Almost two decades ago, when I started my career in the field of communication, the concept of rural marketing was still an alien one. But since then things have changed. I have seen a vast improvement in the way brands look at the rural landscape. When I started, only development sector were doing rural communication, which was specific to Behavior Change Communication (BCC) approach. But now it is being followed by FMCG, Telecom and now two-wheelers in particular for their business growth, having understood the importance and the opportunity in the rural pockets of the nation.
Rural Nepal is the next big thing for marketers. Thanks to the incessant migration of skilled employment from this part of Nepal to the Gulf, West and South East Asian countries, there has been an improvement in the household incomes; the consumers here are having better purchasing power than ever before. Also, it has exposed them to better lifestyle and brands. Thus helped expose their family members back home to the similar lifestyle.
At the same time, farming is now also a major contributor in their economic growth. It is now providing a reliable income not only for rural Nepalese but also some educated urban dwellers, who want to get into organic farming venture utilising the agricultural land in these rural centers. Thanks to the Government, the agricultural sector has been empowered with new incentives and has been treated with much importance. There has been an increase in the agricultural price index for past few years, which has also help to bolster the profitability and has consequently contributed towards increasing the disposable household income of our rural folks. The rural non-agricultural sector has in fact, emerged as a significant employer of the skilled or semi-skilled workforce which includes trading, retailing, repairing, construction, transport and other services in these villages or semi urban towns in their vicinities.
Moreover, there has been an improvement in the development of the infrastructure in these parts of the country. Today, they are building stronger durable houses and structures with uses of bricks and cements; post the horrific earthquake that shook the nation. Roads and highways are being built, connectivity is getting much better each day giving access to their products at the nearby urban centers where they can get better value. High scale hydro projects are coming up, thus electricity and power is no longer a problem anymore. These high scale infrastructure projects are also providing job opportunities to local villagers. Most probably with hydro projects getting ready in few years will make Nepal power surplus, and it’ll most probably export electricity to neighboring Indian states as well.
Also there has been high mobile and TV penetration in these parts of the nation, which has meant better exposure to the world and expanding the horizons. Today, Internet enjoys over 50% penetration, which means, there is a spike in the demand for smart phones and also popular apps like Facebook, Viber and Youtube. Thus, easing the connectivity channel between the people of rural Nepal and the world.
Improved infrastructure means the quality of life of people in this region is getting better. Emphasis is also being laid on education, especially girl child education. This means, the future looks bright for rural Nepal. Tomorrow, it is these children who will be the architects of Nepal.
Nepal as a nation is a growing economy. All this is possible through better governance. The Government of Nepal is now focusing on rural development, and hence has given more powers to the local governments. This will help the local governments focus on their locality and provinces, and micro-manage things better.
We’re also witnessing in a tectonic shift in the role of advertising agencies now with brands focusing market beyond urban centers. Nepal is now seeing agencies that are specialize in rural marketing. They understand the importance of rural marketing. Recently few Nepali agencies won recognitions for their works in rural communication by Rural Marketing Association of India (RMAI) at Flame Awards Asia 2018 in Mumbai. Thus, it is testimony that rural marketing is having a promising future in Nepal.
(Ujaya Shakya is the founder and managing director of Outreach Group based in Kathmandu and the author of ‘Brandsutra’)