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DBS Bank’s Chilli Paneer Campaign: Communicating with Conversation Starters

ET Cases, 8 pages
AUTHOR(S) : Vijay Kumar Tangirala and Dr. Nagendra V. Chowdary

Case Preview

DBS Bank’s Chilli Paneer Campaign: Communicating with Conversation Starters


Ken Chang (Ken) was from a Singaporean business family and was also the author of a popular food blog of which Asha Rao (Asha), an Art Director in Mumbai, was an avid follower. Connecting these two apparently disconnected characters would have been impossible for most brands, but not so for DBS Bank India (DBS India). The two characters, hailing from two different countries, meeting each other at an ATM (as though they were there for an appointment), ecstatically recounting their mutual admiration through the food blog, deciding to go on an elaborate culinary tour in Mumbai (Asha as the guide), making important decisions through the journey (that would alter their destinies), falling in love and setting up a thriving restaurant business with help from DBS India…seems nothing less than a Bollywood plot.

Taking a cue from an analysis of conversation starters amongst Indian consumers, DBS India launched an online film and followed it up with India’s first interactive film in BFSI space to engage with the target customers. The analysis threw up a few interesting conversation starters including food. While the interactive film gained traction, many wonder if this could be the right medium, right content, right frequency for engaging the target audience, given DBS India’s business interests in personal banking, wealth management and business banking.

DBS India: A Limited Presence – Maximum Impact

DBS was one of the leading financial services groups in Asia, having more than 250 branches across 17 countries. Having its head office and being listed in Singapore, DBS was present in three important Asian growth centers: Greater China, Southeast Asia (Singapore and Indonesia) and South Asia (India).1 DBS India functioned through a network of 12 branches across India and offered personal banking, wealth management and business banking services.2

DBS India launched an online film in September 2014. The objective was to demonstrate how banking and help in arriving at financial decisions was easily accessible. DBS Bank India also wanted to communicate the fact that, being an Asian Bank, it was keen on not just offering banking products but in being very much a part of consumers’ financial decisions.3 Chilli Paneer was about Ken and Asha. Ken, besides managing his family business, was a food blogger..................


Exhibit I: A Promotional Clip of the Film

Exhibit II(A): Ken and Asha at One of the Food Joints

Exhibit II(B): Ken and Asha Spending Time Together

Exhibit III: The Chilli Paneer 2 Webpage

Exhibit IV: One of the Options in the Film


1 ““Chilli Paneer” – DBS Bank Breaks Clutter of BFSI Advertising Campaigns”,, September 5th 2014, (accessed date: January 16th 2014)
2, (accessed date: January 16th 2014)
3 Aditya Bhatkal, “DBS Bank India Narrates A Modern Day Story Via Chilli Paneer Film To Keep Social Media Fans Hooked”,, January 30th 2015 (accessed date: April 2nd 2015)

Teaching Note Preview

DBS Bank’s Chilli Paneer Campaign: Communicating with Conversation Starters



This caselet enables a discussion on how digital campaigns can be used to create brand awareness. DBS Bank, to increase its visibility in India, launched Chilli Paneer, an online film featuring the protagonists, Ken Chang (Ken) and Asha Rao (Asha). Ken, a scion of a respectable Singaporean business family was an active food blogger. Asha, an art director in Mumbai, wanted to open her own restaurant. Ken and Asha run into each other at a DBS Bank ATM, have a chat, go on a culinary tour of Mumbai and start developing feelings for each other. The film further shows how the two realise their dream of setting up their restaurant in Mumbai with DBS Bank’s assistance.

DBS Bank followed up Chilli Paneer with Chilli Paneer 2 which was an interactive film. The viewer had to get into the shoes of Ken and make choices on behalf of Asha and him. Some of these were whether or not to open a new restaurant in Goa and if so, the setting for the same. An element of intrigue was added to the film by revealing the viewer’s personality towards the end based on his/her choices. Both Chilli Paneer 1 and 2 were actively promoted through Facebook and Twitter, augmented as they were by contests. However, would Chilli Paneer 2 be able to emulate Chilli Paneer 1’s success and sustain viewer’s interest or would its length prove to be its undoing?

