Mumbai: Rural India, with all its nuances and differentiations, poses infinitely more challenges to marketeers than Urban India possibly can. Executives attending the Marcus Evans conference on proactive rural marketing strategies got more than just a few lessons on the nuances of marketing to rural folk in India, on the second and concluding day of the conference.
Harish Bijoor of Harish Bijoor Consults Inc., introduced the audience to a known statistic – that 74 per cent of Indians live in the country's 643,720 villages. He did surprise them with a fact, that 99.99 per cent of rural products have penetration into urban markets, with every grain of food and all the herbal, agricultural and consumption products from rural India being available in urban markets. Yet, the converse remains a complete mystery to marketers. ''So, who is the real marketer?'', asks Bijoor, hinting that the urban marketers have more than a thing or two to learn from their rural counterparts.
Bijoor used images of families across the world in a slide show, which photographed families with a week's supply of their food, with the equivalent dollar value, to highlight the phenomenon of urbanisation. The slide show laid bare that as urbanisation crept into economies, people increasingly consumed brands, as opposed to food, eventually replacing real food with processed ''fluff''.
''People now want to move to more rural areas,'' said Bijoor, sharing the example of 83,000 New York City families who have moved out into the hinterlands of America and adopt traditional farming ways, and private education for their kids, as opposed to the bane of creeping urbanisation that is being witnessed in most developing economies. He said estimates predict that by year 2050, 81 per cent of India would have been urbanised, and only 19 per cent would remain rural. This he said is the reality, and also a boon to marketers.
Using numbers to substantiate, Bijoor said that 46 per cent of soft drink consuming households are in rural India. Similarly, though 85 per cent of rural folk use talcum powder, 25 per cent actually ''swear by it''. The quintessential urban product, the credit card, is a rage in rural India. Summing up, Bijoor said rural markets are important, robust, nascent, and a panacea for slump and recession. And the biggest difference in rural markets, is that God is in the details.
Bijoor advised the audience that thought leadership, specifically with respect to rural marketing, is never ever tactical, but instead is forever strategic. He said that rural marketing must necessarily be part of a plan, and not by accident, or a place to dump left over goods and services of the urban market. ''Harvesting the emotional connect in rural India is important for any marketer'', said Bijoor, while adding that rural people buy utility first, then non-utility items, and then if they have money left, they prefer to buy travel.
To illustrate the concept, Bijoor had three volunteers come up from the audience, to show how a value of Rs100 differs for different people engaged in different vocations, basis the way they earned it, and how that would impact their spending and product usage patterns. He said the value of money differs by the way it is earned, how easily it can be re-earned, and that usually the casualness it is spent with mirrors the casualness that it is earned with. ''This factor is extremely important in rural markets,'' said Bijoor, as cash flow challenges make rural markets use consumption expenditures judiciously, if not sparingly, and makes rural consumers less accepting of advertising messages as envisioned by the ''English thinking'' urban creators of the campaigns.