Effective Communication Strategy in Rural Marketing – Indian Perspective

There are different aspects to effective communication strategy in rural marketing which includes not only the communication message but also the language, media used, social & behavioural influences etc- There are many variables across all these aspects in the rural marketing especially India. However, the basic communication process remains the same even in the rural market.

The Communication Process Model in Rural Marketing

The communication process model remains standard for both rural and urban markets. The sender sends the encoded message using a selected media which receiver receives and decodes to understand the message. This is more or less same as in urban markets. However, there are many variables in the model in case of communication strategy in Rural Marketing. e.g. There can be language barrier and the message doesn’t get decoded the right way and gets wasted as ‘noise’. Also due to unavailability of mature media in rural markets the message might not be hitting the right target audience.

Communication Process ModelThe rural environment plays an important role in the way the message is understood by the consumer. Below are prime three reasons because of which the target audience might not understand the desired message:

  1. Selective Attention – The consumer may not even notice the stimuli
  2. Selective Distortion – The message is indirect and twisted making it difficult to understand for the rural audience
  3. Selective Recall – The consumer retains only a fraction of the communication.

All the above three conditions add to the ‘noise’ in the communication process model and thereby play an important role while making the communication strategy in Rural Marketing.

Effective Messaging in Rural Marketing

This is a major challenge in rural marketing and most of the times an organization resorts to specialist agencies to answer this question. The rural consumer should connect and relate to the message. Broadly, below are the heads to be taken care of while crafting a rural message.

  1. Languages – The message should be easily understood by the rural consumer. It should be simple and use appropriate key words for instant connect. Message should reflect culture and religious sentiments of the audience. e.g. Dabur distributed religious calendars in rural markets.
  2. Pictorial Presentation – Considering the literacy levels of rural markets, pictorial representation of message becomes an important part of communication.
  3. Message Form – The message should be native to the place and have utility for the consumer.
  4. Source – Many times the source from where the message is coming from adds to the credibility in the rural market. The message source can be
    1. Likeable
    2. Trustworthy
    3. Expert

Product Interest of Rural Consumer

The product interest in rural marketing is one of the prime aspects to be understood before crafting any rural marketing communication. The product interest can vary with different influencers in the life of a rural consumer/villager.

The below chart explains how influencers effect product interest and decision of a rural consumer.


Social and Behavioural Influencers in Rural Marketing

Media used in Rural Marketing Communication

The media used in rural marketing could be:

  1. Mass Media or Conventional Media – TV, Radio, Print, Cinema, Video on Wheels etc-

Traditional or Non Conventional Media – Puppet Show, Folk theatre, mela, paintings, posters etc-Rural Marketing Communication Media ChannelsNon conventional mediums are considered useful creating effective communication strategy in rural markets. Below is a general flow of message across traditional mediums in the rural market.

Usage of Non Conventional Media in Rural Marketing



Postmen to Solve the Rural Distribution Challenge in India

Rural markets have their own challenges. In a country like India, where the fortune is at the bottom of pyramid, its importance increases even more. Rural distribution will play a vital role in the growth of FMCG in India which is set to double from the current levels and hit USD 104 bn by 2020. Making standard goods available to the rural population is itself a challenge. Furthermore when it comes to providing subsidized goods to rural markets, the challenge is even bigger considering a high possibility of the subsidy not reaching the right set of people. We learnt about the rural distribution challenge in India of goods and services in an earlier post Distribution Strategies for Rural Market – Indian Perspective where we discovered how organization as well as government use various rural establishments such as Cooperative Societies, Public Distribution System, Mandi etc to make products and services available to the rural population.

Digital India gradually bridging the gap in Rural Distribution

Organizations have already resorted to computer aided reporting of product stocks, sales etc- to make sure that they have the right information. This data is also helping companies to fight challenges in rural distribution as well as in decision making while establishing a rural distribution network. Indian government, with the Digital India initiatives, is also aiming to fight the rural distribution challenge by adopting real time reporting to avoid malpractice. However, with low penetration of data networks in rural areas these efforts are yet to reap full fledged results.

Government to use Postmen to fight Rural Distribution Challenge

postmen-fight-rural-distribution-challenge-indiaRecently, to combat rural distribution challenge during the festive season, the Government has decided to use postal network for distribution of subsidised pulses and to release more Chana from buffer stock to ensure availability of these commodities at reasonable prices. The decisions were taken in the Inter Ministerial Committee on prices of essential commodities headed by Union Consumer Affairs Secretary in New Delhi. The committee reviewed availability and prices of essential commodities, especially pulses and suggested that in the absence of Government outlets in the states, postal networks should be used for the distribution.

