Despite ban on marketing, private institutions hand out pens, hand fans, folders with logos

Anna University has employed at least 100 policemen to ensure that agents from various engineering colleges do not influence students during the ongoing counselling for seats. However, colleges continue to come up with various innovative ways to market themselves.

Till about three years ago, colleges were allowed to advertise inside the campus during counselling. This year, they are not even allowed to do so outside the campus. But less than ten metres away from the gate, one can see people distributing all kinds of stationery items, even water pouches with college names on them.

R. Kanakibharam has been coming to the campus every day since June 20, armed with at least 500 green hand fans. All the fans have the name and code of a private college written on them. “Last year, the college gave me pamphlets to distribute but people discard them even before they reach the college gate. Hand fans however are a boon during the hours spent in the heat and so, are accepted with gratitude,” he said.

Kanakibharam, who gets paid Rs 3,000 for a 30-day span, said he has been asked to target only parents. “We give students plastic cards that have the college code because they enter the code during counselling.”

In addition to hand fans, colleges are also offering pens, bags and notebooks. “There is no point in distributing the material during the early days of counselling because the toppers have already made up their minds. The low-scoring students are the ones to target,” said M. Marimuthu, principal of a private college.

“The most effective are counselling schedules that also carry the watermark of the college. It will be useful for students as they have cut-offs for ready reference, and they also get to study the salient features of the college,” he added.

Another set of colleges has taken the game one level further by offering students folders. “This is more useful because students are swamped with all kinds of pamphlets the moment they approach the campus,” said R. Malathy, correspondent of a group of institutions

Colleges have learnt from experience. Token merchandise does not help, said Pughazendi Anbukumar, who heads a six-year-old college. “Last year, we gave away roller scales and t-shirts but they were not of much use. This year, we have decided not to spend more than Rs. 10 per product and instead, focus on a larger target audience,” he said.

Parents and students though seem to have figured the game out.

Pleased as he was by his three new pens and a folder, R. Kumar, a parent, noted that he had already seen the ads of the colleges on TV and done his research. “Those who are informed do not take such offers seriously,” he said

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