Railways caught the eye of Insurance Gaints for reasons other than the fare hike

yamrajinmumbaiमुंबई Mumbai: After the Central government’s Union Budget, Yamraj, the king of death in Hindu mythology, is expected to visit travellers in Mumbai’s largest local train network, Central Railway. Only this time, there is no cause for alarm.

Mumbai-based Edelweiss Tokio Life Insurance plans to launch its railway safety campaign that bears an oxymoronic name, ‘Yamraj to the Rescue’ on the line that connects South Mumbai to the central and eastern suburbs and Thane district.

Some time ago, the company had run a similar campaign on the Western Railway that starts from Mumbai’s Churchgate station. The month-long safety awareness campaign revolved around an actor dressed-up as ‘Yamraj’ moving around key western suburban train platforms such as Churchgate, Dadar, Jogeshwari and Borivili, preventing commuters from crossing railway tracks, boarding a running train and travelling on rooftops.

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Yamraj also prodded commuters to use the foot overbridge, to not use the cell phone while boarding and alighting trains and urged them to stand behind the demarcated yellow line on platforms and so on. Commuters were also handed out a card highlighting safety tips that should be ‘top of the mind’ while using railway services. “The railways are the lifeline of Mumbai. As there are high footfalls during workdays, this is a great place to have a presence,” says Ashish Morone, head-marketing, Edelweiss Tokio Life Insurance.

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Some time ago, Aditya Birla Financial Services also used the railway track to send a strong message. People crossing the railway tracks illegally were handed out visiting cards of the life insurance provider, with the message that since they had already decided to put their lives under risk, the least they could do is get themselves insured.

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Indian commuters are known for their callousness not just during rail travel but also while crossing roads, driving without seatbelts, talking on cellphones while driving and so on. Every year, road accidents claim more lives than terrorist attacks – estimated at 1.5 lakh lives annually. The track record of the Railways is no better. Ever year in Mumbai alone, 3,400 people lose their lives on the suburban railway tracks. In Chennai and Kolkata the numbers are in the range of 1,000 and 2,000, respectively.

a-person-dressed-up-as-yamraj-the-god-of-death-at-151085It’s not just the common men who are affected. A few weeks ago, veteran politician and newly inducted Union Minister Gopinath Munde met with a fatal car accident in New Delhi. While one reason being given by medical experts was that Munde, who was seated in the rear, was not wearing a seat belt, the other less spoken or debated issue was that the errant driver of the car that rammed into Munde’s vehicle had jumped a signal and come out of nowhere. But in India, if it’s early morning or late night, people consider it their birthright to jump signals.

Somewhere, a section of marketers who believe they have the power to alter social behaviour have decided to do something about it. Some weeks ago, ad agency Ogilvy launched a campaign for youth television channel Channel V using Indian transgenders. As many of them earn their livelihood by exchanging blessings for cash at traffic signals, Ogilvy chose to use them to remind reckless motorists at traffic signals of the basic safety measure they must practise – wear a seat belt. To make the lesson interesting and fun, the transgenders were dressed like airline crew and demonstrated the use of the car safety belt as if conducting a flight safety demo before take-off on an aircraft. “As the channel’s recently launched app, VithU, is all about safety, the campaign decided to educate reckless motorists who ignored the seat belt safety rule in a way that would create a buzz and grab attention,” says an agency statement.

The video of the activation that was posted on YouTube soon became a top trending video in India with nearly 4.4 million views. Marketers such as Edelweiss’ Morone believe that campaigns like these break the clutter. “It shook people out of their reverie. The entire communication was made interactive and even commuters started promoting the message,” says Morone.

But independent marketing consultants are not impressed. Biju Dominic, CEO, Final Mile Consulting, which has done extensive work on human behaviour at railway crossings and highways, says that most humans behave the way they do not because they are ignorant of the dangers but because they feel that the threat is for someone else and not for them. “People do not exhibit very linear and rational behaviour on the road, but a dynamic behaviour. Hence, one needs to appeal to them at a sub-conscious level rather than put out direct messages. Also, one solution will not fit all,” he says.

He believes that only solutions that are scalable across trespassing points all over the country and are not people-intensive will work.

Till someone finds that solution, Yamraj will continue to rule.

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