The committee also reviewed the procurement arrangements of Kharif pulses by Government agencies. It was informed that so far 500 procurement centres have been opened and farmers are being paid through checks or bank transfers. The Government has set up procurement target of 50,000 MT for current Kharif pulses.

The government operated Indian Postal Services is anyways having a tough time with the advent of digital communication channels. Recently, the Indian Post stopped its Telegram Service which was barely being used in the 21st century. With decreasing responsibilities of the Indian Post employees, this might be a good idea to capitalize on their unmatched reach and simultaneously make subsidies accessible to the common man. We hope that with increasing penetration of data connectivity, especially with Reliance Jio network covering majority of India and device costs dropping everyday it is very much likely that the next festive season the government might not need to seek support of the India Post to fight rural distribution challenge.

Distribution Strategies for Rural Market – Indian Perspective

Distribution Strategies for Rural Market – Indian Perspective

In our last post we talked about Product Strategies one can adopt while managing business in the rural markets. (Product Strategies for Rural Market – Indian Perspective). However, at most of the time its the distribution which acts as a limiting factor in growth of the business in rural areas. Let us see some successful distribution strategies for rural market.

One important point to be kept in mind while formulating specific strategies for distribution in rural areas is the characteristic of the product – Consumable or Durable i.e. the shelf life of the product. Perishable items need a robust logistics plan for effective distribution compared to non-perishable items.

Below is how companies have succeeded in the reaching out to their audience in rural areas:

  1. Segment villages before expanding: With numerous villages in India, it is impossible for an organization to hit the rural market all at once. Ideally, coverage of villages with up to 2000 and above population could be the break-even point for a distribution set-up. By doing so the percentage of villages covered comes to only 10%, however the percentage of all the rural population covered will be substantial.
  2. Use of co-operative societies: There are over 3 lacks co-operative societies operating in rural areas for different purposes like marketing cooperatives, farmers service cooperatives and other multi-purpose cooperatives. These cooperatives have an arrangement for centralized procurement and distribution through their respective state level federation. Such state level federation can be motivated to procure and distribute consumables items and low value durable items to the members to the society for serving to the rural consumers.
  3. Utilization of public distributory system: The PDS in the country is fairly well organised. The revamped PDS places more emphasis on reaching remote rural areas like the hills and tribals. The purpose of PDS is to make available essential commodities like food grains, sugar, kerosene, edible oils and others to the consumers at a reasonable price. The shops that distribute these commodities are called fair price shops. These shops are run by the state civil Supplies Corporation, co-operatives as well as private entrepreneurs. Here again there is an arrangement for centralized procurement and distribution. The manufacturing and marketing men should explore effective utilization of PDS.
  4. Utilisation of multi-purpose distribution centres by petroleum/oil companies: In order to cater to the rural areas the petroleum/oil companies have evolved a concept of multi-purpose distribution centres in rural areas. In addition to petrol/diesel, lubricants, these outlets also stock consumables agricultural inputs like fertilizers, pesticides and seeds. It is estimated that there are about 450 such outlets in operation in the country. The rural consumer who has tractors, oil-engine pump sets and mopeds frequent these outlets for their requirement. These outlets can be profitably utilized for selling consumables and durable items also.
  5. Distribution upto feeder markets/mandi towns: Keeping in view the hierarchy of markets for the rural consumers, the feeder markets and mandi towns offer excellent scope for distribution. The rural customers visit these towns at regular intervals not only for selling the agricultural produce but also for purchasing cloth, jewellery, hardware, radios, torch cells and other durables and consumer products. From the feeder markets and mandi towns the stockist or wholesaler can arrange for distribution to the village shops in the interior places. This distribution can be done by mopeds, cycles, bullock-carts, camel-backs etc. depending upon the township.
  6. Shandies/Haaths/Jathras/Melas: These are places where the rural consumers congregate as a rule. While shandies/heaths are held a particular day every week, Jathras and melas are held once or twice a year for longer durations. They are normally timed with religious festivals. Such places attract large number of itinerant merchants. Only temporary shops come up selling goods of all kinds. It can be beneficial for companies to organize sales of their product at such places. Promotion can be taken, as there will be ready captive audience. For convincing the manufacturing and marketing man with regard to the importance of these places from rural marketing point of view a visit to such places is necessary. It is estimated that over 5,000 fairs are held in the country and the estimated attendance is about 100 million rural consumers. Biggest fair ‘Pushkar Mela’ is estimated to attract over 10 million people. There are 50 such big rural fairs held in various parts of country, which attract urbanite also like ‘Mankanavillaku’ in Malappara in Kerela, Kumbh Mela at Hardwar in U.P. ‘Periya Kirthigai’ at Tiruparunkunaram in Tamil Nadu.
  7. Agricultural Input Dealers: Fertilizers should be made available to the farmers within the range of 4-5 km from their residence, as per the essential commodities act. This is why there are about 2 lakh fertilizer dealers in the country, both in cooperative & private sector. Example of Varana Nagar in Maharashtra proved an eye opener in this regard where the sugar and milk co-operatives have totally changed the life style of people. The supermarket in Varana Nagar caters exclusively to rural consumers. Similarly a co-operative supermarket called ‘Chintamani’ in Coimbatore (T.N) arranges free transit of rural consumers to the supermarket of their purchases.

