To understand the role of rural women in purchases made by village households, Marketing and Research Team (MART), New Delhi, recently conducted a study in four districts of Uttar Pradesh among all categories of women — rural rich, rural poor or landless, patriarchal families, women-headed households, among Hindus, Muslims and tribals.
The study, conducted by Ms Lavanya Panchapakesan and Ms Namita Bharadwaj of Management Development Institute (MDI), Gurgaon, showed that rural women could be classified into five categories. They were a) the non-buyer, non-influencer, unaware; b) the woman who is aware but lacks influence; c) the woman who purchases but has no influence; d) the woman who does not purchase but whose influence is final; and e) the woman who buys her choice.
When the researchers plotted the five categories on a matrix and tried to look for the best targets, they found that rural women who are aware and influential added up to a good majority. This according to them was a readymade market for companies. But to approach them and to penetrate the other categories, the best method for companies would be the mobile door-to-door traders — pheriwaalas.
The pheriwaalas were found to have the maximum market contact with women, specially those who do not or cannot leave their homes. While women relied on the mobile traders, several complained of them selling spurious products and moving on. Hence, the researchers advise companies who use mobile traders for their products, to provide them with an identification of genuineness.
In fact, targeting rural women is not so easy, for they have less time than the male adults, the youth or the children. Being housebound by social norms or busy with household chores and farming, they watch the least TV and have meagre outings. While they attend marriages and other social ceremonies, a lesser percentage venture into the larger market place or haaths and melas. A majority being illiterate, visual messages are seen as the best option.
The study discovered that only half of the women purchase products and less than half have any brand preference. The brands frequently mentioned by women were Ghadi, Nirma, Surf, Lifebuoy, Lux, Fair and Lovely, Dabur Amla and Dabur Laal Dantmanjan. The study found that women's influence over buying decisions was highest for household FMCG purchases, women's products such as clothes, jewellery and cosmetics.
Women consumers were found to be the most price sensitive, sometimes to such an extent that price overrode quantity and quality differences in products. Hence, when wooing them, companies must convey the `value for money' feature of the product.