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Great opportunities for BFSI, hygiene brands in rural India: Report

Rural consumers seem more confident of a rapid recovery in the economy.

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NEW DELHI: Consumers in rural India are increasingly concerned about health, safety, and future well-being, especially of the chief earners in their families, shifting their focus to better financial planning, revealed the recent Rural Covid Barometer Report, released by Kantar in partnership with GroupM’s experiential marketing unit- Dialogue Factory. The report stated that the rural Indian is balancing the budget by cutting on “indulgence” categories like cold drinks, ready to eat snacks like chips etc and diverting the savings towards hygiene products. They are also looking to buy health and insurance products, opening up a large market for the BFSI segment.

The report aims to provide a unique, fact-based perspective on consumer sentiments, their consumption choices and the behavioural changes brought about by the pandemic. This survey was conducted in 17 Indian states and deep dives into the lives of rural consumers and their adaptations post-Covid2019, providing valuable inputs for any brand’s rural strategy.

With one in three rural adults being impacted by Covid2019, the rural economy is likely to take a hit, stated the report. However, with fewer job losses and consequent reduction in the incomes of the affluent households, the overall impact on rural consumption pattern is likely to be muted in the future. This presents an opportunity for businesses to sharply target their products towards the upper end of the rural consumer spectrum.

However, brands will have to focus on their distribution and last-mile connectivity, since product availability in the local village stores will significantly impact brand choices of the rural shopper.

It also highlighted that like their urban counterparts, rural Indians are increasingly relying on digital services for their day to day activities. With the pandemic accelerating digital adoption, there is a huge potential for businesses and brands to leverage mobile as a medium to reach rural consumers.

Dialogue Factory head of experiential marketing - APAC Dalveer Singh said, “Rural India has always had a higher degree of resilience which makes it more confident for a rapid recovery than the urban areas during these unprecedented times. This report, which is one of the biggest assessment of the impact of the pandemic on rural areas, speaks volumes on the new, defining values that are shaping rural India – resilience, planning for future, protection from falling sick and growing reliance on digital.”

Kantar senior executive director - insights division - Puneet Avasthi added, “For businesses, we would recommend a regional prioritisation. We believe that western India is likely to bounce back earliest. On the other hand, indications seem to suggest that rural South might take longer to recover as the impact of Covid2019 on employment has been more severe, which in turn has depressed the economic outlook of consumers there. We see this as an opportunity for brands to deploy their resources across zones in a graded and phased manner.”

The report also assessed the impact of reverse migration. The study suggests that nearly 53 million migrant workers in India have returned to their villages. 80 per cent of migrants who have returned due to Covid2019 come from five states.

Avasthi noted, “With one out of three rural migrants not planning to go back to urban India, we are likely to see a huge shift in rural consumption choices. This will also affect the availability of labour in urban India”

The report also highlights a deep sense of optimism regarding India’s economic future; stemming from healthy growth in the agricultural sector and near-universal reach of targeted government programs (75 per cent of all consumers claimed to have received at least one of the major government schemes for rural India; 66 per cent claimed to have received free rations under PM Garib Kalyan Yojana).

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