India: Bus Tickets Generate Publicity for Solar Water Heaters

A bit more than two years ago, Rajasthan Renewable Energy Corporation Limited (RRECL), the state agency of Rajasthan, a state in western India, launched a massive publicity campaign in order to increase awareness of solar energy systems. The Publications Relations Office of the RRECL has recently stated that a budget of about INR 10 million (around 125,000 EUR) had been made available during 2012 and 2013 for the intensive media campaign. The budget is even said to increase for the fiscal year 2014/2015. According to an RRECL official, the solar collector business has grown by nearly 50% over the last 2 years due to the various publicity efforts. The picture shows an advertisement for solar water heaters in local language on the back of intra-city bus tickets sold by the Rajasthan State Road Transport Corporation.
Photo courtesy: RRECL
 
The advertisements could also be seen at important bus stops, cinemas and post office boxes, additionally several TV channels and cinemas showed video clips and radio stations played the respective jingles. The toll-free solar Helpline, which has been operated by the Solar Thermal Federation of India (STFI) on behalf of the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, was mentioned in all of these publicity measures. Being free of charge, the Helpline proved to be of great help in offering potential clients first-hand information about the technology. The publicity campaign counted one million impressions per day, resulting in an additional 500 inquiries by phone in one month. 

Benchmark for other state agencies
The STFI named Ajay Kumar Jain from Jodhpur in Rajasthan state as one of the end consumers who had used the helpline. He praised the service for solving his problem of high electricity bills and for helping him get in touch with the nearest suppliers in his city. Housewife Bhuvaneshwari Sisiodia was pleased with finding the toll-free help line number on the back of the bus ticket, as she had already been curious about solar water heaters. She said she would share her good experiences with the service offered by the Helpline among her social network peers. 
 
The RRECL publicity campaign has set a new benchmark for other state agencies, which can use the success story to come up with their own campaign for manufacturers that like to grow their business. It seems likely many state agencies will actually follow suit, especially in terms of bus ticket publicity. Others are even thinking about displaying adverts on the electricity bill.
 
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This text was written by Jaideep Malaviya, an expert in solar thermal based in India (malaviya@solrico.com)
 
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