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Winner: ICICI Bank: Love Digital in the Times of Demonetisation

In the aftermath of ‘demonetisation’ — when the Indian government in a sudden decision made it illegal to deal with 500 and 1,000 rupee banknotes — the government and financial institutions including ICICI Bank started appealing to people to switch to digital payments to tide them over the cash-related crisis.

But weaning people off cash was easier said than done and ICICI saw the need for a campaign to educate the population about digital payments.

The problem can be shown with these simple figures: according to the Reserve Bank of India, currency in circulation amounted to 16,415 billion rupees prior to demonetisation; of this, 500 rupee notes accounted for 47.8 percent in value and 1,000 rupee notes another 38.6 percent. Thus, these currency notes together accounted for over 86 percent of the value of notes in circulation. Post-demonetisation, all this money was invalid.

Naturally, there was widespread anxiety amongst ICICI Bank customers and the public in general.

Given ICICI Bank’s success in developing Akodara into India’s first digital village in 2015, the team felt it would be a good idea to showcase how life went on seamlessly in that village while the rest of the nation was on edge.

At the same time, the campaign would focus on existing and upcoming digital products of the bank to ease the pain of demonetisation.

The team organised nine media trips over three weeks to Akodara in Gujarat, including national, regional and international media, the BBC and Discovery among them. Firstpost and Business Insider showed the model of a digital ecosystem on a real-time basis through platforms such as Facebook Live.

ICICI Bank CEO Chanda Kochhar pledged in November 2016 that the bank would adopt 100 villages across the country within the next 100 days and introduce digitisation and vocational training to each of them. The announcement drew instant media support and applause.

The team synchronised the announcement and the media trips with more than 30 TV interviews across English and regional channels for Ms. Kochhar, where she was positioned as an ambassador of ‘Digital India’. While she detailed the bank’s efforts to promote a digital ecosystem across the country, she reached out to the bank’s customers and spoke at some length about the many advantages of moving to digital transactions.

The was followed up with the launch of a slew of digital payment products,  including Eazypay, India’s first payments mobile app for merchants, and Mera iMobile, a personalised app, available in 11 languages, that offered real-time, location-based advisory services. The team conducted product demonstrations via video conference in 10 centres in the country and issued press releases with the same details.

In a parallel move, the PR firm’s social media team provided support to existing digital payment products such as Pockets and the iMobile app that can be useful in paying bills and taxes, booking movie tickets, and ordering a cheque book online. The team conducted several campaigns, including #AllinOneiMobile, #SmartKeys, #LiveWithoutCash, #DigitalisMyWay to build drive awareness about the advantages of digital payments.

Within just two months, ICICI Bank was able to successfully lead a large majority of its customers towards a digitised ecosystem, away from a cash-based economy. Two examples: more than 94 percent of transactions by ICICI Bank’s savings account customers are now done outside the branches; and the activation rate for the bank’s iMobile app was 84 percent higher in December 2016 than a year before, while for internet banking it was 100 percent higher.

The sustained media campaign generated more than 1,436 articles in print and online and reached four million TV viewers.

Today, ICICI Bank is acknowledged as a socially responsible bank, tirelessly working to improve the lives of rural and previously unbanked people. As for its commitment to introduce digitisation and a “less-cash” economy across 100 villages, the Bank announced in May 2017 that it had achieved its target.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, no less, lauded this stellar effort: “The ICICI initiative should be followed by other banks in rural areas.”


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