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How Marketing can Help Brands Tap the Massive Rural Opportunity Rapid advancements in technology and increased inclusiveness, however, have dramatically increased the scope for business expansion in rural geographies.

By Gaurav Tikoo

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Despite housing close to 70% of the country's population, rural markets in India have been by and large neglected by businesses in favour of urban geographies. Even mainstream business enterprises, despite their abundant resources, have made limited inroads into this vast market. Factors such as a lack of services, infrastructure, and essential facilities such as banking institutions have been touted as the main reason behind this lack of traction in rural geographies.

Rapid advancements in technology and increased inclusiveness, however, have dramatically increased the scope for business expansion in rural geographies. With digitisation in India accelerating at an unprecedented pace, rural markets are benefitting from the increased interconnectivity. The brand narrative for rural markets is shifting from empowerment to genuinely paying attention.

With rural geographies offering businesses across industry verticals a plethora of opportunities, brands are vying for greater traction with the rural consumer. There are, however, certain aspects that need to be kept in mind while venturing into rural markets, such as:

  • Staying relevant

Rural customers, though fast-pacing towards modernity, are still very connected to their roots. As such, when a brand appreciates their culture, they are more likely to respond more favourably to its efforts. This is why traditional approaches are often the most-effective in the rural market. Brands must also properly calibrate and thoroughly assess the viability of on-ground presence marketing initiatives. Some rural areas in particular are very deeply rooted in their regional identity. This gives brands an opportunity to connect better with their prospective audiences through initiatives that cater to their sensibilities.

  • Trust and Engagement

Trust and engagement are perhaps two of the most essential elements, especially for newer brands. Relationships are the perfect business catalysts and serve as the prime differentiator in the eyes of consumer and channel partners. This makes it imperative to not only nurture a strong bond with the local consumer base, but also with channel partners, in order to succeed and grow.

The rural consumer is getting smarter and so are the channel partners. In order to forge a successful and rewarding relationship with them, brands must make an effort to showcase what they are bringing to the table; consumers need to be shown the value in their purchase, while partners often prefer favourable margins. Businesses must maintain the perfect balance between the two in order to be gain decent traction in rural geographies.

  • Bolstering the network

Network and reach play the most pivotal role in any brand's success. It is not only essential in retaining existing business, but also increases the scope of business opportunity through incoming referrals. Given that such referrals are often prequalified and relevant to the brand, the revenue spent on acquisition decreases drastically while the overall market reach increases. Brand influence also receives a tangible boost as a direct result of a stronger business network.

  • Differentiating product and understanding rural market

In order to cause strong disruptions, brands must always look to offer more than what the market currently has. The promise of designing products and services that address the specific needs and requirements of the rural consumers goes a long way in creating brand differentiation. What is most important for brands, however, is standing by their promises and making them happen. Doing so can dramatically increase brand affinity and create an entire line of brand loyalists which help in the formation of a strong consumer base.

With recent developments accelerating digital adoption, the digital divide is being minimised at a rapid pace to bring rural areas into the mainstream. Brands must therefore look to create an end-to-end, relevant marketing strategy to effectively tap into rural and semi-urban geographies. Successful execution will not only give them a chance to gain a significant share in a high potential and immensely lucrative market, but will also create the perfect confluence of urban, semi-urban, and rural India which collectively acts as a singular identity.
Gaurav Tikoo

CMO, itel Mobile

Gaurav Tikoo spearheads the company’s Marketing Strategy, Digital Transformation, Marketing Budget Management, Brand Management, Media Management, Retail and Consumer Engagement.
 
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