Even as companies and brands target the urban SEC segment, there is a whole ‘Bharat’ waiting out there offering immense potential and growing purchasing power. The industry can’t afford to ignore this segment any more… But who is this Bharat and how big is this segment?
According to Deepak Jolly, VP – Public Affairs & Communication, Coca-Cola, ‘Bharat’ had not cropped up suddenly. Way back in time, amid the Unilevers and P&Gs of the world, a small brand called Nirma rose to challenge their MNC might and succeeded in gaining a massive share of this ‘Bharat’ segment. A small South Indian company started the whole sachet revolution when it first introduced its shampoo brands – Chik and Velvette – in sachets at a price point of Re 1.
Further defining this market, Poonam Kaul, Director - Communications, Nokia India, said that the size of this ‘bottom of the pyramid’ market was anywhere between 650 million and 700 million, probably more. It was a market that was price conscious and value conscious, she added. “Companies that empower this population have seen success, for instance, Ginger Hotels and the Tata Nano,” Kaul further said.
Kaul noted that this population resorted to “affordable indulgence”. “The consumer has to manage his limited cash flow and hence, values productivity. Anything that can help him grow his resources gets his attention,” she pointed out.
Rahat Beri, COO, Percept Profile, noted here that communicating to this bottom of the pyramid population needed to be more varied. Mere PR exercise would not work. According to her, what was critical was the message being conveyed. There should be more use of local languages, more outdoor communication and the need to be more visible to this population.
Ranjivjit Singh, CMO – Personal Systems Group, HP India Sales Pvt Ltd, too, said that there was a whole mass of people in the real ‘Bharat’. And these people faced various realities like illiteracy, diseases like polio and TB, unemployment. He stressed on the need to get the bottom of the pyramid population into the mainstream first. “There is an exodus of people from rural areas into urban areas due to lack of opportunities, this needs to be stemmed,” Singh said. He added that there was an urgent need to develop the skill set of this population, and technology would play a key role in this.
“The basic needs of education, healthcare and energy have to be fulfilled first,” he affirmed.
Commenting on the rural market scenario in India, Senjam Raj Sekhar, Head - Group Corporate Communication, Bharti Enterprises, noted that it comprised no less than 6 lakh villages. “Before considering social media, we need to first determine what kind of population we are talking about,” he said. He added that rural consumers did not fear technology, in fact, they readily adopted technology, as was seen in the case of mobile VAS.
Sekhar further said that rural consumers were very brand conscious, besides being quality conscious. A fallout of this, he noted, was that there was also widespread proliferation of fake brands.
He stressed, “Rural India is not the bottom of the pyramid. We need to break down some of the myths about rural India.”
Sunil Khosla, CEO, Fourth Estate India, pointed out that there was a sales target to everything. According to him, PR was the most integral marketing tool, and hence, it was important to find out how PR could contribute to bottomlines.
The industry experts also agreed that while PR strategies were imperative, what was more important was to reach out to the consumers. Nokia’s Kaul noted alternative means should be at hand to maintain communication. “How do you reach out to a guy who doesn’t read a newspaper? We use Doordarshan, it has got the widest reach in the country today.”
On similar lines, Bharti Enterprises’ Sekhar advised, “Go down to the villages, interact more, see how communication takes place there.
The industry experts were speaking at the second exchange4media India PR and Corporate Communications Conference, which was held in Delhi on March 16, 2011. Deepak Jolly moderated this session, which was titled ‘Fortune at the bottom of the Pyramid: Connecting with Bharat’.
The Conference was presented by Adfactors Public Relations. CVB News Service was the co-sponsor. Eikona was the measurement partner, while ISB&M School of Communication was the academic partner. Insights were provided by Penn Schoen Berland.