Kiosks: An effective mode of promotion in small townsApril 25th, 2012 | Posted by in Articles and Opinions
Last year, a study conducted by professors at Sam M Walton College of Business, University of Arkansas, revealed that internet-enabled kiosks that provided valuable information on prenatal and postnatal care for mothers and babies have helped reduce infant, child and maternal mortality rates in ruralIndia. It was seen that these kiosks were more effective than socio-cultural networks in positively influencing rural women to seek and obtain medical care. The assessment was conducted on women across 20 villages, where 10 villages had internet kiosks and 10 did not. About 300 women participated in each village.
The government has already recognised the virtues of this medium in educating rural folk. Welfare efforts are evident in the ‘Gyandoot’ project of the Madhya Pradesh government that disseminated information like agricultural produce rates, land records and offered grievance services to villagers. In Maharashtra’s Warana village, kiosks are being used by sugarcane farmers to receive payment slips. Clearly, these sketches speak of the effectiveness of kiosks in the rural context.
As the first anecdote suggests, kiosks proved to be more adept at providing the requisite information to rural folk than the socio-cultural network itself. The retail sector may learn from this example. In villages that remain more or less media dark, word-of-mouth has an important role to play, where a consumer having used a product/service, informs his social circle about its positive qualities. Since retail and FMCG companies may find it difficult to interact with such far-flung populations through salespeople, a kiosk becomes an interesting and appealing way to interact with village-folk.
Today, several companies have jumped into the kiosk bandwagon to enhance their brand goodwill. ICI India has kiosks to enable customers to choose and mix colours for their paints. In the past, Hindustan Lever used attractive, transportable kiosks to promote Pepsodent. The set-up comprised two monitors, one used as a touchscreen interface and the other for larger audience coverage. For instance, about ten children could watch the kiosk display in action. ITC’s e-Choupal kiosks have long revolutionised the process of purchasing farm-produce like soya from farmers, while offering them information on weather, latest farming techniques and crop insurance. This initiative has created unlimited brand value for the company through 6,500 e-Choupal centres spread across 40,000 villages.
However, the most significant use of kiosks is seen in the BFSI sector. In 2010, ICICI partnered with enterprises to build a network of internet-enabled kiosks in rural areas. The company planned to leverage these kiosks for promoting its banking services in these areas by leveraging its savings and loan offerings. For this, it trained kiosk operators as agents or placed a basic ATM in proximity. To make the kiosks really popular, ICICI also extended loans to farmers via the mentioned e-Choupal network, while at EID Parry sugar factories, farmers were able to buy crop inputs and pay for them on having received payments for their crops.
Another interesting move by a BFSI company in this area is internet-enabled kiosk banking by State Bank of India. These kiosks cover all the basic banking functions, such as cash and check deposits that work like ATMs. A prominent advantage of the kiosk banking system is that it has reduced the account opening cost from Rs 200, which it would cost at a branch office, to a minimal Rs 20 at a kiosk. Previously, it was seen that LIC used kiosks to enable customers in far-flung areas to check the status of their premiums by entering their policy numbers into the system. Banks like HDFC Bank are increasingly setting up self-service kiosks around their premises in small towns to educate customers about their range of offerings.
Financial inclusion remains among the most critical concerns for India’s villages today. A strong and reliable monetary system in the hinterlands will enable India’s growth engine to draw from a strong and well-entrenched consumer base. By promoting banking services, the BFSI sector, along with some retail giants has laid the foundations for a medium that promises to enrich the lives of rural people in a holistic way.