gamboling into issues like where the Indian rural market stands
and the opportunities for corporates to explore there... let's look
at the definition of urban and rural India. The Census defined urban
India as - "All the places that fall within the administrative
limits of a municipal corporation, municipality, cantonment board
etc or have a population of at least 5,000 and have at least 75
per cent male working population in outside the primary sector and
have a population density of at least 400 per square kilometer.
Rural India, on the other hand, comprises all places that are not
Now for some facts and figures. The Indian rural market today accounts
for only about Rs 8 billion (53 per cent - FMCG sector, 59 per cent
durables sale, 100 per cent agricultural products) of the total
ad pie of Rs 120 billion, thus claiming 6.6 per cent of the total
share. So clearly there seems to be a long way ahead.
Time and again marketing practitioners have waxed eloquent about
the potential of the rural market. But when one zeroes in on the
companies that focus on the rural market, a mere handful names come
to mind. Hindustan Lever Limited (HLL) is top of the mind with their
successful rural marketing projects like 'Project Shakti' and 'Operation
Bharat'. The lynchpin of HLL's strategy has been to focus on penetrating
the market down the line and focusing on price point. Furthermore,
activating the brand in the rural market through activities, which
are in line with the brand itself, is what sums up HLL's agenda
as far as the rural market is concerned informs MindShare Fulcrum
general manager R Gowthaman. Amul is another case in point of aggressive
rural marketing. Some of the other corporates that are slowly making
headway in this area are Coca Cola India, Colgate, Eveready Batteries,
LG Electronics, Philips, BSNL, Life Insurance Corporation, Cavin
Kare, Britannia and Hero Honda to name a few.
fans' ad on a horse cart
We can safely say that until some years ago, the rural market was
being given a step-motherly treatment by many companies and advertising
to rural consumers was usually a hit and miss affair. More often
than not, the agenda being to take a short-cut route by pushing
urban communication to the rural market by merely transliterating
the ad copy. Hence advertising that is rooted in urban sensitivities
didn't touch the hearts and minds of the rural consumer. While,
this is definitely changing, the process is slow. The greatest challenge
for advertisers and marketers continues to be in finding the right
mix that will have a pan-Indian rural appeal. Coca Cola, with their
Aamir Khan ad campaign succeeded in providing just that.
wall painting in rural India
Corporates are still apprehensive to "Go Rural." A few
agencies that are trying to create awareness about the rural market
and its importance are Anugrah Madison, Sampark Marketing and Advertising
Solutions Pvt Ltd, MART, Rural Relations, O&M Outreach, Linterland
and RC&M, to name a few. Also, the first four agencies mentioned
above have come together to form The Rural Network. The paramount
objective of the Network is to get clients who are looking for a
national strategy in rural marketing and help them in executing
it across different regions.
Interestingly, the rural market is growing at a far greater speed
than its urban counterpart. "All the data provided by various
agencies like NCAER, Francis Kanoi etc shows that rural markets
are growing faster than urban markets in certain product categories
at least. The share of FMCG products in rural markets is 53 per
cent, durables boasts of 59 per cent market share. Therefore one
can claim that rural markets are growing faster than urban markets,"
says Sampark Marketing and Advertising Solutions Pvt Ltd managing
director R A Patankar.
da Tashan..." McCann Erickson's ads with Aamir Khan created
universal appeal for Coca Cola
Coca-Cola India tapped the rural market in a big way when it introduced
bottles priced at Rs 5 and backed it with the Aamir Khan ads. The
company, on its behalf, has also been investing steadily to build
their infrastructure to meet the growing needs of the rural market,
which reiterates the fact that this multinational has realised the
potential of the rural market is going strength to strength to tap
2000, ITC took an initiative to develop direct contact with
farmers who lived in far-flung villages in Madhya Pradesh.
ITC's E-choupal was the result of this initiative.
Clearly the main challenge that one faces while dealing with rural
marketing is the basic understanding of the rural consumer who is
very different from his urban counterpart. Also distribution remains
to be the single largest problem marketers face today when it comes
to going rural. "Reaching your product to remote locations
spread over 600,000 villages and poor infrastructure - roads, telecommunication
etc and lower levels of literacy are a few hinges that come in the
way of marketers to reach the rural market," says MART managing
director Pradeep Kashyap.
Citing other challenges in rural marketing, Patankar says, "Campaigns
have to be tailor made for each product category and each of the
regions where the campaign is to be executed. Therefore a thorough
knowledge of the nuances of language, dialects and familiarity with
prevailing customs in the regions that you want to work for is essential.
The other challenge is the reach and the available means of reaching
out to these markets, hence the video van is one of the very effective
means of reaching out physically to the rural consumers."
The fact of the matter remains that when compared to the Indian
urban society, which is turning into a consumerism society; the
rural consumer will always remain driven by his needs first and
will therefore be cost conscious and thrifty in his spending habits.
"Decision-making is still conscious and deliberated among the
rural community. But nevertheless, the future no doubt lies in the
rural markets, since the size of the rural market is growing at
a good pace. There was a time when market predictions were made
on the basis of the state of the monsoon but this trend has changed
over the years; there is a large non farming sector, which generates
almost 40 per cent of the rural wealth. Hence the growth in the
rural markets will be sustained to a large extent by this class
in addition to the farmer who will always be the mainstay of the
rural economy," affirms Patankar.
"Although the melting of the urban - rural divide will take
a while, this is not for want of the availability of the means but
for want of the rural consumer's mindset to change; which has its
own logic, which is driven by tradition, custom and values that
are difficult to shed," he points out.
dish antennas reach rural India
Fulcrum's Gowthaman says, "The biggest impending factor or
deterrent on rural monies going up is that there is a general sense
of trying to benchmark cost per contact (CPC). The television CPC
is going to anyways be cheaper to rural CPC and unless and until
the volume - value equation turns the other way round, you will
not be able to spend disproportionate monies in the rural market."
shop in rural India stocked with sachets, etc
For HLL, a one rupee or a five rupee sachet or the Kutti Hamam
(the small Hamam) helps in giving the consumers a trial opportunity.
While it does help in generate volume but not in terms of values.
"Till the time that volume - value equation is managed better,
the CPC is preventing anybody to look at rural at a large scale
activation programme," reiterates Gowthaman.
Ultimately, the ball lies in the court of rural marketers. It's
all about how one approaches the market, takes up the challenge
of selling products and concepts through innovative media design
and more importantly interactivity.
Anugrah Madison's chairman and managing director RV Rajan sums
up, "There is better scope for language writers who understands
the rural and regional pulse better. I also see great scope for
regional specialists in the areas of rural marketing - specialists
like Event Managers, Wall painters, folk artists, audio visual production
houses. In fact all those people who have specialised knowledge
of a region are bound to do well, thanks to the demands of the rural
the fact remains that the rural market in India has great potential,
which is just waiting to be tapped. Progress has been made in this
area by some, but there seems to be a long way for marketers to
go in order to derive and reap maximum benefits. Moreover, rural
India is not so poor as it used to be a decade or so back. Things
are sure a changing!
with Anugrah Madison MD & chairman RV Rajan
Study in Rural Marketing: Dalmia Consumer Care
courtesy: www.hll.com, www.hindubusinessline.com, www.gettyimages.com)