Rural marketing may be referred to as the promotion of products used in all sections and regions of Indian society—whether rural or urban locations—in a manner that especially resonates with populations residing in small towns and villages by way of cultural or lifestyle clues. So whether it is the eponymous ‘Hema, Rekha, Jaya aur Shushma’ campaign by Nirma or the ‘Desh ka namak’ tag of Tata Salt; most brands look to beguile the section of the Indian population which lives in Bharat, rather than India, to strike gold. These advertisements involved goods created for pan-India consumption and were leveraged in rural markets.
But what if there were commodities created specifically for rural markets, based on intelligence gathered over many years—how would you market these? It would be only a slight exaggeration to say that such goods would market themselves. Who better to prove this point than telecom giant Bharti Airtel.
In the telecom domain, Bharti Airtel partnered with leading Value Added Services provider Handygo Technologies Pvt Ltd to launch ‘Behtar Zindagi,’ a unique mobile service for farm communities in Rajasthan at charges as low as Rs 1/day. Through this service, it enables Airtel’s customers to use their mobile phones to receive information and updates on issues like weather, mandi rates, live stock, agriculture, fisheries, health, education and finance using a simple Interactive Voice Response system, which supports Hindi and 17 regional languages, in addition to several dialects.
To promote its beverages in power-starved hinterlands, Coca-Cola provided low-cost tin ice boxes for new outlets and thermocol boxes for seasonal outlets.
In a bid to capitalise on India’s opportune mobile phone markets, Samsung Electronics Co Ltd made India its R&D hub for the South-East Asian, West Asian and African markets. With profound knowledge of Indian rural consumers, the company crafted a made-in-India phone that allows solar charging called ‘Solar Guru.’ In a similar effort aimed at alleviating a specific problem posed by unreliable power supply, TVS’s Bike Star City offers an in-built mobile charging facility. What’s more; to promote the bike, the company has roped in star cricketer MS Dhoni, quintessentially a successful small-town-boy that vindicates dreaming big.
In the sphere of BFSI, it is seen that insurance companies that customise their products for the rural markets perform significantly better than others. In its bid to rope in customers from India’s hinterlands, HDFC Standard LIFE joined hands with NGOs and offered affordable policies including group insurance covers. In this way, the company was able to beat private insurers and sell policies worth Rs 3.5 crore in premiums.
Industry experts point out that rural India accounts for 54% of India’s FMCG sales, while Technopak Advisors and the Confederation of Indian Industry expects the rural consumer market to touch 720 to 790 million customers or a market size of US$425 billion in 2010-11. Godrej Consumer Products Ltd’s annual report for 2008-09 predicts that over 300 million people will shift from the category of rural poor to rural lower middle class between 2005 and 2025. Given this assumption, rural consumption can match current urban levels by 2017, and that is a formidable market size by any standard. Competitive consumer goods companies are already taking the requisite steps to hook the opportunity when it comes along. The success of brands like Lifebuoy, Dabur Lal Dantmanjan, Hero Cycles and Rajdoot Motorcycles may only be the tip of the iceberg.