From 2009 to 2012, spending by India’s 800+ million rural residents reached $69 billion, some 25% more than their urban counterparts spent over the same period. And projected growth rates are simply astounding: according to recent Nielsen estimates, consumption in rural areas is growing at 1.5 times the rate in urban areas, and today’s $12 billion consumer goods market in rural India is expected to hit $100 billion by 2025.
With an estimated 820 million smartphone handsets in use in India by next year, we will probably be the largest nation in the world in terms of smartphone usage. With the prices of smartphones reducing and internet tariff plans becoming more affordable, the mobility platform for brands to connect, engage and transact with the rural population is already there for the taking. The adoption rates of smartphones in rural India are already high and are only expected to grow even more in the near future.
All it takes is a bit of consumer insight mining – to determine the touchpoints in the purchase journey a rural consumer would value when engaging with a company through their handset – and delivering that experience using the right content design and workflows.
Leverage mobility to build brand awareness
According to research, nearly 60 per cent of the rural population either harbour an intent to buy or already consume branded products. The question brands need to answer is how they can make themselves relevant and available for these consumers to purchase their products and services.
Today, the emerging rural consumer wants to assert their status in society by buying branded products. They also associate branded products with quality and performance. They want their children to live a better quality of life than what they have so far. Additionally, and more importantly, their purchasing power has improved significantly over the last decade with many households now having smaller families and both the husband and wife earning money.
Despite the tendency towards frugality and functionality, the rural consumer puts in a lot of effort to “discover” which brand to consume based on “word-of-mouth” consultations with their near and dear ones and other influencers depending on the product category. Second, the rural consumer also puts in a lot of effort locating the right outlet in a nearby town or city to travel and make the purchase.
Businesses dealing with spurious counterfeit duplicates have since long found hinterland markets most ploughable. With increased awareness, this gigantic market is opening up with humungous opportunity for the worthy.
Put simply, while the consumer base may be large for companies to leverage this rapidly emerging opportunity, they need to first think of innovative ways to get into the rural consumers’ minds by easing the effort these consumers are putting to “discover” them.
The research has further discovered that the top two spends that rural consumers want to make are on education and healthcare. Both of these are associated with their aspiration to lead better quality lives. It appears to be their primary needs.
Brands need to also look at conversing with rural consumers on topics such as employment opportunities, english language skill development, adult education, health related information, cash transfer facilities, credit information and entertainment news.
To find out what needs to be done, CEOs of companies interested in tapping the rural opportunity may want to answer the following questions:
– Has my organisation recognised the rural consumer market as a strategic priority.
– Has my organisation dedicated resources to understand the needs of the rural consumers?
– Does my organisation have a product/ service range that uniquely meets the rural consumers’ needs? (not shrinking it and pricing it lower!)
– Has my organisation developed a digital roadmap to enable rural consumers to “discover” me, “buy” me, “use” me and for me to “engage” with them? Is there a “Digital” chapter in my business plan?
– Has my organisation identified the right set of “influencers” to provide the “word-of-mouth” approval for products and services.
– Has my organisation developed a unique physical network to reach products and services to the rural consumer?
With several socio-economic changes sweeping the rural populace in recent years (such as television) coupled with the mobile phone penetration presents an attractive window of opportunity for brands to establish themselves in the minds of the rural consumer in unique and effective ways.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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