New Delhi: Who is the average rural consumer and what makes him tick? These are some questions that Pradeep Lokhande, founder of Pune-based rural marketing agency Rural Relations, sought answers to 15 years ago as he explored India’s countryside. In two years, he had his first clients: Tata Tea Ltd and Parle Agro Pvt. Ltd.
Today, Rural Relations’ clients include big names such as Hindustan Unilever Ltd, Asian Paints Ltd, Hindustan Petroleum Corp. Ltd, Mirc Electronics Ltd, Microsoft India Pvt. Ltd, Reliance Money Ltd, Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd and Reuters India Pvt. Ltd; the firm has offices in 10 states.
Lokhande’s tips for marketeers:
Build a network/distribution system: In 2006-07, Rural Relations launched a campaign for Reuters India’s Reuters Market Light service that provides farmers information about the weather, prices of commodities and farming tips. It identified people from 1,500 villages in Maharashtra, who met farmers to get information and convince them to try a three-month free SMS offer.
Be consistent: The agency helps its clients tap the right customers in the right way, says Lokhande. For example, Rural Barometer—a subscription-based information service—helps firms explore rural India through video recordings. These videos (typically 2-3 minutes long) give details on a firm’s products in the markets as also that of its competitors, and allows valuable insight into a villager’s life.
Small packs work well: Mini packs allow companies to cater to rural consumers seeking premium range products, say, shampoo, for as little as Re1.
Innovate, innovate, innovate: For its Tata Tea campaign, the agency reach out to tea vendors, convincing them to sell tea made with Tata Tea leaves.
Acquire local knowledge: The agency records details of the local economy, including the number of households and schools, the bazaar days and the number of people visiting these weekly markets.