How Marketers can tap rural India

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Ashwani Arora, Senior VP, Research, Market Excel Data Matrix

Ashwani Arora, Senior VP, Research, Market Excel Data Matrix

Ask any educated man the ramifications and definitions of the term rural and it would draw several responses, each one right in its own sense. The marketers are no exception. While the census of India has certain benchmarks to classify rural, the general public including the marketers look at the rural from their own lens. The range of connotations is huge. Rural India is often termed “Bharat” and is considered more traditional, risk averse, and values security. Some term it as the countryside where the infrastructure is primitive, houses are built of mud or brick ,the primary source of livelihood is agriculture, employment opportunities in the organized sector are negligible, and food choices are restricted to home-cooked, simple food. Conventionally, marketers define the rural sector as those people who live a different lifestyle as opposed to those who have settled in bigger cities and towns. But today’s consumers are heterogeneous and hence there is no one rural. Just as we have layers of consumers who could be segmented on the basis of their occupation, psychographics, consumption and many more parameters, so you have consumer layers in rural India.

This shift and change in eco system clearly holds merit for marketers and these trends ensure that the new rural is different. It is evolving and has a significant number of consumers with a high appetite for consumption. Availability, awareness and affordability are no longer the issues. Rural incomes are not only more resilient, but are growing in size. Farm income is getting supplemented by employment in local industries and remittances from migrants working in cities. Government schemes further add to the corpus. The FMCG growth can be attributed to rural growth, and not only are the brands able to encash the power of INR 2 sachets or draw traction in rupee 5 pouches but 100 ml bottles of shampoos and creams are also doing the rounds.
The purchase of cell phones and cars has gone up .The rural population being so large, even small incremental increases in spends per person makes a huge difference to the total spending basket.

A fundamental transformation
The rising rural prosperity and access to mass media is generating aspirations in rural masses for cosmetics and beauty products. Poor infrastructure however is posing obstacles in its supply chain.
The overall sense of well-being has increased in rural India
People are changing their spending on better houses, clothes, health, education and also on pilgrimages.
The consumption basket in rural India will increasingly have more comfort products and the migration and shift will be faster than anticipated.

It makes sense for marketers to look at identifying specific rural segments sliced by both geography as well as occupation.

The rural opportunity is an ocean. There is not one rural but several and each offers an opportunity of its own. Follow the segmentation approach. Market your products targeting prominent vocations within clusters. This population has a high propensity to consume and spend such as Orchard owners in Kashmir and blue pottery makers in Jaipur among others.

Companies should start segmenting rural consumers according to income, lifestyle and region—moving away from the simplistic notion that all consumers in the hinterland are alike and unsophisticated.

  1. The growing affluence and a sense to enjoy life is on the rise
  2.  Straddle the Pyramid for there are heterogeneous groups waiting to be tapped
  3.  Solve problems, don’t just offer products
  4.  Their forefathers didn’t use it doesn’t mean they will not use it either

Consumers may have varying needs but their anxieties and fears are collective. The brands that address anxieties clearly and collectively will gain higher traction. The PPP model to build infrastructure will offer gains

Look into the genesis of rural haats and its prospects in times to come. Haats or the periodic rural bazaars that show up on a weekly basis across the country, though not a new spectacle are a sure shot way to reach a large number of consumers who are swiftly climbing the consumption ladder.


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