Marketing executives are waking up to the fact that the best way to reach India’s consumers is to get to their villages. Companies from agri-products to consumer durables to even telecom are reporting strong growth in rural sales. For example, soft drinks giant Hindustan Unilever draws more than half of its Rs 11,000 crore in ad revenue from villages; similarly, HDFC Bank Ltd. under its CSR umbrella, Parivartan, has undertaken a host of projects to decrease the stress on village incomes.
Getting there, however, is not easy. Unlike urban markets, where distributors can be swayed by high-margin product offerings and attractive incentive packages, a smart marketer has to find cost-effective ways to get goods to village consumers. Establishing such infrastructure is now a key challenge for many companies making their first foray into rural marketing.
One answer comes from free-standing rural marketers such as Mumbai-based Sampark, which has been in the business since the 1970s. It began by using radio to connect with rural audiences and then introduced mobile video vans in the early 1980s.
These firms are helping companies make the most of the rural opportunity by providing research and strategy formulation, doing pilot launches and hand-holding clients through their rural forays. Interestingly, they are also revealing novel customer segments that may not have been apparent to ad agencies or even the companies themselves. For example, when Maruti Suzuki India began interviewing turmeric farmers and apple growers in villages near Tiruchengode in Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh to sell its small commercial vehicles, it discovered that they tended to cluster together in distinctive groups. rural marketing agencies in india