Technology plays key role to reach rural markets: Experts

In a Roundtable organised by MART, the experts opined that technological revolution along with increasing rural income is going change the dimensions of marketing strategies in rural India

Technology plays key role to reach rural markets: Experts

Technological revolution is going change the dimensions of marketing strategies in rural India. The rural marketers need to think beyond the conventional strategies to tap the rural consumers. This was expressed by the rural marketing experts in a Roundtable “Rural Opportunities: Building Strategy into Action”, organised by MART, a leading marketing management and consulting firm.

Speaking on the occasion, Prof CK Sabharwal, ITS Ghaziabad and Managing Director, Crop Health Products said, “What rural India was in last 15 years was totally different from previous 50 years. In the next 15 years, rural India is going to see a big technological revolution. Having similar aspiration like urban youth, today rural youth is carrying smartphones, motorcycles among all urban products and services. Thus, there is a need to change the conventional marketing strategies into technology based strategies.”

“Rural population too has high aspirations to build and work for a better future and lifestyles. The customisation of products is a better solution for both marketing and utility for the consumer. Yet, customising of products to mini or small packets or sachets for rural populations is always not a solution or a strategy for marketing of products. The customisation could also be according to language, dialects, demonstration and training classes. The idea is to build a strategy for marketing products in rural thus has now changed its definition,” he further said.

Highlighting the changing pattern of income generation in rural India and its impact on increasing consumerism, Pradeep Kashyap, CEO, MART said, “Despite agricultural growth and more than 50 per cent rural population’s dependency on the sector, its contribution to rural income generation has decreased sharply in last 10-15 years from 50 per cent to 30 per cent. The government’s social sector expenditure like MGNREGA and increasing number of salaried people are playing crucial role in increasing rural income. This has increased the aspiration of rural people.”

“Thus, the sentiment of no rain makes FMCG companies believe that rural people will start downgrading is incorrect. After the harvest, farmers definitely pay back loans and complete other social commitments,” Kashyap added. He further said that since the Indian Meteorological Department has announced a timely and normal monsoon for 2016, the rural economy is picking up. So, it is critical for corporates to have the right product at right place, right time in right outlet.

Commenting on the challenges of distribution and supply chain in rural markets, the veteran rural marketing expert said that companies have not invested enough in distribution nor consumers’ need. The companies need to look at product offerings to customise products for the rural population.

Describing the demography of rural population, Kashyap said that out of a population of 800 million, 400 million are still poor, 350 million are in the middle income group and 50 million are rich. Thus, the marketers need to target the right income group for their products and services.

The experts in the Roundtable emphasised on making long time commitments, building relationships, building marketing ecosystem and business models to stay connected with the new emerging rural markets. There was an opinion that for marketing perspective, India is a not a country only. It’s like Europe which has various types of geographies, income groups, cultural and economic demography. The marketing strategy which is successful in Kerala, may not be successful in Punjab.

Speaking on the family structure in rural India, Priyadarshini Narendra, vice president, IMRB International said, “Around 60 per cent of families in rural India are nucleus. Thus, the women members of the family are playing important role in the brand and product preference. Further, the girls’ education has changed the mindsets as educated women entering the families started taking decision and have become more open to use products which are healthy and comfortable for the family.”

“Simply marketing and pushing the product in the rural markets won’t help the product to sustain for long,” pointed out Priyadarshini. She emphasised that digital medium of technology should not be ignored. Giving importance to rural aspirations she also said that every rural household today has a smartphone which helps shape the product demand better in the India’s villages.

Raj Kumar Jha, National Creative Director, Ogilvy Action stressed the point that there is no rural or urban market. All is the same. There are as many coaching classes in the hinterland to train and shape students for competitive exams like engineering, medical and arts where students as well as their parents are equally determined to pursue a better future. Therefore, companies should not think only about increments but build goals which are cumulative.

He said that the companies should develop a strategy when a product is introduced in the market. Jha also highlighted that the literacy rates are increasing in rural areas so there is certainly no need to market products with Hindi tag lines as the rural population and rural markets are merging and evolving more readily accepting things as read and said in English.

“The Below-the-Line (BTL) activities are the old days phenomenon when there was no television in the rural areas. Today, the TV penetration has reached the remotest areas and smartphones have reached to the hands of rural youth. Thus, rural India is no longer media dark. The dimensions of publicity and marketing are getting changed drastically. The marketers need to adopt these changes,” Jha added.

Nikhil Sharma, Partner, MART, too gave importance on the remedies the corporate companies should not miss when they are designing strategies for the market development of their products. He said each category of product has a different say in the market.

Women too on the other hand have started adding income in the rural households. Sharma suggested that corporates should understand the opportunities and try to partner with government and drive the products for rural development. Building trust and a goodwill is an important aspect for rural markets. 

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