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Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters

Rural India likely to bounce back faster from covid disruption, report

  • With the pandemic accelerating digital adoption, there is a huge potential for businesses and brands to leverage mobile as a medium to reach rural consumers
  • With commute being restricted, the rural consumer is now increasingly shopping within the village for their FMCG needs

Rural India is expected to bounce back from the disruption caused by the ongoing pandemic revealed the findings of a new report jointly published by media agency GroupM's experiential marketing unit- Dialogue Factory and market research firm Kantar.

The findings suggests that with one in three rural adults being impacted by covid-19, the rural economy is likely to take a hit. However, with fewer job losses and consequent reduction in the incomes of the affluent households, the overall impact on rural consumption pattern is likely to be muted in the future. This presents an opportunity for the businesses to sharply target their brands towards the upper end of the rural consumer spectrum.

The first edition of 'Rural Covid Barometer' report provides a perspective on consumer sentiments, their consumption choices and the behavioural changes brought about by the pandemic. This survey was conducted in 17 Indian states and deep dives into the lives of rural consumers and their adaptations post covid.

One of the key highlights of the report states that the rural Indian is walking the tight rope and is balancing the budget by cutting on “indulgence" categories like cold drinks, ready to eat snacks like chips etc. and diverting the savings towards hygiene products.

With the pandemic accelerating digital adoption, there is a huge potential for businesses and brands to leverage mobile as a medium to reach rural consumers.

The study highlights that rural Indians are today more concerned about their future well-being; especially of the chief earners. With a relatively weaker health infrastructure as compared to urban areas, the mindset of rural Indians is shifting towards financial planning. They are also considering buying health and other insurance products. This opens a large market for the banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI) segment.

With commute being restricted, the rural consumer is now increasingly shopping within the village for their fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) needs. It is therefore imperative for the brands to focus on their distribution and last mile connectivity, since product availability in the local village stores will significantly impact brand choices of the rural shopper.

Dalveer Singh, head of experiential marketing- APAC, Dialogue Factory, GroupM said, “This report speaks volumes on the new, defining values that are shaping rural India - resilience, planning for future, protection from falling sick and growing reliance on digital."

The report also assessed the impact of reverse migration. The study suggests that nearly 53 million migrant workers in India have returned to their villages. 80% of migrants who have returned to due to covid come from five states.

Puneet Avasthi, senior executive director, insights division, Kantar said “For businesses, we would recommend a regional prioritization. We believe that the Western India is likely to bounce back earliest. On the other hand, indications seem to suggest that rural South might take longer to recover as the impact of covid-19 on employment has been more severe, which in turn has depressed the economic outlook of consumers in rural South. We see this as an opportunity for brands to deploy their resources across zones in a graded and phased manner."

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