Rural markets have always been primary area of focus for Pidilite Industries. Its Fevicol advertisements have set the definition of innovation in rural marketing communication. Salil Dalal, Chief Operating Officer – Emerging India at Pidilite Industries in an exclusive interview with Mohd Mustaquim, discusses on various aspects of the company’s rural marketing activities such as digitisation, innovative communication, responsive approach, customer engagement and many more…
On socio-economic and cultural grounds, India is a very diverse country, how do you differentiate your rural marketing activities with urban marketing today?
Yes, just like for the construction and chemicals business, it is about ABC, Architects, Builders and Contractors. It doesn’t work in a rural areas. In the rural areas, you have different problems to solve. It is going to be about three, Rajmistry, Retailer and how do you also protect your brands. Rural marketing for us, is completely different ballgame and different set of problems to solve. Depending on the category you have to understand which is the problem to solve and adapt your strategy accordingly.
If you classify rural markets regionwise like north, south, east, west and central? How do differentiate regionswise marketing activities?
We don’t define it in terms of north, east, west or south. We divide more in terms of the developed states then the developing states that are under indexed states which are yet to get developed. Depending upon that, we have our strategies worked out more from a demand generation point of view or the kind of products that are launched there. And other thing that we see is from metrics in what geographies our sale is lesser than the potential. So, we put more efforts there.
Advertising and marketing campaigns of Pidilite, for example, Fevicol, have always been innovative. Are we going to see similar innovations in your communications in the future also?
Yes, of course, it has always been. Category creation and innovation is the DNA of Pidilite, not only in communication or advertising point of view, but even in identifying the kind of underserved markets, identifying problems and coming up with innovative solutions and products for that. We are at any given point in time looking at having collaborations and bringing the right kind of solutions to the consumers.
Indian economy is going through slowdown for last two years. How has it affected your business and what is your future roadmap to counter this sluggish rural demand?
I don’t see any slowdown for Pidilite. Of course rural India growths could have been much better. But I don’t think that from a growth perspective. Rural India is not into that level of problem that we really are experiencing all over at an industry level. Now, the consumption is growing. It has just a minor kind of slowdown, but it will accelerate. As you know, we have had good monsoon this year, hence, we would see the next round of crops, really helping us get through this.
Weather is very much erratic in India which affects incomes in rural India. So, what preparations do you have to counter these weather conditions to market your product?
None can control the weather. All you can do, a lot more nimble comes in your business, you have to be a lot more flexible in what you do so that you can adapt to the changing environment. And as every year goes by, you need to have a faster speed of response and not get locked in with your plans. I mean, that’s the way business is now operating.
In rural India where literacy rate is comparatively low, counterfeit products are very big challenge for the companies. So how do you make rural consumers aware that your product is genuine?
It is for us to keep a watch on. Luckily, there are many legal options which are available. There are ways of educating the retailers. A lot of times just by educating the retailer, a lot of problems go away. If there is a bigger problem then you have legal resources available. It is up to us to actually educate our own teams. The frontline teams are the eyes and ears of the organisation to find these kind of lookalikes and fakes and have a proper response to these including legal recourse wherever it is required.
When you launch a new product what challenges do you face in convincing rural consumers and what response do you get from them?
Go after the two key influencers that our retailer is a very very important person. He is the person who goes on and educates at the point-of-sale and the second person is the user. Our most amount of effectiveness comes by being in direct and regular touch with the users. They are the first customers for us, and then they deliver the right experience to the to the customers. That’s what we do. We engage with the retailers as well as the users.
In the era of digitisation and technological disruptions, how do you leverage from them for your marketing activities?
Before reaching the rural customers, we try to digitise our reach to retailers, end consumers, users, contractors and mason plumbers. We have got a mobile app for contractors on which nearly 200,000 contractors use and stay in touch with the company to understand the new products and then to go ahead and use them. We have chatbots for the retailers to find out the right prices of our products as we’ve got a wide range of products over 300 skews and they need to understand the right prices at which they are available. We are focused on digitisation at this point in time. There are digital media where we are creating various ads on Facebook, Twitter and all kinds of digital platforms. Through digitisation the content go viral, especially for Fevicol and Dr. Fixit brands. We have a very good digital play.
May I know about your future offerings for rural markets?
Within our own range, we have got a huge amount of opportunity. We are looking at milking this. We are always on the lookout for better opportunities to solve the problem specifically to rural areas. There are certain new products we have launched, which take care of the the problems that in irrigation in agriculture. Today, people have to cut irrigation pipes and then join them if there are cracks. It’s a very tedious process. We have a kind of epoxy putty, which is simply applied on the crack on the pipes. Similarly, we have a tape which can be applied around for fixing the problem. We’re always on the lookout for the problems rural India faces to provide them solutions.