The first decision to be made in product strategy in the rural context is whether the product that is sold in the urban market can be supplied to the rural market as it is, or whether it must be adapted. It depends on the situation and the nature of the product. In many cases some adaptation will be advantageous. Basically the firm must find out what kind of product is actually required by the rural consumers and then decide if it make an altogether distinct product or adapt the existing product.
Economic and income realities of the market should certainly be considered while developing the product strategy for the rural market. In addition, socio-cultural realities should also be considered. When products are designed reflecting both these influences the chance of success is greater.
Lower priced product versions do help in many cases in the realization can be made in this regard. Many companies try to reduce the prices of their products for the rural market by creating smaller size or by decreasing the equality the approach works sometimes and with some products all times with all products.
Specifically designed Products:
Specifically designed products do help in many cases:
The tractor/trailer: The tractor/trailer is an apt example. It is product specifically designed for the rural market. It is designed as a replacement for the plough as well as vehicle for transporting both men and material in the rural areas.
Eveready’s Jeevan Sathi Torch: Eveready’s (Union carbide) Jeevan Sathi brass torch is another example of successful rural specific product strategy. Initially Eveready’s brass torch was not picking up well in the rural areas. Union Carbide launched a market research study for locating the reasons. The study by the ad agency OBM found that the rural folks rejected the torch since all its parts were not made of brass. The design, developed abroad, had given the products certain plastic parts, like the reflectors. The Indian rural consumer felt that the plastic parts would not be durable. OBM also found out that the rural people were prepared to pay a higher price for the same torch if it were made ‘all brass’. Eveready then introduced for the rural market the all brass torch designed to last life long and positioned it Jeevan Sathi as a life long companion. It also came up with ‘Jeevan Sathi’ communication campaign matching to product strategy. The communication depicted side-by side, two Jeevan Sathis (the farmer’s wife who is his life long companion) and the brass torch (another life long companion).
Model variants: Models developed specifically for the rural market have found more takers in the market. For instance, motorcycles that are designed to take on the rigors of rural roads have succeeded more in the rural market.
Color variants: The rural consumers differ from their urban cousins in color preference. In the case of some products, color may matter very much. Firms can exploit this fact to their advantage. For example in the paint business, Asian paints understood the substantial difference between the urban and rural buyer in color preference. AP introduced paints with bright colors for the rural markets. AP also communicated the features well through its communication campaigns.
Different products/Models, Different Brands Packing, Pricing and different positioning:
By and large the rural market can be tapped better through different products/models, different brands, different packaging and different positioning.
Package Design and Pack Size:
In some cases, the product can be the same, but the package and pack size may have to be different of the rural target group. Package design and color help identification based by rural buyers. Many rural consumers are not quite conversant with the various brands. All the same, they manage to pick the brands that they want. They recognize the brand by its packaging. This is the reason why a number of local brands in rural areas imitate the packing of big national brands.