For long India’s hinterland has been technologically a no-man’s land. However, the scene is changing fast with unprecedented growth of mobile and Internet service in rural India, enough to charge up companies to make a beeline for a hitherto under-explored market. This was all the more evident at a seminar on Rural Telecom held in the Capital on July 3, 2009, which discussed all aspects of the telecom sector in rural India.
The seminar was organised by Rural Marketing Association of India (RMAI).Ericsson was the main sponsor of the event, while media partners were Business Line, exchange4media.com, Pitch and impact.
The event commenced with opening remarks by RV Rajan,
President, RMAI. which was followed by a keynote address by Dr JS Sarma, Chairman, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).
Route to market strategy
The first session of the seminar focused on market strategy for the rural market in India. Panelists at this session included Sunil Colaso, CEO (Mobility UP Circle), Bharti Airtel and P Balaji, VP - Marketing & Strategy, Ericsson India.
The session began with the success story of Airtel in the UP circle. Colaso explained, “We have achieved a target of two million customers in the UP circle. This shows the growth of Airtel in rural areas.” He took the audience through Airtel’s market strategy in rural India through a Power Point presentation, wherein he spoke at length about the opportunities and estimations for the telecom sector in the rural markets.
On the growth in rural areas, he said, “In 50 years, only 40 per cent of rural India was connected by roads, however, in the last 10 years alone we have seen a growth of 30 per cent.”
The key points in Colaso’s presentation were Network Superiority, Distribution Advantage, Rural Alliances, Demand Creation, Rural Customer Service, and Rural Communication.
Following this presentation, P Balaji took to the dais, where he made a presentation on Ericsson India’s rural success story. He highlighted the need for making communication available for all and shared Ericsson’s business model for rural markets.
Balaji spoke at length about six case studies of business models and rural growth stories, which included managed services, Gramjyoti (Ericsson’s rural broadband service), Ericsson Tower Tube, BTS Power Savings, and Sustainable Energy, among others.
The session concluded with a Q&A with the audience.
Rural promotion and communication
The second session of the seminar focused on promotion and communication in rural areas. The session saw Rajendra Chourasia, COO, Idea Cellular Ltd, and Raj Kumar Jha, National Creative Director, Ogilvy Action, making their presentations.
Starting off with an AV presentation on ‘Why mobile in rural India’, Chourasia shared Idea’s promotional plans through media platforms like television and radio. He informed, “On television, we have a programme called ‘TV Jalsa’, which is aired on Doordarshan. We also have two programmes running on AIR FM called ‘Idea Madhur’ and ‘Masti Ki Pathshala’ for the rural areas.”
He also spoke at length about use of other mediums of promotion and communication in rural areas, such as wall paintings, ‘haats’ and ‘melas’, promotions, van promotions, etc.
Raj Kumar Jha noted that it was not an easy task to create awareness in rural areas for the service providers and mobile companies. He said, “To create awareness or to communicate with rural consumers we have to keep some major points in mind, such as language, literacy and their learning capacity.”