The Rural Network: Specialist agencies form informal alliance

By , agencyfaqs! | In | June 19, 2002
Anugrah Madison, MART, Rural Relations and Sampark have created an alliance whereby marketers can tap their pooled expertise to reach rural audiences

In an attempt to offer marketers a single-window solution to their rural marketing initiatives, Chennai-based Anugrah Madison, Delhi-based MART (Marketing and Research Team), Pune-based Rural Relations and Mumbai-based Sampark have got together in an informal alliance that goes by the name The Rural Network. The Network aims to tap the respective skill sets of each partner to provide synergistic solutions in targeting rural audiences.

"Each partner specializes in one aspect of rural marketing, and each one is located in a different region," explains RV Rajan, chairman & managing director, Anugrah Madison. "In tackling rural markets, no single organization can claim to have an all-India expertise due to the diversity of markets. The Rural Network will pool the individual expertise of the partners and offer it as a total package to clients who are currently running after several organizations to achieve this end."

There certainly appears to be some merit in the idea, going by the core competence of the four outfits. While Anugrah specializes in developing rural marketing strategies and communications packages based on rural-specific research, MART's expertise lies in the area of rural distribution and development of technologies for rural research. Rural Relations, on the other hand, is one of India's largest rural-consumer-relations organizations, with significant databases on rural-India. Sampark is, of course, best known for its talents in rural van promotion and publicity, apart from developing communication packages with a rural focus.

For marketers, an alliance of this sort can certainly prove to be a blessing. One, it provides a much-welcome one-stop-shop option. Two, it could help in pushing through a unified, one-point communication message. "Any client wanting to project a consistent brand image in rural markets will be well advised to seek the one-window solution," says Rajan. "Currently, most clients adopt a fragmented approach involving specific promotional activities involving different organizations in different areas. This will not help in brand building."

The Network will recommend both strategy and creatives, and also help implement the recommendations on a national level. "With enough expertise among the network partners, we can help clients identify right vendors in every region, for every type of activity, to get the maximum value for their money," Rajan explains. And MART has got enough experience to evaluate our rural marketing efforts."

Customization will be the key, says Rajan. "We believe that in rural marketing, it is impossible to blindly replicate what has been successful in one market. It is very important to do customized research to develop focussed creatives."

There is little doubt that rural India holds immense potential for marketers, given the incredibly low penetration levels in most product categories. Yet, most marketers are nowhere close to cracking a market about which 'communication myths' abound. Also, most rural marketing initiatives have hitherto been piecemeal - partly due to lack of investments, partly due to lack of patience. "Most clients are not geared to create the infrastructure necessary to go rural," Rajan agrees. "Most of them end up doing short-term activities which will not take them anywhere. Our job will be to tell them that if they are serious about rural markets, they must be prepared for a long haul."

While the Network promises marketers a better 'hit rate' among upcountry audiences, the alliance also strengthens each of its constituent's chances of acquiring new business independently. And in a highly competitive scenario, this could well be a means of netting a prize catch or two. "The Network has been formed primarily to target big customers - both in the corporate sector, and in development communication - who may need our services to work on a rural marketing/communication strategy on a national level or, at least, a regional level," reveals Rajan.

He adds that the Network will consider a project "only if it is reasonably big. As a network, we will not be interested in dealing with clients who are only looking for vendors to implement some ideas they already have. We are experts in creating a total marketing/communication strategy, and will look forward to clients who want such services." However, this does not mean that every client will necessarily have to buy the services of all the partners. "If a prospective client is interested in the expertise of only one of the network partners, then he need not be referred to the Network at all. The individual partner will handle his requirement. The involvement of the network partners will be purely need-based."

The Network, which fell in place early this month, is yet to acquire clients "as we are yet to start making our credentials presentation to prospects", Rajan reveals. © 2002 agencyfaqs!

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