Brands & Rural Marketing
“Corporate India has finally realised the worth of rural markets but the real challenge is how to sustain this geographically fragmented market.”
Rural India: Why Brands cannot ignore them anymore
Rural India consists of about 6.27 lakh villages and is home to around 70% of country’s population. It constitutes a market where life has evolved through deep rooted community values, social rituals, joint families and age old customs and traditions. The rural market is heterogeneous, fragmented, complex and remains largely untapped.
The dynamics of rural marketing has changed over the years and so has the perception about brands rural India. This has been through media exposure via television, radio and print, increased literacy levels, and the mobile youth.
The rural youth generally move out of villages to nearby towns and cities for education and work. Due to this increased exposure of brands and products, the rural youth have evolved as influencers in the purchase decisions of households and they are gradually replacing the elders as decision makers. This mobile working youth has, in a way, created an indirect increase in disposable incomes and a surge in demand for consumer goods. The rural consumer is shifting to toothpaste and toilet soaps, to motorbikes and consumer durables and this transition is fuelled by factors like awareness, affordability, availability and acceptability. Therefore, today it is comparatively easier for brands to get noticed and accepted in the rural markets than before
How Products turned into Brands in Rural India:
The marketers of successful brands realized that the five major factors in creating brand awareness among rural consumers are communication through mass media, publicity through word-of-mouth & opinion leaders, experiential education, price sensitivity & value for money proposition and distribution reach & overcoming language barriers. Therefore, the brands that are doing well in the rural markets and have become a household name followed unique ways of communication and experiential education(also called as edutainment), apart from leveraging the best known broad casting medium, the TV.
Not just the communication style, but the language in which it is addressed has been customized to the local flavours, for example Dabur’s Lal Dant Manjan (Hindi) was rechristened as Dabur’s Sivappu Pal Podi (Tamil) for the Tamil Nadu market. Coca-Cola sensed the price sensitivity of rural consumers and introduced bottles of 200 ml priced at Rs 5 and targeted them through commercials shot in rural settings with tag lines like Thanda matlab Coca-Cola.
The Challenges to Building Brands in Rural India & the Road Ahead:
The biggest hurdle is low penetration rates. Distribution and not advertising is the key to generate sales. Brand builders acknowledge that income levels are going up, infrastructure is slowly improving and lifestyles are changing, but the pace of this change is slow. Hence, long term gains become more prominent but the golden rule to sell in villages remains the same: products must be priced low, profit margins must be kept to the minimum and the marketing message must be kept simple. Brands in rural India have a place in the consumer’s mind but they face real challenges as brands have to be profitable to sustain in this fragmented market.