Is TD "aapna" bank? Appealing to the South Asian community

May 3, 2010, [MD]

I am trying to purchase a flight ticket, but because I am an international student, my credit limit is just $1000, and the ticket is $1, 150. The fact that I have over 10,000$ in my account is not important, I can't seem to buy this ticket. Since I have been a customer of CIBC's for four years, had my VISA card for more than two years, and spent a lot of money (all promptly repaid), I find it insulting that they refuse to raise the limit. So I am planning to go talk to them, and tell them that I will switch banks, if they cannot provide me with a higher credit limit.

To prepare, I thought I'd visit some other Canadian banks to check out their offers. Yesterday, at a party, I also met a girl who works for TD, and sang their praises, so I thought I'd see what kind of card deals they offer. However, when I went to the TD site, I became fascinated by something quite different.

At the bottom of the front page, there is a headline "Communities:", and under that, links to "Chinese, Japanese and South Asian". I am always very fascinated by how companies and public services in Canada try to accommodate, or attract, different ethnic and linguistic groups (I have written about that before here), so I clicked the three links.

The Chinese and Japanese links simply led to pages introducing TD's services in Chinese (traditional) and Japanese. This made me very curious – what would be behind the South Asian link? After all, South Asia is an area famed for it's linguistic diversity, with not only a large array of languages, but even a large array of scripts.

Turns out, the website is in "Hinglish" – English, interspersed with snippets of Hindi, written in the Latin script. So, the picture exclaims "Banking can be itna comfortable" (itna = so), and the following paragraph states:

TD Canada Trust is the sab se aasaan, convenient and secure way to handle your everyday banking, investment and credit needs. Ever since we first opened our doors in 1855, ek cheez kabhi nahi badli – our commitment to our customers, our employees and the community. At TD Canada Trust, our goal is to provide a positive banking experience for each and every customer.

(My highlights). Sab se aasaan – the most easy, ek cheez kabhi nahi badli – one thing has never changed (will never change?).

The page continues like this, with lot's of information about their services, interspersed with short snippets of Hindi. We find out that "Banking with us is behtherien aur aasaan" (better and easy), they offer a list of "Sawaal-Jawaab" (questions and answers). And among their services, we see that "Telephone ya Internet se banking karne ki suvidha – that’s the covenience of EasyLine telephone banking and EasyWeb Internet banking with TD Canada Trust." (the facility to bank with internet or telephone).

So what is the purpose of this? The words that are in Hindi are the most easy words, so it's clearly not to make it easier to understand for someone who doesn't speak English very well. Rather, it's to make the bank seem friendly and welcoming to a "South Asian" community. I have a few questions:

I have seen other ad campaigns in Toronto do this, mix in a few Hindi words to appeal to a certain community. But this is the first time I've seen it under the sub-heading "the South Asian community" – meaning it purports to represent all South Asians.

If you addressed something to "the Nordic Community", and wrote the whole text in Swedish, Norwegians might feel a bit miffed.

Is there even such a thing as a "South Asian community"? Certainly, in the region, there is a lot of enmity between some people from different groups, for example between India and Pakistan, and even within India between different religions, ethnic groups etc. Do these fade away when people end up in Toronto, and they find that there are more important commonalities than differences?

And how did the bank choose to address these three communities? (I am especially surprised by the Japanese addition – I can understand Chinese and South Asian, but I didn't realize there were that many Japanese here). Is it purely based on demographic? (The most frequently spoken language in Toronto after English is Italian, but they don't have their own section). Or based on which groups have the most problems with understanding English (clearly not the case with the South Asian example). Or the most wealthy/profitable customers?

Stian Håklev May 3, 2010 Toronto, Canada
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