Campaign India Team
Aug 08, 2014

Looking back, looking forward: ITC Agri CEO’s rural (marketing) ‘harvest’

Delivering the keynote at a seminar, Sivakumar said he had a ‘sense of resignation’ when he started his career

Looking back, looking forward: ITC Agri CEO’s rural (marketing) ‘harvest’
What are the most significant changes in rural marketing? S Sivakumar, CEO, ITC Agri Business, crowd-sourced answers from rural marketers with different levels of experience to this question, while delivering the keynote at the seventh edition of a rural marketing conference hosted by Marcus Evans. The two-day event kicked off in Mumbai on 7 August.
The rural marketing veteran harvested the experience of delegates, resulting in an array of responses:
• Media exposure has increased, which means there’s not much time lag between an urban and rural consumer receiving/watching things
• Physical connectivity to rural markets has increased
• Aspirations of rural consumers are increasing with incomes increasing
• IT and mobile penetration is increasing
• Introduction of smaller/ cheaper items has helped consumption increase
• Bargaining power of rural consumers have changed with options opening up - the rural consumer now has the power to choose
• Programmes like this (the seminar) being held clearly shows that people have started focussing on the rural market. Marketers are now focusing on the rural market and that is a big change
• Education has played a key role in building awareness
After assimilating responses, Sivakumar lent his perspective. He noted, “When I began my career and walked into a rural market for the first time, I had a sense of resignation. It was like giving marketing leftovers. But, today people are looking at it with a sense of possibilities. People are looking at it as an opportunity and are looking to engage with that market now.”
The next 10 years

His second question to the audience too threw up some encouraging responses from the audience of those with a keen interest in rural markets.
He posed: “How do you see the market 10 years from now?” 
• There will be no segmentation between rural and urban marketing
• Considering rural has leapfrogged development stages, like skipping the landline era and moving straight to mobile, the next big solution for the market, could be the next big idea for urban as well
• Will be dependent on government investment in the market
• Bargaining power of rural will be the same as urban
• Investment in urban India will create an even larger difference between rural and urban
• Definition of ‘rural markets’ will change; pockets will become smaller
• Per capita income, literacy, awareness and aspiration will change for the positive; change in connectivity (physical and online) will help marketers and that’s the big opportunity
• Influence of urban Indians (as influencers) will reduce on rural decision makers

Sivakumar surmised, “We can’t look at the future and build theories based on what has happened in the past. I see more entrepreneurs getting involved that will increase the development of rural services. Today, many services get delivered (to these areas) but it’s only from some corporates or from the government. That model will change in the future.”
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