How do we reach the South Asian community in the UK?  

23rd May 2023

The South Asian community is the second largest ethnic group in the UK and is made up of a variety of intersections, all with differing beliefs, behaviours and needs making them one of the hardest minority groups to reach.  

“Not only have you got different generations with a different experience of different waves of immigration to this country, but we’re also a hugely diverse community within ourselves, from a wide variety of countries, regions and religions,” says Amar Singh, head of content and communications at MKTG and former senior brand manager at Budweiser. 

As a minority group, South Asians cannot be looked at under one umbrella. To reach the South Asian community at any level, your brand will need to understand the nuances and socioeconomic differences to understand the identities of the communities.  

Whilst religious festivals are an excellent way to connect with your target audience. It is becoming apparent that brands are only stepping out at these points and their campaigns feel unauthentic.  

Tesco’s after-dark Ramadan campaign and their food love stories was a great example of effective multicultural marketing. Food is a great conversation starter in many South Asian communities. So, not only is the campaign relevant, but it was also utilised during a holiday period; therefore, the campaign overall held more credibility.  

Grand Prix winners Kinetic, Mediacom, BBH,, The Unmistakables and Tesco

Food is a big part of the South Asian community and is a huge opportunity for marketers to speak to the community. With traditional dishes being cooked at home daily, food offers marketers the chance to engage consumers with relatable content, emotion driven content no matter which industry your brand is from.  

How do we reach the different generations within the South Asian community in the UK?  

In the UK, South Asian minority groups include 1.86 million Indians (3.1 per cent), 1.58 million Pakistanis (2.7 per cent), 644,900 Bangladeshis (1.1 per cent) and other Asians. Along with the different countries, there are differences between religions and regions within each community. The complexity of South Asians is one of the reasons marketers often fail. Sharing an image of a lady in a head scarf or a man in a traditional outfit will not work. They are only targeting a small minority within a wider community, and the lack of representation only pushes the South Asian community further away.   

Religion is such an integral part of the South Asian communities, it is worth looking closely into the different teachings and cultural norms as this will differ from generation, religion and country of origin. The main religions within the South Asian community are Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism and Muslim. There are also Jains and Buddhists. By understanding the beliefs and teachings, your brand can avoid creating campaigns that simply miss the mark or could offend.   

Finances are often scrutinised across different religions followed by the South Asian community. For example, “as a matter of faith, a Muslim cannot lend money to, or receive money from someone and expect to benefit as interest (known as riba) is not allowed. To make money from money is forbidden, and wealth can only be generated through legitimate trade and investment in assets. Money must be used in a productive way in order to be Sharia compliant. Therefore, targeting Muslims with a loan offer would be insensitive and irrelevant.  

Other religions believe money is to be shared, and Dharma encourages the lawful earning of money to provide for your family, but some teachings also emphasise the need to share wealth to avoid becoming greedy. Charity is an essential feature of Dharma. 

According to a study carried out in eight countries by Standard Chartered Bank (SCB) along with independent research agency GlobeScan, 50% of the “emerging affluent” Pakistanis (living in Pakistan) prefer to save cash at home as opposed to only 15% Indians belonging to the same segment of society. The preference for keeping cash at home stems from the desire to access savings at short notice, avoid risk, or lack of investing experience. This follows through to first-generation South Asians living in the UK. Making them aware of the instant access and secure banking available here in the UK would see a rise in the number of consumers signing up for your financial services. Often the way of life is so different that it takes time for the first generation to learn and trust the ways of their ‘host country’.  

“In comparison to Indian households, Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Tamil households have less disposable income, so are likely to take up offers and discounts that are tailored to them,” explains Davina Rajoopillai- Cultural Strategy Consultant and Executive Producer at BADLANDS 

Another thing to consider in the South Asian community is the long-running cultural behaviours toward gender roles. As time progresses, we see change; however, it is still typically the man of the house who deals with anything financial. To reach women consumers from South Asian communities, content which is educationally directed at females would be beneficial and allow them to grow their financial freedom and increase their knowledge.  

There is a huge demand for financial services from the South Asian community as Indian business owners contribute significantly to the UK GDP. Women own a third of South Asian-run businesses, and at least 57% of these have a female director. So, if your brand can effectively engage these audiences, you will see a rise in ROI and brand loyalty increase as consumers begin to feel represented, and they are more likely to stick with your brand.  

Top tips for reaching a South Asian community: 

  1. Educate yourselves on the history of the communities  
  1. Utilise key people of influence, influencers and ethnic media 
  1. Engage South Asian Women  
  1. Tailor services to meet the need and demands of each audience 
  1. Family and food are key aspects of the community, and both see large joint families gathering throughout the year. 

First-generation South Asians’ social lives are centred around temples, mosques and cultural associations. There are strong ties to the community in the UK and back in their home countries. Therefore, they are more likely to watch TV in their first language, read ethnic media about the UK and home and have lots of contact with family back home.  

Other important things that should be noted when trying to engage the South Asian community are the high interest in Sports, the number of Ethnic Holidays and their use of WhatsApp groups to communicate with the community.  

Whilst the second generation is still very centred around the community and traditional beliefs, there is more mainstream media acceptance. However, they should still be represented and services tailored to meet their needs.  

GottaBe! Ethnic are on hand to help your brand effectively target the wide variety of South Asian communities. We have connections with key people of influence across the UK and know how to alter your marketing strategy to effectively engage hard-to-reach audiences. Get in contact today for a chat with one of our multicultural marketing specialists.  

Let's see how we can work together