Read More

Postmen to Solve the Rural Distribution Challenge in India

Product Strategies for Rural Market – Indian Perspective

Product Strategies for Rural Market – Indian Perspective

A prime need for any firm to emerge as a strong player in the rural market is by carefully identifying gaps in the rural market and crafting the right product offering for consumers. Chalking out a product strategy for rural market differs in many aspects when compared to urban counter parts. Needs and demand of rural consumer might be contrasting to that of urban consumer and therefore its necessary to hit the right chord when entering the rural market. The prime objective is to design products to suit rural requirements.

Conventional wisdom on rural marketing states that the needs of the rural consumers are similar to those of the urban consumers. Hence, the products made to urban specifications should suit the requirements of the rural consumers. However, this is not true in many cases, as there is a market difference between rural and urban environments. For instance, Kerosene or LPG gas stoves, where the flame can be controlled, are used for cooking in urban areas, while an open fire or ‘Chulha’ is used in rural areas. Pressure cookers with handles on one side suit the urban consumers, but not the rural consumers for use on an open fire or a ‘chulha’. Perhaps, a wide-bodied cooker within handles on opposite sides may suit rural requirements. Therefore, while designing and developing products, the requirements of the rural consumers are to be considered and rural-specific products developed.

During the late eighties, shampoo sales boomed when it was introduced in sachet pack, because it suited the consumers in low income groups. Hindustan Motors (HM) launched a utility vehicle the RTV (rural transport vehicle), aimed at rural market. Hence, product development for rural consumers is necessary.

Though marketers are still trying and experimenting ways to successfully tap the rural arena, below are few product strategies which have been widely adopted and have proved themselves to work in the rural landscape:

Small unit packing: This method has been tested by products life shampoos, pickles, biscuits, Vicks cough drops in single tablets, tooth paste, etc. Small packings stand a good chance of acceptance in rural markets. The advantage is that the price is low and the rural consumer can easily afford it.

Another example is the Red Label tea Rs. 3.00 pack which has more sales as compared to the large pack. This is because it is very affordable for the lower income group with the deepest market reach making easy access to the end user satisfying him.

The small unit packings will definitely attract a large number of rural consumers.

New product designs: Keeping in view the rural life style the manufacturer and the marketing men can think in terms of new product designs.

For e.g. PVC shoes and chappals can be considered sited ideally for rural consumers due to the adverse working conditions. The price of P.V.C items is also low and affordable.

Sturdy products: Sturdiness of a product is an important factor for rural consumers. The experience of torch light dry battery cell manufacturers support this because the rural consumers preferred dry battery cells which are heavier than the lighter ones. For them, heavier weight meant that it has more over and durability. Sturdiness of a product either or appearance is an important for the rural consumers. 

Utility oriented products: The rural consumers are more concerned with utility of the product and its appearance Philips India Ltd. Developed and introduced a low cost medium wave receiver named BAHADUR during the early seventies. Initially the sales were good but declined subsequently. On consumer research, it was found that the rural consumer bought radios not only for information and news but also for entertainment.

Brand name: For identification, the rural consumers do give their own brand name on the name of an item. The fertilizers companies normally use a logo on the fertilizer bags though fertilizers have to be sold only on generic names. A brand name or a logo is very important for a rural consumer for it can be easily remembered.

Many times rural consumers ask for ‘peeli tikki’ (Yellow Bar) in case of conventional and detergent washing soap. Nirma made a ‘peeli tikki’ (Yellow Bar) specially for those peeli tikki users who might have experienced better cleanliness with the yellow colored bar as compared to the blue one although the actual difference is only of the color.

