Written by Anirban Banerjee, Sr. Vice President & SBU Head (Batteries & Flashlights), Eveready Industries India Ltd.
The Indian rural market has always presented a complex and unique landscape. The concept of the rural market in India is still evolving and this sector poses a multitude of hurdles. Despite these challenges, numerous companies have managed to enter and thrive. They achieved this feat by demonstrating a deep understanding of the market and implementing innovative marketing strategies. This success serves as proof that the Indian rural market can be explored and conquered with the right approach.
According to the Economic Survey of 2022-23, it has been reported that approximately 65% of India's population resides in rural areas. However, to tap into this potential market, companies must proactively address the challenges they encounter and transform them into opportunities for success. Decision-making for durable items among rural customers is a time-consuming process involving two steps: product selection and brand choice. Rural customers tend to rely less on company-provided information or advertisements and instead seek advice from others who have experience with various brands.
Understanding the Rural Landscape
The rural consumer durables market in India is distinct and complex. Rural areas present their own challenges such as limited access to infrastructure, lower disposable incomes and diverse consumer preferences. But considering the vast population living in rural India, the potential rewards are immense.
When we zoom in on the flashlight market, we find that flashlights are indispensable for many rural households due to intermittent power supply in remote areas. Therefore, it becomes crucial to comprehend the unique needs and preferences of rural consumers when formulating marketing strategies for flashlights.
Role of Branding and Local Marketing
Branding plays a pivotal role in building trust and loyalty among rural consumers. Establishing a recognizable and reliable brand image can significantly impact purchasing decisions in rural markets. Companies need to invest in creating strong brand identities that resonate with rural consumers' aspirations and values.
In addition to branding, localized marketing campaigns can work wonders in bridging the gap between urban companies and rural consumers. Understanding the local culture, customs and language is essential in creating relatable and impactful marketing messages. Engaging local influencers and community leaders can also boost brand awareness and acceptance.
Building Brand Awareness
Brand awareness is the foundation upon which successful marketing campaigns are built. In rural areas, where access to media and communication channels may be limited, companies need to adopt innovative methods to create brand awareness. Leveraging traditional mediums such as radio, rural fairs, and community gatherings can effectively reach the target audience. With the increase in the penetration of mobile phones there is an ever increasing influence of the digital world and online influencers on the brand
Word-of-mouth marketing has a significant influence on rural communities. Encouraging satisfied customers to share their positive experiences with others can help build trust and credibility for the brand. Distributing pamphlets and conducting product demonstrations can provide firsthand knowledge to potential customers as well.
Competition from Unorganized Players
Unorganized players usually offer low-cost alternatives often imported from other countries with untested quality standards, posing a challenge to Indian companies that adhere to metrology rules and defined quality standards. To overcome this challenge, it is crucial for Indian companies to emphasize the quality, safety, and reliability of their products. Creating awareness about the potential risks associated with substandard products and highlighting the superior features of Indian-made flashlights can help influence consumer preferences.
Importance of Affordability and Value Proposition
Affordability is a critical factor that influences rural consumers' purchasing decisions. While ensuring affordability, companies must also emphasize the value proposition of their products. For example, promoting energy-efficient flashlights that consumes less power can appeal to rural consumers who are conscious of their limited resources. Moreover, offering value-added features such as flashlight with panic button for human safety or those with mobile charging capabilities or inbuilt Bluetooth for connectivity, can enhance the perceived value of the product. Providing affordable financing options can also enable rural consumers to access durable products without straining their budgets. Farmers buy flashlights not only watch over their farmlands but also protect their saplings/crops from damage by stray animals. It becomes relevant to explain the features of SOS/Strobe function in a flashlight to ward of cattle. Monsoon’s often hit the electricity supply in the rural areas and thus it is handy to keep a torch in-house till the supply is restored, which can take a few hours to a day. Promoting, quick charging flashlights, given the frequent breakdown of electricity, becomes an important point of the value proposition in a rechargeable torch
Initiatives like Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Areas (PURA) and National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) are expected to improve the lives of rural masses and increase demand for consumer durables. This presents a significant opportunity for durable companies to tap into the rural market. In addition to that, successful companies will need to adopt a "business mind, social heart" approach in order to effectively connect with the rural consumers and therefore succeed in this burgeoning market.