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Marketers, ignore the potential of the upcountry market at your own risk

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Marketers, ignore the potential of the upcountry market at your own risk

The recent Bollywood hit 'Bunty aur Babli' reflects the hopes and aspirations of small town India that is aware, educated, and what's more, even has the spending clout to match their city-dwelling cousins. One can refer to them as country cousins or country bumpkin at his/her own risk.

Said, RC&M Business Head, Priya Monga, "I feel that the semi-urban markets today are showing much faster growth in terms of increased purchasing power, increased awareness level of products and the desire to improve living standards. All this has made it imperative for companies to offer the right product, with the required features and at competitive prices to these markets."

"While the urban markets are growing at a rate of approximately 35 per cent, in semi-urban areas this growth has been almost 100 per cent. This year also, these markets will show a good growth rate, keeping in mind the various initiatives and policies that the government has taken to upgrade the lifestyle of the people, and to help various companies to reach even the remotest areas. The other factor that will drive growth of these markets is increase in the education level in these areas," she pointed out.

Monga further said that recognising the untapped potential of this market, several marketers had increased their marketing spends in semi-urban areas. "There is a large market just waiting to be tapped. And the task remains to reach out to the customer in the most efficient and effective manner," she maintained.

"Among the companies focusing on the semi-urban areas are CTV and refrigerator manufacturers, which already have a high penetration in urban areas," Monga said. "In 1997-98, rural sales formed about 25 per cent of the total sales for CTVs, refrigerators and washing machines. This went up to 36 per cent in 2001-02, and are expected to go as high as 41 per cent in 2006-07," she added.

Elaborating on the work done by RC&M in markets with low levels of penetration, Monga said that brand familiarity and brand experience remained the most important tasks for her company.

"While advertising and promotions have a role to play, several marketers are realising that it is far more economical and effective to employ the services of an agency which specialises in upcountry marketing. We provide a host of services to our clients, which enable them to connect with the consumer. Some of the work that we have done in the recent past includes product launches, for which we have undertaken house-to-house promotions, direct marketing, retail uplift exercise, mystery customer exercise, market priortisation, distribution networking, road shows, events, mobile exhibitions, on-line marketing, static promotions ((bill boards, hoardings, dealer boards, wall painting, etc), co-promotion at petrol pumps and customer loyalty programmes," Monga added.

Further elaborating on the target audience, Monga said that it was at two levels – level one was the rural audience with low literacy but high aspirational values, while level two was the upcountry audience residing in big towns, districts, tehsils, block levels, who were exposed to media and new trends and had easy access to solutions.

No longer are these small towns those nameless, faceless dots that one whizzes past while traveling in an express train. With marketers thronging to tap the potential that they offer, we will soon see the small town Buntys and Bablis crossing over to the other side. Confused? Refer to a dialogue from this comic caper (roughly translated), "There are two kinds of people in this world – the ones who serve tea and the ones who drink it. The sooner you move to the other side, the better." The Buntys and Bablis are being served much more than tea now and thank goodness for that!


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