There are some who would say that there are no new frontiers to be explored in the world. They claim that all frontiers worth conquering have been conquered. Granted, the world is a much smaller place now, but that hardly means we have nothing new to see.
Rural Marketing is still a great new frontier with much about it that we do not know and still more we have to make up about it as we go along. We can’t blindly apply what we know about urban markets. And it is imperative that we stop treating rural areas simply as periphery areas.
In India, rural markets are the future. There will be a time when urban markets will be too highly saturated to be the sole site of business. There are those amongst who have, very astutely, observed this and have taken measures to establish a strong presence in rural markets. Just look at Coca Cola and Hindustan Unilever.
Coca Cola has established one of the most powerful distribution networks in the country. As the saying goes ‘jahan paani nahin vahan Coke hai’. This has become an almost indisputable fact. Despite the fact that it is a beverage best served cold, you will most likely find Coke served lukewarm in areas that lack refrigeration resources. How is it that a brand most associated with the urban space has now begun to dominate the rural space? There isn’t a simple well packaged answer. It is a combination of many things. One of which is Coke University’s Parivarthan programme that intends to empower 5 million women entrepreneurs by 2020. These sorts of programmes not only help create new markets but brand loyalty as well. And these sorts of loyalties are not shaken easily.
Hindustan Unilever’s Project Shakti was one that ran in a similar form. Project Shakti was a low-cost business model under which rural women entrepreneurs became direct-to-home distributors of Unilever brands. This was usually implemented in villages with a population of less than 5,000 people.
Here we have two examples of how community building and business can go hand in hand. These are the strategies that work in Rural Markets. Not catchy gimmicks, but things that provide real social value. Building personal relationships with people, keeping in mind all the things they to be consider important isn’t impossible to do for a business. In fact, to be recognized as an ethical, sustainable and profitable business we need unlearn all the limitations that urban marketing had taught us. This is the task at hand, today. Tomorrow, we look to the villages with fresh eyes and new lenses.
To know more about Rural Marketing check out the following publications: