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Localisation is key to successful rural marketing: Rajesh Radhakrishna, Vritti i-Media

The Director - Marketing Strategies & PR, Vritti i-Media, throws light on the changing scenario of rural marketing in India and what it takes to create a successful strategy

Shanta Saikia | Delhi | July 14, 2015

Rajesh Radhakrishna Rajesh Radhakrishna

Rural marketing today has evolved beyond being a mere addition to the marketing mix and plays a major part in a company’s business plans. The growing spending power of the rural areas can no longer be ignored, as marketers look at pastures beyond the rapidly saturating urban markets.

In such a scenario, Vritti i-Media has been making inroads into the rural markets with their innovative offerings such as using the announcement systems at bus stands in rural areas and tapping the potential of mass outreach during occasions like the Pandharpur Yatra and Kumbh Mela in Maharashtra.

Rajesh Radhakrishna, Director - Marketing Strategies and Public Relations, Vritti i-Media, speaks with about how the rural market is evolving, the strong focus on localisation and more. Excerpts:

When it comes to rural marketing, is there any particular strategy that works out very well in India?

What we have been adopting is building local relations. Localisation means knowing the nuances of the people living in a particular region, the psychological and basic behaviour patterns. For successful communication, there is need to identify the pockets with similar patterns and the common thread in the psychological behaviour, which makes it easier to target the TG.

How has rural marketing in India evolved over the years?

Infrastructure wise today there is great development; better roads have increased accessibility, especially since 2001 with the introduction of the Golden Quadrilateral project. Secondly, there has been growing media proliferation, especially mobile phones, which has increased connectivity. Today, it is possible to reach out to people and engage with them in a more effective manner with a localised model using digital platforms.

Meanwhile, on a social level aspirations have started growing. Earlier, people used to come from villages to the city for every small requirement, now they don’t have to do that. A lot of products and services are available at the taluka and district level itself, for which earlier one had to go to the metros.

Marketing strategies have become more evolved, even as the awareness level of people living in rural areas has gone up.

How has the attitude of brands and advertisers evolved as far as incorporating rural marketing into their business strategy plans is concerned?

The attitude has definitely evolved. Earlier, people used to ask ‘what rural?’. In the last 10 years, marketers asked ‘why rural?’ Marketers today feel that the urban market has saturated and is mostly replacement market, thus there is need to venture out into newer pastures. So that answers the ‘why rural?’ part. Today, marketers are exploring ‘how rural?’. This involves 2-3 factors. First is the distribution network. Secondly, making the product relevant to the rural market. Thirdly, the way marketers communicate to the people in this market and create engagement. Fourthly, how will you deliver to them.

There are companies that have devised well-focussed marketing plans for the rural areas. For instance, Pidilite Industries has a parallel structure, wherein they have separate presidents for rural and urban markets. Tata is also talking about a separate structure. Everyone is talking about treating rural as a separate vertical and the direction is very clear. Communication wise, there needs to be more development. People are still thinking global, whereas there has to be local thinking when it comes to rural markets. According to me, localisation means you are actually planning locally and executing it locally. So, this is one area which is very vulnerable and is also a costly affair. Once you do that, you will have better results. Pocket wise development of market is also very important. As far as the urban markets are concerned, the target audience is quite well-defined and marketers know whom they are addressing, but when it comes to rural markets, the TG is very layered and is vastly different even if they fall within the same economic strata. What challenges does this pose while devising communication strategies? It definitely is a big challenge and has been going on for many years. To address this, we have come up with a medium called ‘Audio wala bus station’, which is a direction plus localisation. Only companies with deep pockets such as Hindustan Unilever with an established network can explore a rural market indepth for various activation initiatives. Other brands have to think several times before undertaking any activation in rural markets. It takes 4-5 years to develop an activation drive and take it from village to village. We at Vritti i-Media have made use of bus stands at the taluka and district levels to reach out to the masses through our ‘Audio wala bus station’ initiative. These bus stands serve as a hub for rural markets. The Audio wala bus station is used to communicate to the people in a customised way and in the local languages. It is kind of a radio station in a public place over the public announcement system at the bus stations, where in between the announcements for arrival and departure of buses we run the advertisements. If you are able to deliver your messages in the local language for a product made for the local market, you hit a big number. A targetted approach would be an ideal thing, couple it with activation and you have a dynamic format of communication. There are other congregation hubs as well, such as the Pandharpur Yatra, where you can carry out activation drives. All engagements are good, but cost is an issue, frequency is an issue. Building a consistent model for communication is a challenge.



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