Monday, August 25, 2008


Rural India has problems quite unique in nature. The major error people make while marketing to the rural market is that they apply the same theories as learned from the urban context. The underlying myth among the marketers that the rural consumer is similar to an urban consumer except for the constraint of money has been proved wrong. It is in this regard that we have identified ‘MARK’ (Money, Acceptability, Reach and Knowledge) as the major challenges faced by a rural marketer. Each of these factors has been discussed in detail.

1) Money
Products need to be within the affordable range. Sachetisation (selling in sachets) was used to overcome this barrier and thereby sell to the rural consumer. This strategy backfired and was found that sachet’s have in fact cannibalized the sales of the larger volume packaged products manufactured by the same company.

2) Acceptability
There is a need to offer products that suit the rural market. Customizing products to suit the needs of the rural folk will help it gain wider acceptability and thereby lead to increased penetration within these rural markets. E.g. A rural consumer will never be willing to accept Kellogg’s cornflakes as a substitute to his breakfast of Paratha and curd but if the Kellogg’s is able to communicate the message that Kellogg’s since it is full of nutrients vital to a growing child the can be used to supplement his child’s daily meal then he would be ready to buy Kellogg’s for his child.

3) Reach
The first step towards gaining sales within the rural space is to see to it that the reach of the product be wide enough. Unless the product is available there is no point whether we overcome the other challenges or not as we will not finally derive any sales at all. Marketers must trade off the distribution cost with incremental market penetration. Over the years, MNC’s have tried out various tactics to reach out to the rural markets from using auto rickshaws, bullock-carts and even boats in the backwaters of Kerala. Over the years the hub and spoke distribution model has evolved as the one most suited to reach out to the rural villages.

4) Knowledge
Knowledge or awareness about the product depends on how effective market communication is. It is extremely important to choose the right channel for market communication. It is a commonly held misconception by marketers and ad-agencies that TV is the best medium to communicate to these rural masses. TV reaches 36% only and there is a substantial media dark area of 2405 million in Bihar, Orissa, East UP, MP and Rajasthan. Another important factor from the rural point of view is that during sowing and harvest time there is electricity for agriculture but no time to watch TV, after the harvest when farmers are free, electricity otherwise given to them is now diverted to the industry.

Apart from MARK there is yet another aspect which is unique to the Indian market, they are culture specific traits. This factor is more prominent in the rural areas than in the urban. The scenario now becomes even more complex not only do we have to address both the urban and the rural markets separately but will also have to customize our plans to suit each specific culture.