FICCI's Rural Marketing Summit kicks off in Mumbai

MUMBAI: Rural India is growing and marketers need to know their to be able to get to them since the fact is that; like we know more about Mecca than the residents of Mecca know about us; rural India knows more about urban India than we do about them. This is what basically summed up the first day of the Rural Marketing Summit 2004 organised by FICCI in Mumbai today.



FICCI-Western Regional Council & MD Salora Intl Sushil Jiwarajka, Tata Sons Ltd executive director R Gopalakrishnan, FICCI agriculture & Rural Development Committee & Bata India chairman P M Sinha and MART MD Pradeep Kashyap at the FICCI Rural Marketing seminar

Speaking at the summit Tata Sons Ltd executive director R Gopalakrishnan in his inaugural address lamented that poverty itself has become a business which keeps vested interests busy. He underlined the need for uplifting the rural population and increasing their propensity to consume. "Market penetration has lot to do with effective communication at local levels and pro-active participation in creating a win-win chain of rural consumers and corporates," he said.



Referring to subsidies as one of the great paradoxes of Indian agriculture, he stated neither exploitation nor subsidies serve a larger purpose.

Earlier in his welcome address, FICCI-WRC chairman Sushil Jiwarajka said, ?The ingredients for successful penetration into the hearts and wallets of village consumers include long-term commitment, cost re-engineering and sustained innovation and specialized strategies.? He highlighted the need for the corporates to place emphasis on going to the retailers directly rather than depending on the wholesalers for distribution in the rural market as that had not proved to be very effective and proactive marketing medium. He also emphasised on the need to work on economical packaging, dual pricing and special sizes of FMCG and household products.



In his theme presentation MART managing director and member of the Rural Network Pradeep Kashyap said that the greatest challenge for the rural marketer was reaching out to the remotest rural destinations and increasing rural incomes. He said, "With 742 million people, the rural market has finally arrived. More than 50 per cent of policies are sold in rural India, more than 50 per cent BSNL and STD connections are sold in the rural areas. Also, Kissan credit cards was a huge success as Rs 977 billion has been loaned against this card. Moreover, 60 per cent signups on are from the small towns."

Kashyap felt that several myths abound the rural sector such as rural people not buying branded goods, going for cheap products and market being a homogenous mass. He informed that the rural people account for 80 per cent of sales for FMCGs; they seek value for money and the rural market is fascinatingly heterogeneous.

Sinha in his address endorsed the view that agricultural subsidies should be removed and those funds released for the upliftment of the rural sector.

In the interactive session titled 'Creating Rural Business Hubs,' Grassroots Trading Network CEO Rashid Kidwai and Shriram Consolidated Ltd vice president Rajesh Gupta said the key to reaching rural India was communication as marketers were dealing with two different worlds - the corporate world and the rural market. "They need to understand that and then move ahead with the right language of communication," said Kidwai.

In the Plenary Session I titled 'Rural marketing in the 21st century', the speakers included BSNL chairman and MD A K Sinha, Coca Cola India Pvt Ltd vice president marketing Shripad Nadkarni and NCAER principal statistician Dr Rakesh K Shukla.

Nadkarni emphasised, "Almost 75 per cent of the total Indian population is in rural India, and 40 per cent middle class resides there. Going rural cannot be a 'price drop/ issue, it has to have conviction and commitment." Stressing on how brands should have an pan India appeal, he said that the communication campaign of brands should cover the urban - rural divide and look for commonalties in both. Citing an example of the Coca Cola ads with Aamir Khan, Nadkarni said that the communication should be powerful and cost effective at the same time.

The Plenary Session II titled 'Rural Consumer Behaviour', was chaired by Procter & Gamble chairman Bharat V Patel and the speakers were A C Neilsen ORG MARG India executive director Sujit Dasmunshi and Pepsico India Holdings Pvt Ltd director Praveen Someshwar.

The Plenary Session titled 'Developing products for Rural Markets' was chaired by Dalmia Consumer Care MD and CEO Sudershan Banerjee and the speakers were Tata AIG Life Insurance Co. Ltd director - alternative channels Joydeep Roy and HPCL executive director S V Sahni, who presented his case study.

The second day of the Summit will commence tomorrow.

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