New Delhi: When market researcher IMRB International opened in 1971, its priority was the urban consumer. But that changed in the next decades after government-mandated projects began producing results and the potential of India’s vast rural hinterland was discovered.
In 1990, IMRB set up a specialist unit called the Social and Rural Research Institute (SRI) that gave focus and identity to the research on rural markets. SRI vice-president A.V. Surya says rural markets have evolved significantly because of media penetration and the government’s focus on boosting the rural economy. “The divide between the urban and rural consumer is much less now because of the media reach and technology advancement..,” he says.
Surya’s tips on rural markets for researchers in the field:
New wine, old bottle: Some marketeers also attempt to create virtual bazaars or agri-portals similar to the weekly mandis (regulated agricultural markets) where the sellers of various commodities and buyers gather. Even though haats (unregulated, usually periodic markets) are an old format, they are the central nerve of the rural market. They are the place of social, cultural and economic exchange.
A village haat is a common platform where the interface between buyers and sellers takes place and what is important here is to place the commodity at a platform where the maximum number of potential consumers can be mapped. So as a starting point it can be used to make an entry into the village market.
Show business: Using art and folk media is often seen as a successful methods of communication... Interspersed with folk songs and dance, this rhythmic art form is informative as well. In the past, folk theatre was used to arouse the public voice against the British raj, atrocities against the girl child, etc. Alha, Birha and Qawwali are popular forms of folk media used in Uttar Pradesh. Communication takes place through gestures and the accompanying music.
Localized strategy: Literacy levels, income sources, media penetration, etc., vary from region to region. Take the example of Uttar Pradesh. While the north-western section comprising the rural areas is hilly, the eastern part of the state is the plains. The languages spoken include Awadhi, Bhojpuri and Braj, and there are as many as 20 local dialects. The literacy rate and educational status, including health indicators, are also widely different. The Bundelkhand region has the highest neonatal and maternal mortality rates compared with other parts of the state. All these indicators show that a uniform strategy for all the regions even within a state has limited scope.
Small size, big potential: Villages with a population less than 2,000 could contribute in excess of one-fourth of consumer products’ sales. However, the challenge lies in reaching people living in these small villages, which have poor accessibility. Tap the potential of women’s self-help groups and youth associations to reach these markets.