New Delhi: Rural India is as much about unchanging traditions as it is about changing lifestyles and aspirations, says Pradeep Kashyap, founder and chief executive officer of MART. “Companies partner us to find relevant business solutions for the rural market,” he says.
The rural consultancy, founded in 1993, has a 50-member team and counts among its clients firms such as Coca-Cola India, Hindustan Unilever Ltd, Dabur India Ltd, GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals Ltd, Intel Corp., State Bank of India, Tata Indicom and Bharti Airtel Ltd.
Kashyap’s mantras for success:
Do your research: When Intel wanted to understand if need gaps in education and services in rural India could be addressed with technology solutions, it sought the services of MART. The consultancy conducted a study in which it asked questions such as the health services the respondents availed of, and whether they thought them satisfactory. Based on the findings, Intel designed a hand-held device for the village health worker to punch in data and upload it to the central computer via the Internet.
Identify the complete picture: The village ecosystem comprises infrastructure such as roads and other linkages, retail points such as haats (markets), kirana (grocery) stores, and opinion leaders such as gram panchayats (village councils), teachers and influential traders, among others. An understanding of all these aspects would help firms design relevant products.
Use sign language: Rural consumers look for tangible benefits and associate with brands visually. For instance, any laal sabun (red coloured soap) to a rural consumer is Lifebuoy. Also, the dancing girl icon of Nirma Ltd is a strong brand association.
Don’t hold back: Rural consumers buy value for money, not cheap products. In early 2000, when Godrej Appliances tried to sell a stripped-down refrigerator called Champion with only half a freezer, the low-pricing strategy failed because rural consumers were not willing to compromise on features.
Have a long-term relationship: Firms need to spend a lot of time and resources to understand the market and, most often, investments don’t yield results in the short term because there is no ready market. Often, the concept of a product or service needs to be sold before one can think of selling the actual product.