Credit card marketers fight for Indian consumers

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BOMBAY--India's credit card market, regarded as one of the fastest growing in the world, is witnessing a flurry of activity as banks try to rope in customers through incentives and freebies.

Standard Chartered has just launched the latest scheme. Dubbed "Win-A-Friend", the program encourages existing holders of MasterCard and Visa to recommend friends to apply. In return, the recommender is eligible to win a number of prizes. In less than three years since Standard Charter began issuing cards it has attracted more than 150,000 members, making it the second biggest player in the Indian market.

Market leader Citibank, which accounts for 600,000 of the two million credit cards issued in India, is defending its leading by regularly advertising in mainstream publications. It recently launched an incentive program of its own called "MoneySpinner," which offers cardholders cash based on card usage.

Australia's ANZ Grindlays Bank, another leading card issuer, joined the rush to attract customers by making it easier for people to apply. An executive comes to the credit card applicant's house and completes all the paperwork for the prospective client, including taking identity photographs.

Even premium charge cards like Diner's Club, owned by Citibank, now reach out to customers. Diner's, which earlier required an introduction by an existing cardholder for any new customer, now waves that prerequisite and instead sends out unsolicited mailers to upmarket households.

Lowe affiliate Enterprise Advertising, Bangalore, handles Standard Chartered; Citibank and Diner's Club are handled by Hindustan Thompson Associates, Bombay; Ogilvy & Mather, New Delhi, handles American Express; MAA Bozell, Bangalore, handles MasterCard and R.K. Swamy/ BBDO Advertising, Bombay, handles Visa International.

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