Rural Marketing – A few learnings

Only when someone is humble enough to say “I don’t know” does (s)he learn. And I am happy to say I don’t know. I am happy that this has helped me learn a bit today. About Rural Marketing!

My first brush with Rural Marketing was when I was working with Lintas. A colleague of mine used to handle a brand called TAFE (Tractors and Farm Equipments). And as part of the job, this guy used to travel across the country for at least 8 months in a year. His job? Conducting events across the country called Krishi Ratna. I am not sure if TAFE still does these events, but it used to be a brilliant learning experience for my colleague. And in the four months that he was back in Chennai, he used to document the whole event. I happened to learn a lot from him. It was amazing. I just want to share a small run-down on the event.

Krishi Ratna – is a farmers event which was conceived by Lintas for TAFE. The event constituted a three day fair in villages of varying sizes. The fair will have events like Tractor Race, seed sowing competition, harvesting competition etc., which would basically use all equipments manufactured by TAFE. Of course, there will be fun events like astrology, puppet show etc, which would keep the interest for other folks. To me this event was a complete rural activity which bridged the gap between the product and the consumer beautifully.

My early experiences of rural marketing and advertising used to be predominantly outdoor. Painting of walls was the first thing that people would do to promote a product or offering. This actually is a spillover from the painting of walls in cities. Political parties use this well! However, innovation in even such small activities was evident from the stable of HUL many years back.

Painting the walls was a regular affair. But the importance of community building was felt even 15 years back. HUL went around villages and connected with the village heads just to ensure that their rural connect was complete. They offered to lay tiles on the stairs leading to the village pond. The village pond is a community place and having tiles there would make the place look good and clean, hence permissions were never a problem. The only rider is the fact that the tiles will always have some HUL brand or the other featured prominently. Mostly ‘Lifebuoy’. Brilliant strategy and very workable as a rural marketing initiative.

Today, there are companies which specialize in Rural Marketing. One such example (I just stumbled upon them and do not vouch for them in any way) is RC&M. Almost every large agency worth its salt today has a Rural Marketing Division. Linterland, Ogilvy Activation, Anugrah Madison, Mart being a few known names. Starting from launching of a brand to market development, such agencies offer all kinds of marketing services. When it comes to Rural Marketing now, varied tools like digital screens, animation etc are also used. With professional script writers and film makers working on each of these projects, marketing here is a very different ball game.

These agencies work on lead generation, market expansion, sampling, research and many other activities which help promoting a product / service in the hinterlands.

I was surprised to learn that the clientele included some illustrious names like Citi, ICICI, HDFC amongst financial services. Schneider Electric – an organization which I thought would probably not bother with rural India has also conducted events and lead generation programmes. Some usual suspects include all telecom companies including Airtel, Reliance, Tata Indicom and Idea. Another key area of work for Rural Marketing companies is in creating a distribution chain. It is very possible that many firms do not possess the prowess to set up a distribution network for their products. These companies which have operated in these markets for a while, by virtue of knowing them outside in, help set up a distribution network including building a demand for the product by sampling, C&F strength and retail presence.

RMAI stands for Rural Marketing Association of India. The association offers list of events in immediate future, resources like local magicians, script writers, books and reference guides etc. They also provide training programs and offer career guidance in rural marketing initiatives. RMAI Corporate Awards 2010 incidentally would be conducted on November 26, 2010 at India Habitat Centre, New Delhi. It is very impressive that they have a very resourceful site. There is a lot more to Rural Marketing than I thought and knew about before embarking on this post. Certainly, there is a lot more that one gets to learn when one attempts to write.

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