Brands in Rural India NITIE, MumbaiShanu Singh, firstname.lastname@example.org, 9702018520
Brand by definition is an intangible entity which is designed and projected with the aim ofstriking chord with the consumer behavior. This definition is true for most of the brands in theurban context since all the marketing drives for brands are designed specifically as per thedemand and psyche of the urban customer, example: DoCoMo branded itself as a serviceprovider for urban young generation.But as we move to rural India most of the marketing and branding gimmick starts to look out ofplace. Before understanding the cause we must understand that brand has got both behavioraland personality traits therefore it is a more of dynamic entity whose character varies as theenvironment changes.In India, we have diverse demography where distinction is made not just on basis of sex or agebut also the background, culture and ethnicity. And this distinction complicates as we divide thepopulation further into urban and rural India. We still have more than 60 percent of populationresiding in the villages, hence forming the core part of our population, while remaining 40percent resides in urban cities. Demography (middle and rich class) in urban region is bettereducated along with higher income in comparison to that of rural (BPL and middle class) region.Characteristically both the rural and urban demography can be positioned at different levels inMaslow’s hierarchy of needs pyramid. Since urban class look at the brands as more of a statussymbol or differentiator hence it can be positioned at higher level in the pyramid while ruralmajority can be positioned at lower level since it looks at it as an item of necessity. Sincedifferent hierarchy level projects different kind of needs therefore application of same brandingpractices will not work for people who live in altogether different world with different set ofpriorities and mindsets.
Though above analysis looks simplistic even then some of the multinational corporations learnt ithard way by trial-failure and many still need to learn. If we talk about FMCG sector specifically,on average 40-50% revenue comes from the rural market but as per the statistics, under thissegment organizations still doesn’t have focused strategies to deal with rural market or they havea strategy but allocate only a small part of branding expense quota to it.But now the scenario is changing. In today’s urban market, organizations have to operate inintensely competitive low margin environment. This is forcing them to venture out in untappedrural market. Since same branding campaign couldn’t be applied in rural India, organizations arecoming up with new branding strategies, new product range and ingenious distribution networkdedicated to rural consumers.Scope for InnovationOn the brand marketing front, though we have seen some early efforts which made brandsbecoming synonym to the product name (Colgate for toothpaste, Lifebuoy for Soap) but stillmajor innovation required to drive the rural demand is lacking. Few attempts have been made incase of product segment like tractor and fertilizers but very few are from the cross-marketsegments. Again, attempts have been made to localize the marketing campaign by translatingthem but they couldn’t strike the chord with people since regional touch has been ignored. Ruralmarketing needs to be focused since majority here is uneducated and highly sensible to culture aswell as value system, thus advertisement should be designed to project product as extension oflocal culture. For example insteadofr selling ‘Ghee’ in cylindrical pet bottles, specially designed‘Matka’ shaped bottles could be used.
Rural Branding Strategy Connect with People Ingenious Product Re- Distribution designingStrategy to Connect: Brands like ITC and HUL have come up with the concept of E-choupal andProject-Shakti. These projects are launched to create symbiotic relationship between villageleadership and organization by acting as facilitator for carrying out effective agro-trade. Sincevillage leadership play vital role in word of mouth publicity at village level therefore it canprovide conducive environment for launching a new product under the umbrella of facilitatororganization. This is the perfect example of using benevolent leadership along with combinationof product profiling.Product Re-designing: Brands can be launched in specially packed variant of its flagship items tosuit the demand and purchasing power of rural India. Since these variant will be smaller and
cheaper, people can easily afford to buy it. This is the perfect example of matching the brandpersonality with that of environment. Example: Specially packed biscuits or bread with fewerslices (3/4) could cater to huge rural market.Ingenious Distribution: Lakhs of women in rural areas earn a living by selling brand productsand thousands of enterprising young men and women are being enthused to become part of thevast distribution system as a means of starting on the ladder of entrepreneurship in their ownright. Organizations can leverage upon this cheap, motivated and highly penetrated task force forgrass root brand building and distribution. This model can be used as a pilot project forlaunching the new products at village level.
ConclusionIn nutshell, it can be said that currently in rural market, brand may be more like a myth butscenario is changing and organizations are working towards capitalizing the opportunity bycreating brand awareness and hence vouching for brand realization at rural level.References 1. MARKETING: HUL plans major rural push. (2010, June). Businessline. 2. OPINION: Rural India as growth engine. (2010, June). Businessline. 3. How India Earns, Spends and Saves, Results from the Max New York Life-NCAER India Financial Protection Survey. 4. S.Jain, K.Swarup, Effect of advertising on enhancing brand personality and consumer buying decisions, Journal of International Management, v.6, July-Dec,2009 5. Rural marketing in India: a case study By G. Srinivas Rao 6. India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF) study on Indian rural market 7. Unilever in India - Rural Marketing Initiatives, a case study. ICMR.