India is witnessing a monumental change with regard to the practices, behavior and attitude that its rural populace cherishes. With different forms of media today reaching out to the remotest of villages, there is a shift in cultural, educational and attitudinal paradigms. The 850 million consumers in rural India comprise about 70% of the population and contribute around half of the country’s GDP. India’s per capita GDP in rural regions has grown at a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 6.2% since 2000. Hence, rural India is well poised to attract marketing focus from local and multinational companies.
With the influx of the digital media and the growing wireless telecom subscriptions, the rural masses are now more exposed to different products, services and offers in the market, more informed about various programmes and policies, and more conscious about their lifestyle choices and habits. Besides, the government campaigns like ‘Digital India’, ‘Make in India’ and ‘Jan Dhan Yojana’ are major steps towards digital and financial inclusion of the rural citizens and have rendered them more empowered and more equipped than ever before. Rural wages have also recorded a sharp increase due to the steady migration of manufacturing jobs to the countryside and government rural employment schemes such as ‘MGNREGA’. According to recent Nielsen estimates, consumption of consumer goods in rural areas is growing at 1.5 times the rate in urban areas, and today’s $12 billion market in rural India is expected to hit $100 billion by 2025.
The evolution of rural markets in India has opened up innumerable marketing opportunities. Rural is no longer a large homogenous mass of conventional assumptions. There is a need to identify prospective customers, discover new customer segments, extend the distribution networks and build relationships with channel partners in the countryside. Marketers should devise customized marketing solutions since, today, one size doesn’t fit all.
Over the last few years, business houses have been plagued with unverified myths about the rural markets. These myths make it difficult to gauge the consumers’ interest. They need to be tackled with good data so that the reality can be brought forth. Companies need transformational strategies to thrive in the competitive rural markets. And this can be done by eradicating the myths about the rural markets.