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'In order to reach the Indian markets, corporates may have a global strategy but they have to think locally in terms of communication':Anugrah Madison chairman and managing director R V Rajan

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They tout themselves as the best marketers to the rural consumer having had a gargantuan experience in handling a variety of FMCGs, consumer durables, industrial, agri-inputs and services aimed at the semi-urban and the rural markets. Anugrah Madison, with a gross billing of Rs 60 million, is a sister concern of Sam Balsara's Madison Communications, has a history of over 15 years of operations in Southern India.

Anugrah Madison chairman and managing director R V Rajan believes the rural - urban divide continues to exist when it comes to the masses. He is of the opinion that to succeed in the rural market one needs to be totally clued in to the scenario. "Creating brands for rural India is a science that will require many ardent students," says he.

Rajan is also very vocal about the fact that today clients want solutions from them to 'go rural' but at the same time they tie the agency's one hand behind the back!

In an interview with indiantelevision.com's Hetal Adesara, Rajan speaks about some of the issues concerning rural marketing and gives a low down on where the rural market stands today vis-?-vis the urban market.

Excerpts:

 

Where do you think the Indian rural marketing market stands today?

I believe the Indian rural market is geared for faster growth in the years to come as more and more corporates are looking at the rural markets seriously.

They have begun to invest money in creating separate sales and marketing teams for rural markets and have also begun to appoint specialist agencies to advise them on rural marketing. And this, according to me, is a good sign.

 

Which are the sectors/brands that tap the rural market on a preferential basis? And who, among them is the biggest spender?

While the FMCG sector has been looking at rural markets for quite sometime, it is consumer durables sector that is growing faster in the rural areas now. The biggest spender in the rural areas is Hindustan Lever Limited (HLL) followed by Colgate. Among the others the brand that comes to my mind is Eveready Batteries and now LG Electronics.

 

Traditionally, advertising has an urban slant. Do you see a change in that trend? Are brands now looking at tapping the rural market through their advertising?

Even today advertising continues to have an urban slant. The regionalisation of advertising campaigns by many other leading multinational companies indicates a healthy trend for the advertising business.

More and more companies are realising that in order to reach the Indian markets, they may have a global strategy but they have to think locally in terms of communication. Yes, a few clients are looking at developing special advertisements for rural markets. The recent success of 'Thanda Mathlab Coca Cola' campaign which is aimed at the rural market is a case in point.

Which are the major agencies focusing on rural marketing?

Major agencies dealing with rural marketing are Anugrah Madison, MART, Sampark, Rural Relations, O&M Outreach, Linterland, RC&M, etc.

What are the trends that you noticed developing in this sector?

There are some clients who are reverse engineering their products to suit rural markets. One of the recent examples is Ruf and Tuf jeans by Arvind Mills.

LG Electronics has also been successful with their 'Sampoorna' brand of television aimed at rural markets. Generally people are realising the importance of customising their brands to suit rural markets instead of just offering smaller sizes at reduced prices. This is a good trend.

 

What is the spending patterns in the urban vis-?-vis the rural market? How drastic is the difference between the two?

The gap between the urban and rural spend is huge. Though there is no authenticated figure, my guess is that rural marketing currently must be accounting for only Rs 5 billion out of a total estimated advertising budget of over Rs 100 billion a year.

 

What are the major challenges that one faces in rural marketing?

Even today the biggest challenge is distribution. The cost of reaching the goods and services to rural India is prohibitive. It is not commensurate with the returns that the marketers expect.

There is also the other theory that you do not have to go the last mile with your product. If your distribution reaches even up to the feeder markets, they automatically find their way down the population strata provided your brand communication reaches down the line creating the awareness and demand for the product.

 

What is your foresight for this market?

Rural marketing is slowly but surely evolving into an industry. In this, the efforts of the Rural Network must be commended. The Rural Network is an informal alliance of four leading rural agencies - Anugrah Madison (Chennai), MART (Delhi), Rural Relations (Pune) and Sampark (Mumbai).

One of the important activities of the Rural Network is to educate the customers about the various facets of rural marketing. As the next step, the Network is promoting an industry body called Rural Marketing Agencies Association of India to protect and promote the cause of rural marketing in India.

There is better scope for language writers who understand 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 and 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 marketers.

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