In the session, “Open sesame: Unlocking rural markets”, the moderator Dalveer Singh, Head - Experiential Marketing, APAC, Dialogue Factory, a WPP group company was accompanied by Bhaskar Ramesh, Industry Head-FMCG, Google, Sachit Handa, Area Sales & Customer Manager, HUL, Sagar Vira, VP Customer Excellence and Operations, Castrol India, and Priyanka Gandhi, Associate Director - Integrated Marketing Communications, India, Head of Media for APAC Division, Colgate-Palmolive India, on the panel.
There was a time when investing in a rural outreach programme was like putting money down the blackhole. Marketers were unsure if the communication and the product had actually landed in the rural market.
Handa kicked off proceedings echoing the common belief that India is a continent with several countries within. “Rural in India is not one homogenous market,” he said adding that it was wrong to club the entire rural market into one as there were consumers for both mass products and premium products in rural areas.
Vira added that his company’s experience had been that while taking digital communication to rural markets his experience was that the straight-forward calling back consumers wither through IVRs or using personal communication worked better rather than doing something fancy. Stick to the basics, he stressed while adding that the one-to-one contact programmes would increase the cost per contact, it was the best method in rural areas and was guaranteed to deliver returns.
Ramesh of Google added that in adding the next billion users across the world to the digital medium rural India would play a key role. He said that India was poised to take its digital reach from 400 million to 650 million users in the next three years.
He however added that in order to make digital truly inclusive, it was important to get more rural women to use the digital medium. At present in urban areas if 3 out of 4 women had internet access, the figure in rural areas was 1 out of 4 women having access to the Internet. Getting more rural women to experience digital would have a ripple effect and the returns would be significantly higher, he said.
However, digital in rural India and even elsewhere would have a significant impact if marketers could effectively demonstrate that it’s beyond entertainment. Whenever consumers have experienced that digital can help them get more money the relevance of the medium has increased, he said.