From Why Rural to How Rural: RMAI Conclave 2015 provides answers

By afaqs! news bureau , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Marketing | May 12, 2015
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The Rural Marketing Association of India, (RMAI) organised the Rural Marketing Conclave 2015 on May 8-9, 2015 at The Grand, Vasant Kunj.

The Rural Marketing Association of India, (RMAI) organised the Rural Marketing Conclave 2015 on May 8-9, 2015 at The Grand, Vasant Kunj. With an outstanding line-up of speakers, the two day conference proved to be a solid platform for the industry to share, and learn from some truly quality work done in the area.

Gurpreet Wasi

Defining the Rural Consumer 2.0, was a panel including Gurpreet Wasi, Principal Consultant, IMRB, Alpana Parida, President, DY Works and Puneet Vidyarthi- Head Rural at JCB India and a RMAI Executive Committee Member.

Alpana Parida

"Agriculture is no longer a ticket to a good life in rural India. At IMRB, we undertook the STAR project to understand rural India. The study covered 345 villages, 69 towns and 7000 consumers. Contradicting our belief of the prevalence of haats and melas in rural areas, we found out that half the people we interviewed had never been to a haat or a mela. A new category of consumers called 'ruurban' consumers have emerged in these areas. She has the same wants and aspirations as that of its urban counterparts," said Wasi.

She further added "The key findings of the study were first, the rural consumer is aspirational and upwardly mobile. Seven on ten people have access to clean drinking water and almost 90% homes have a consumer durable. Half of the villages covered under the study had some form of entertainment like a cinema hall. Tradition seems to be the only constant and alternate medicines are extremely popular. The need and hunger to own land has grown and Government jobs are considered the ultimate security. There is 71 percent penetration of shampoos in villages and 78% for toothpastes. 52% for biscuits and 42% for the motorcycle category. Despite electricity shortage in rural India, emergency lights are at about 16% only. Technology is the big game changer, two screens, the mobile and TV rule rural India. The rural consumer wants much more that what we are able to deliver."

Parida adopted a semio-ethnic approach while studying these markets and pointed out that rural is no longer a 'poorer' version of urban India. She highlighted three important rural truths, "The first truth is the feast and famine mindset. The cash flows are different and the slice of luxury behavior is much more common. Consumers purchase excessively post harvest and exhibit willingness to spend on non-essentials. They believe in celebration without guilt. Abundance is a marked value and success should be showcased. More is more. All these things can be really helpful when deciding the color scheme and packaging of products."

George Angelo

"Power betters life and is physical. Socio political power means greater control. Products such as motorcycles are a symbol of power in rural India. One category that's really picking up in these areas is male grooming technology. They strongly believe that identity is reflected by consumption and use it to show who they are. Women are increasingly seeking power. The third truth is that urban is aspirational for rural India. Consumers are buying things which are irrelevant. There is an increase in demand of products like Chinese lanterns, mobile phone covers, cakes, etc. Rural India needs fresh thinking and needs innovation."

The session on 'Path breaking execution in distribution' by George Angelo, Executive Director, Dabur India revealed the secret of success of the FMCG brand in rural India. "Around one-third of our business comes from rural India. There has been a rapid change in demographics of these areas. The youth have started to assert themselves. With a drastic change in consumption habits the per capita consumption is moving up. The 3 A's behind this change are awareness, affordability and accessibility. Demand for product categories like fruit juices, air fresheners, mosquito repellents, etc increased when we went directly to sell in these markets and influence the consumers directly. However, seasonality of demand still exists primarily because of the mindset of the rural consumer."

Vipul Mathur

Vipul Mathur, Category Head & Head Mobile & Rural Marketing at Hindustan Unilever shared the story of HUL's much awarded Kan Khajura Tesan campaign that reaches out to more than 23 million subscribers in rural India. "Around 38% of India does not have a TV, combined with lack of literacy, limited entertainment options and erratic electricity supply, the challenge was to find a way to reach out to this rural consumer. This is where the increasing levels of penetration of mobile phones in rural India helped. As an FMCG brand, our next big challenge was to find a way to leverage the medium. We knew that consumers are apprehensive of services which are paid, hence it had to be simple to use, always on and free to the consumer."

He further explained the way the campaign was executed "A listener can avail 20 minutes of entertainment by just giving a missed call to the number 1800 30000 123. Those 20 minutes comprise of 17 minutes of content and 3 minutes of brand messaging and is refreshed every week. The campaign was started in Bihar first. Listeners favored latest Bollywood songs, news and gossip. For this self-selecting medium to be successful, generating positive word-of-mouth was crucial. KKT has over 33 million subscribers with 30,000 listeners adding everyday. It generates 300 million ad impressions and has won over 65 awards. The rural consumer is less afraid of technology as compared to us. Technology has become their window to the world."

S Sivakumar

Unveiling the right way to execute strategies in rural India, S Sivakumar, CEO, ITC pointed out 4 different strategies to make it big in rural India. "Work through opinion leaders within the community. Finding an appropriate opinion leader who is social and connected can be beneficial for a brand. They perform two roles, one of channel intermediaries, where they conduct a demonstration of the product and also cover up for the missing infrastructure in these areas. And second of an influencer. He is considered one amongst them and can influence others in favor of the brand. The second strategy is to tailor-make products for the rural consumer. The rural consumers are heterogeneous and their context is very different from the urban consumers. They are evolving at a very fast pace. The concept of co-creation should be adopted to bring the voice of the consumer to the board room. It is about giving the consumer tolls and structure to develop and generate ideas. Brands should also look at forging partnerships. In most emerging economies there is a disconnect between the consumer's mind and the industry hence, one should look at developing metamarkets. Rural India is the right candidate to build metamarkets, clusters of complementary products and services. ITC e-Choupal assembled many such partners. The fourth strategy is to leverage technology."

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