The Ad Club Chennai, in association with the Rural Marketing Agencies Association of India (RMAAI), organised a seminar on ‘Rural Marketing & Communication’ on Friday. Rural marketing specialists from across India contended that even with the obvious urbanisation of rural India, marketers have failed to recognise the aspirations of the rural population and design specialised communication.
The inability to shift from the ‘one communication fits all’ approach was criticised, even as the need to introduce rural marketing as a compulsory subject in management courses was emphasised.
Chief guest N Murali, Joint Managing Director of The Hindu, said, “A lot of lip service has been paid to rural marketing. It is time for us to carry forward the learnings from such seminars and the experience of experts in the field to the market. The prosperity of rural India will determine how India is placed internationally among global economies.”
The challenge according to the next speaker, Pradeep Kashyap, MD of MART India, was to establish distribution across rural India to reach the products to those markets. Given that there were over 600,000 villages in the country, he said that this might seem to be a huge task, but added that not all these villages needed to be a focus area for marketers – only 100,000 villages with a population of 2,000 plus were the real targets. These accounted for 50 per cent of the rural population, and 60 per cent of the rural wealth, he said.
In his keynote address, Kashyap said, “Fifty per cent of the LIC policies sold in this country are in rural areas, and of the 20 million Rediffmail sign-ups, 60 per cent are from small towns. The estimated annual size of the rural market is Rs 65,000 crore. But many marketers do not realise that we need to address this market, instead of treating the rural consumer as a removed country cousin.”
With everyone in rural India moving from poverty to prosperity, Kashyap stressed that the bottom of the pyramid was moving towards the top. So, once loyalty was established with people at the bottom, a marketer’s share from the middle and the top of the pyramid would increase over the years, he added.
In the case of durables, the rural population purchased primarily from Class II and Class III towns, which by classification have a population of between 20,000 and 99,999. Rural customers recognise brands by colour, numbers and visuals, and not by name, even as the number of brands present in a rural outlet was outnumbered by brands in urban stores across categories, said the MART MD.
“The purchasing process is stronger when it comes to rural geographies,” stated the head of Ogilvy Outreach, Rajkumar Jha. Citing the example of the movie Lagaan, he explained the lack of understanding of the diversity of rural India. The movie, he said, though marketed fantastically, showed dhols from Gujarat, houses with tulsi plants outside that is typical of Andhra Pradesh and Orissa, and the characters spoke a dialect not spoken anywhere in India!
He added, “We create our own stereotypes. It is in our mind that rural means poor and downtrodden. People buy products in rural areas because they want to be on a par with the urban population. They have their own aspirations and we should not typecast them in a ‘rural’ mould. A brand will find its way to the consumer if you sell them what they want and not what you have.”
He emphasised that there was no such thing as rural medium, with all forms of rural communication like POP, wall paintings, events, haats, fairs and festivals. “There is no big difference between rural and urban. It is only the content, which is changing to a language the targeted audience can understand,” he said.
Consistency in communication went for a toss very often with a change in the brand managers in a company. R V Rajan, President, RMAAI, and Chairman and MD, Anugrah Madison, said, “Doing just a ‘van’ campaign once in a while is not rural marketing. A mix of integrated communication, involving mass media and below-the-line activities, with a level of consistency is required.”
Among the other speakers were Minitha Saxena, President of Advertising Club, Chennai, and Head of Interface Communications, Chennai; Priya Monga of RC&M, New Delhi; Pradeep Lokhande of Rural Relations, Pune; R Parthasarathy of Kripa Outdoor Publicity, Chennai; and Sanjay Kaul of Impact Communications, New Delhi.