Kan Khajura Tesan – Classic example of fighting Rural Marketing challenges

‘Missed call lagao, muft manoranjan pao’ is the tagline of HUL’s eight-month-old Kan Khajura Tesan (or KKT), an on-demand, entertainment channel on the mobile platform engulfing the state of Bihar and Jharkhand.

Challenges in the rural marketing are never ending where the penetration of communication channels are limited. A very few households have television and for those who do there are two more filters for them the register a TVC – first availability of a stable network connection, Cable or DTH and secondly uninterrupted electricity. Either of the two are out of a Brand Manager’s scope and the brand is left helpless. FM Radio signals too in this area are weak and confined to limited cities which is way too less from that audience that any brand would like to reach in these two states. And unfortunately, print readership is amongst the lowest in the country as a result of low literacy rates in these states. If thats the kind of brief you deliver to any media or creative agency they might be on the verge of giving up, but not Lowe Lintas. Both Lowe Lintas and HUL went back to the drawing board and analysed the importance of these markets in and what they found was in congruence with the fact stated by the C. K. Prahalad and Stuart L. Hart that the fortune is at the bottom of the pyramid.

What Lowe Lintas, HUL and Hungama Digital came up with was one of the best marketing campaigns the world has ever seen.

180030000123 – That’s the toll free number Hindustan Unilever (HUL) is using to inject a dose of entertainment into the lives of millions of rural Indians and simultaneously talking about latest offerings to the entire population of Bihar and Jharkhand. Though KKT was piloted in Bihar in 2013, the idea has its roots in a ‘missed call’ campaign HUL conducted for Wheel, in 2012. Executed across the country, but focused on the ‘media dark’ central India belt, this campaign used All India Radio (AIR) to invite people to call a certain number and hang up, only to be called back and fed jokes in the romantic, ‘husband-wife’ space, one that Wheel operates in.


Well, if you are reading about this entire campaign for the first time or may be you are amongst the millions who have never experienced Kan Khajura Tesan that is because you have not been targeted for this campaign. Thats the precision with which the company has rolled out this super innovative campaign which turned out to be world’s best campaign this year by WARC. Accolades have not stopped coming for Kan Khajura Tesan from around the world making Lowe Lintas, Mumbai the best Creative Agency in the world for the year 2014 by WARC.

Kan Khajura Tesan claims to have over 12 million users (source: Ozonetel Systems, HUL’s cloud telephony platform for KKT). And the rate of growth has been rapid. In a presentation created for the Cannes Lions jury, KKT claimed eight million subscribers in six months. New users are being added at a staggering rate of 45,000-50,000 people a day, which is roughly over 1,800 new users every hour and 8-10 lakh unique consumers every three weeks. The campaign won four Lions (three Gold, one Bronze).

Microsoft retains brand ‘Nokia’ to tap Rural and Emerging Markets

The CES 2015 is on in Las Vegas and the internet is filled up with new product announcements. Of the many announcements made, one which draws our attention is the launch of Nokia 215. Though Microsoft declared that it will kill brand Nokia, but it seems they now indent to ride on the brand equity of Nokia and sail their way through emerging and rural markets.

Nokia as a brand has been immensely popular in India with more than 80% of mobile market share at one point in time. However, with slow adoption to changing business environment – namely introduction of dual SIM feature phones and Android Smartphones, they have been struggling to keep the brand aspirational. With the retention of the brand even after announcing that it shall be killed ultimately makes us scratch out heads.

With every other company announcing bigger and better smartphones, Microsoft announced the Nokia 215 in the CES 2015 claiming it to be their most affordable Internet-ready entry-level phone yet. At $29 for 29 days on a single charge, it certainly lives up to its billing. According to Microsoft, the 215 offers a stand-by battery time of up to 29 days (in standby mode) after just one charging session—or 20 hours while in active use. It clearly indicates that this product has been designed to target the rural India or similar markets.

This move of retaining Nokia as a sub-brand under Microsoft can prove to be a good move for the tech giant. It shall help them position their feature and smartphones separately under two lines – Nokia and Lumia. This strategy seems bang on with the fact that Nokia loyals, unlike Lumia fanatics, have always been more inclined towards a hassle free plain communication experience from their devices. Though Microsoft has been witnessing gradual increase in their market share with their Lumia phones in the smartphone segment, it time to test their capability to retain their leadership with brand ‘Nokia’ in the feature phone category – a category which is shrinking every day.

With Microsoft only permitted to use the Nokia brand for 18 months, following its acquisition of the handset-maker in 2013, its almost certain that Nokia mobile phones would soon be a thing of the past.

Arpit Srivastava