the Worldpanel division, Kantar, the Indian Readership Survey (IRS), and VTION and ICUBETM, among others.

Speaking about the new SEC, Sunil Kataria, Chief Executive Officer of Raymond Lifestyle India & International and Chairman of The Indian Society of Advertisers, stated, “Our economy is developing and progressing rapidly. At such a rapid pace, it is critical that we, as advertisers and spenders, understand our customers and their behaviour. ISEC is representative, relevant, and robust. It provides us with a comprehensive understanding of our target audience and their decision-making abilities. We welcome this new socioeconomic classification and will continue to work with MRSI to strengthen the system as needed.” ISEC allows for better distribution and more precise targeting.

It is significantly more stable than NCCS, eliminating the need for regular updates. ISEC’s discriminating quality is visible in how each class or tier behaves differently, making it more relevant as the economy evolves with higher living standards, increased asset ownership, infrastructure development, and government interventions.

Furthermore, in India, social capital can be defined by female education, and this parameter has helped to improve ‘discrimination’.

Speaking about implementation, Shashi Sinha, CEO of IPG Mediabrands India, stated, “A better and deeper understanding of consumer cohorts is always appreciated. It enables brands to better identify and target consumers, as well as open up new avenues for more effective communication. ISEC is highly discriminatory, which is especially important these days.

The implementation was long overdue, and we are confident that it will significantly benefit the industry going forward.”

“Using a socioeconomic classification system that is representative of the population ensures that the industry moves forward with efficiency. It ensures that money is spent correctly and effectively. ISEC gives us that confidence, and we are confident that this is a step forward in terms of economic growth and development,” said Vivek Malhotra, Group CMO of India Today Group.

ISEC, which represents India’s social and economic strata, works equally well in cities and rural areas, is simple and quick to administer, and is not intrusive. ISEC, a classification system with 1 to 12 tiers, is open-source and accessible to all industry stakeholders.

SEC systems are used by all research firms, advertisers, and measurement bodies to target households.

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