Prerequisite Conceptual Understanding

This caselet presupposes an understanding of the concept of communication and consumer behaviour. This would enable an effective discussion leading to an appreciation of the use of digital campaigns to influence consumer behavior. The participants were asked to read the following chapter from 10th edition of Consumer Behavior textbook to help them better connect with the concepts:

  • • Leon G. Schiffman, et al., “Chapter 9: Communication and Consumer Behavior”, Consumer Behavior, 10th Edition, Pearson Education, Inc., 2010: To focus on how online and interactive campaigns can be used to create brand awareness


This caselet focuses on sensitizing the participants/students to how companies can use non-traditional media to reach out to the target audience. While the chapter highlights different communication strategies/platforms deployed by companies, this caselet’s focus is on the non-traditional media (concepts).

The students were asked to view the following campaign films:

  • • Chilli Paneer,
  • • Chilli Paneer 2,


Case Positioning and Setting

This caselet can be used in MBA or Executive MBA programs for the following course/module:

  • • Consumer Behavior - Communication and Consumer Behavior – To understand how online and interactive campaigns can be used to communicate a brand’s value proposition


Assignment Questions

  • I. What are the different communication channels that marketers use to reach consumers? Do you see any disadvantages to the profusion of communication channels? If there are any disadvantages, do these get accentuated in the context of targeting millennials?
  • II. Why do you think DBS Bank India opted for digital media to promote its brand? Do you think the online and interactive film formats that the bank employed proved superior in communicating its message to consumers? Which generation of consumers was it targeting through the campaign?
  • III. ...........................


Case Analysis

The classroom discussion and analysis for this caselet was facilitated under three broad sections as explained through the Discussion Dashboard [Exhibit (TN)-I].............

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Product code: CB-2-0013, CB-2-0013A


This caselet highlights how an innovative marketing communication campaign can be designed to connect with consumers. Designed to de-clutter, DBS Bank’s India’s first interactive campaign (in BFSI space) exemplifies how a thoughtful ‘emotional’ campaign can be designed to engage with the consumers. It launched an online film called Chilli Paneer in September 2014 which featured two characters, Ken Chang (Ken)and Asha Rao (Asha) , hailing from Singapore and India, respectively. The two accidentally meet at a DBS ATM in Mumbai, strike up a conversation, spend time together and eventually fall in love. The film further showed how Ken and Asha go about setting up a restaurant with assistance from DBS Bank. Chilli Paneer did not focus on a product or service but showed how two individuals discovered their objective of life and how the bank helped them realise their dreams. The second part Chilli Paneer 2, released in December 2014, comprised an interactive campaign wherein the viewer had to assume Ken’s role and take various decisions on behalf of the protagonists. These included the type of holiday the couple had to take in Goa, whether or not to set up another restaurant there and, if a new restaurant had to be opened, the type. The film showed DBS Bank’s preparedness in having a detailed plan to finance them in case they go ahead with the venture. The viewer engagement was enhanced by giving insights about the viewer’s personality based on the decisions taken by him/her. The caselet also throws light on how social media and contests were effectively used to create excitement around the campaign. However, notwithstanding its engaging content, would Chilli Paneer 2 be able to attract eyeballs due to its length?

Pedagogical Objectives

  • To analyse the need for companies to employ differentiated communication platforms in targeting consumers, in the light of increasing communication clutter
  • To understand how a banking company, based on insightful conversation starters’ analysis, has designed an innovative interactive campaign (web-based advertising film)
  • To examine the role of ubiquitous social and digital media in influencing consumer behavior
Case Positioning and Setting
This caselet can be used in MBA or Executive MBA programs for the following course/module:
  • Consumer Behavior – Communication and Consumer Behavior - To understand how Online and interactive campaigns can be used to communicate a brand’s value proposition

This Case Pack Includes:
- Abstract
- Caselet
- Teaching Note (**ONLY for Academicians)
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