Rural marketing offers limitless opportunities for innovation
“Rural marketing offers limitless opportunities forinnovation” – Pradeep Kashyap, CEO of MARTby Astha A on 30 November 2011in BIMTECH Noida, MART, Pradeep Kashyap, Rural marketing, TEDx10 commentsPradeep Kashyap, Founder and CEO, MARTWidely regarded as a guru of Rural Marketing, PradeepKashyap founded and heads MART, a consulting practice on emergingmarkets specialising in understanding of ‘base of the pyramid’ markets.Since founding MART in 1993, Mr Kashyap has advised leadingcompanies from the FMCG sector to those in telecom, pharma andbanking about breaking into rural markets. He has also been MarketingAdvisor to the Ministry of Rural Development and has served in the PrimeMinister’s Office.PaGaLGuY caught up with Mr Kashyap at a TEDx event at Birla Instituteof Management and Technology, Greater Noida on November 26 andshot a few quick questions about emerging trends and challenges in ruralmarketing. Here are some excerpts from the interview.Can you explain what you do and what your organisation MART is allabout?I have worked with the corporate sector for 20 years. I eventuallyrecognized my strength in the marketing area and observed that itsapplication was completely missing in the social and developmentalsector. Initially nobody believed that you needed marketing in the socialsector. This led me to establish MART as an organization in 1993. Itbecame a partnership in 2003. At MART we follow the philosophy of a‘social heart’ and a ‘business mind’.
Where does rural marketing fit into the grand scheme of thingstoday?Rural marketing has already arrived in the world of business and is one ofthe single largest segments of activity. Previously, we faced the challengeof making the corporate world accept the importance of rural marketing.However, today companies are taking pains to tap into unexploredsections of the Indian society.What changes have you observed in rural markets over the past twodecades?A visible microfinance movement is the one major change in the ruralsector, which has helped empower rural women. The second majorchange is that women have been given 30% reservation in villagepanchayats. Improvement in road connectivity is the third major change invillages. While the first 50 years of independence saw only 40% roadconnectivity between villages, an additional 30% road construction hashappened over the past ten years. Education has increased in villages.Finally, technology and media reach in villages has also experienced adramatic rise.How are companies responding to this?Although global companies are not yet ready to reach out to Indian ruralmarkets, local companies have started various schemes to tap themarket. For example, because electricity is one of the major problemsfaced in rural India, local companies such as Jolly TV in Uttar Pradeshare producing televisions which run on rechargeable battery systems.Such innovations help rural consumers use products even duringelectricity cuts, thus expanding the scope of marketing in rural areas.How does rural marketing help in empowering women in villages?In most cases, rural women do not work, and even if they do, they areinvolved in seasonal activity making for low income. Through MART, wehelp these women gain bargaining power so that they can get appropriateprices for their produce. The first step towards this objective is toorganise the women into collectives by identifying definite clusters basedon the products they make, the consumers for the products, etc. Thishelps them aggregate their produce. Also, we teach them value additionby helping them understand the importance of drying, cleaning, sortingand packaging their products. All these aspects ultimately provide themaccess to wider markets.
If a young management graduate were to join the rural marketingprofession today, what kind of a work scope is he looking at?Rural marketing is the single largest sector today in terms of population itimpacts. It caters to roughly 800 million people in India. The opportunity inthe field is great and companies across the world are beginning tounderstand it. While the urban market deals majorly with a replacementpolicy, where old branded products are continuously replaced with newbranded products, the rural market is still untapped. There is nopenetration of any sort of brands into these markets. This offers greatscope to companies.What are the most challenging aspects of working in ruralmarketing?Firstly, most of us are still victims to an urban mindset. We tend to notunderstand the mindset of the rural consumer. Secondly, even ifcompanies reach close to understanding rural consumers, they face greatdifficulty in finding distribution options to the rural sections. Finally, 50%of the rural markets are still media-dark sections of the society. Thepeople living in these areas do not have access to televisions ornewspapers. This makes the consumer unaware of what new innovativethings the world has to offer.As the country undergoes urbanisation, will rural marketing becomeirrelevant over time?When we got our independence, the census survey claimed that 84% ofthe country’s population was living in rural areas. In the 1991-2001
census the number came down to 74% and the recent 2011 census marksit at 68%. Despite all the big talk about urbanisation, 62% of the country’spopulation will still be living in villages by 2021. It is also a myth that thecountry is urbanising rapidly. In most metropolitan cities, populationgrowth is slowing down. While Delhi saw a population growth of 32% inthe 2001 census, the growth came down to 20% in 2011. Most peoplewho migrate prefer to shift to smaller cities since there are more growthoptions there.How will the proposed Foreign Direct Investment in Retail changerural marketing?According to the draft policy, big retailers cannot enter towns and villageswhere the population is less than 5 lakhs. Since most of the ruralpopulation lives in small clusters, FDI will have zero impact on the 800million people in rural markets.For youngsters looking to join rural marketing, what are the threebig opportunities waiting to be tapped?Firstly, for the next 10 years, the rural segment is going to literally drivethe Indian markets. That translates to great opportunity. Secondly, thereis not enough knowledge generation within rural marketing today. Aseducated young graduates enter rural marketing, the amount ofknowledge of various practices inside the discipline will increase. Finally,and most importantly, rural marketing offers limitless opportunities toyoungsters in terms of innovation in rural distribution, promotion and soon. It is a virgin market which will provide youngsters an opportunity toinnovate.