While `think local' is the mantra for driving sales in India, `act local' could just be the new formula for connecting with the hinterland.
That's what the Pune-based rural marketing agency, Rural Relations, is ascertaining through its recent project.
The agency has appointed local village youngsters to don the multi-role of a promoter, salesman and brand ambassador.
In the project, which commenced six months back, the company has so far appointed 1,250 such youngsters, called `village developers', who cater to about 5,000 villages in Maharashtra.
Mr Pradeep Lokhande, Managing Director, explained what made the initiative tick: most rural marketers bring in city or town-bred personnel to conduct marketing activities, resulting in several problems.
"The town-based marketing persons usually arrive late morning, by which time the farmer has already left for the fields. Also, they leave the village much before the farmer gets back home. Hence, the actual target consumer audience ends up getting missed."
He added: "Also, there are problems relating to language, weather, customs that the urban-bred are not oriented with, so it's difficult for them to market the product effectively."
The dialect in any given region changes in a span of 100-200 km, and local youth are best equipped to handle such diversities.
Another advantage of this strategy is that the local youth can build a database of the village with ease, which could consist of information such as how many households have/or use certain items such as CTVs, or even which households don't own these durables.
But on what basis are these youth selected? "They are mainly unemployed youth from the village, whose names are suggested by the opinion makers of the village, such as the principal, teacher, shopkeeper and so on. These lads are then give training in basic sales and marketing," said Mr Lokhande.
Apart from generating employment for local youth, the initiative also seeks to make the youth socially conscious.
"While training the village developer, we try to stress that money should not be the only motivation and that even as they earn, they must create social awareness among the population. We would be happy if more school dropouts came forward to join the project. However, among the educated youth there is stiff competition for the job.''
Recently, Rural Relations ran a pilot project for Rasna for its Re 1 sachets making use of the brand ambassador network. "