Marketing to Canadians of South Asian Descent

Marketing to Canadians of South Asian origin continues to be a major challenge for businesses. While most organizations recognize the need to embrace this rapidly growing market, few know how to go about it. To effectively target Vancouver’s ethnic population, people need to do their homework. Otherwise, a campaign could miss the mark, resulting in lost opportunities and wasted resources.

A not-so-recent study by Solutions Research Group (published 2006) revealed some interesting trends about Canada’s South Asian population, including a growth rate almost five times faster than the national average.

One of the most important aspects revealed by the research was the extent in which South Asians valued in-language advertising. 78% of South Asian consumers said they found ads by major Canadian companies in their first language as well as English “useful,” with over 50% finding them “very useful.”

This trend was later reiterated in the much more recent survey conducted by IPG Mediabrands in 2016. Consequently, Ipsos Reid has drawn several conclusions. Most notably, South Asians differ substantially from mainstream Canadians in demographics, behaviours, and attitudes. By and large, they prefer in-language communication, and 60–70% want to see more marketing and communications delivered in their native tongue.

The most compelling argument for targeting Canadians of South Asian descent is based on sheer numbers. Approximately 300,000 South Asians now live in and around Vancouver. Almost 70% of this youthful, family-oriented population is under the age of 45, and they hold significant purchasing power. Income comparisons show that 54% of South Asians have household incomes of more than $60K, compared to only 46% of mainstream Canadians.

To effectively reach the South Asian market, it’s necessary to have a contact that understands it and has the capacity to produce the authentic content, visuals, and messages that will connect and resonate with the intended audience.

As a company based in Burnaby, IT Media Broadcasting, which owns Spice Radio and Radio Rim Jhim, is distinguished for launching the first 24-hour radio station outside India. After 33 years serving the community, their sales and creative staff still work one-on-one with the businesses and organizations attempting to understand and navigate this complex market.

Canadians of South Asian decent certainly do listen to mainstream media, and penetrating this market is not something that happens overnight. However, there’s a huge opportunity to add ethnic language into existing media campaigns to build additional reach, with messages that connect directly to these consumers. A sustained, multifaceted campaign that includes community-based and sponsorship initiatives is the first step to establishing a meaningful presence and building ROI among Canada’s visible majority.


If you want to learn more about the South Asian community, why not download our white paper “Why South Asians are the new Mainstream” to learn how you can communicate with this vibrant community.