INTRODUCTION TO RURAL MARKET
GONE ARE the days when a rural consumer went to a nearby city to buy branded products and services. Time was when only a select household consumed branded goods, be it toothpaste or soap. There were days when big companies flocked to rural markets to establish their brands. Today, rural markets are critical for every marketer - be it for a branded shampoo or an automobile. To open a business daily or business magazine today, you will read about some company or other announcing its intention to `go rural'. Is going rural that simple? Apart from the distribution nightmare of reaching the products to rural markets, with 13 major languages and thousands of dialects, 1,700 ethnic groups and hundreds of caste groups, reaching the right communication to the rural community is mind-boggling. A number of today's marketers who believe that consumers in rural India are less demanding and easily satisfied are in for a rude shock. It is high time these marketers realize that an indiscriminate marketing strategy, a replication of that used for the urban customer, will not work with his rural counterpart. The latter have a different set of priorities, which necessitates a different approach, both in terms of developing appropriate products to suit them and using appropriate communication strategies, which they will comprehend better. There is a debate in some quarters that the rural market is mature enough to understand communication developed for urban markets, especially in the case of FMCGs. This is partly true, if the communication is such that it makes the product promise in a simple and easy-to-understand style.
It is also true that the section of rural society, which is exposed to urban lifestyles because of employment, is beginning to appreciate and understand all types of communication aimed at it. But they are in small numbers and the vast majority of rural folks, even today, cannot understand clever communication. What to communicate and how to communicate to the rural audience is a subject which must be understood clearly before any attempt to develop a communication package aimed at them is undertaken. “Real India lies in Rural India”, ‘India is a land of ‘villages’, ‘Rural economy is the backbone of the Indian economy’, ‘India lies in its villages’, etc, are the perpetual and common slogans. India is predominantly an Agricultural Economy and the rural markets hold immense potentials for any company to expand.
Thus the next word after “expanding sales” today is “targeting the rural markets”. Also, intensified competitions in the urban-markets have resulted in increase in costs but not higher market share and profits. This has resulted in change of focus by a host of organizations. Thus, rural bazaars are becoming more important than urban markets and many organisations have realized that in a host of product classes the winners of tomorrow are going to be those who focus on rural India. Industrial giants and other savvy small to medium firms are awakening to the potential of India’s jackpot rural market of nearly 733 million consumers, more than twice the population of the USA. It has thus become very necessary to study the rural markets because this market, which is mostly underestimated, is drastically changing.
Background of Rural Marketing
It was in the late 1960s and 1970s that rural marketing became a topic of general discussion. The Green Revolution and the consequent pockets of rural prosperity that appeared on its wake awakened many manufacturers to the new purchasing power. The NCAER’s Market Information Survey of Households (MISH) shows that the 1980’s saw a rapid improvement in the distribution of income in the rural as compared with urban India. In 1989-90, the number of households with income over Rs. 25,000/- per annum was 9 million (around 50 million people), and above Rs. 12,500 per annum was 35 million households (around 160 million people)....