Brand Decisions (Rural markets)

Branding too needs skilful handling in the rural markets. The rural consumers have already graduated from generic products to branded products. Today, the brand name is the surest means of conveying to rural consumers. To them, buying an established and well spoken of brand is the sure way of reducing risk. In other words, brand is the key to confidence building among the rural consumers. Besides quality it conveys that the manufacturer is going to show sustained interest in those products and markets. Whether same brand should be used in both urban and rural markets and appropriate variants of the brand must be adopted for the rural market is a matter of conscious decision by individual firms depending on the context. In quite a few cases the same brand is proving right and cost-effective. In some cases, however, the brand name that is suited to the urban market may not be quite suitable to the rural market. It will, however be incorrect to assume that rural consumers prefer local brands to national brands. Analysis actually shows that contrary to the commonly held view, many rural consumers have a strong preference to nationally advertised and promoted brands.

Sell value Brands, not cheap Brands:

While brands specifically developed for the rural market and low priced variants may work better in many cases, the strategy should be one of selling value brands, not cheap bands. HLL’s Lifebuoy, for example, is a low priced carbolic soap that is often the first choice of bath soap by a rural consumer. HLL however does not sell it as cheap soap. Instead, sells it as a hygiene brand. It communicates the value of the brand to the target market. It also tries to enhance the value of the offer by giving suitable ‘add-one’. For example while targeting rural students for the soap, it distributed height charts along with the soap and conveyed its concern of their health and well being. Rural marketers would do well to add some value to their products in this fashion if they are keen to secure the loyalty of the consumers.

Examples of distinct brand offer for the rural market: There are several cases where the firms concerned have launched distinct brand for the rural buyer and tapped the market better. Arvind Mills entered rural market with its specially made Ruff and Tuff brand. Britannia has ventured into the rural market with Tiger brand biscuits and is steadily gaining market share with this brand.

Pre-conceived notions have no place:

While specific research studies may provide useful insights on the rural markets, no one can make any sweeping generalizations.

Using the example of CTV, illustrates that pre-conceived notions have no place in rural marketing.

Physical Distribution:

Let us first see the special problems, which marketers have to face in physical distribution in the rural context.

The problems in Transportation and Warehousing:

It is well known that transportation infrastructure is quite poor in rural India. Though the country has the fourth largest railway system in the world, many parts of rural India remain outside the rail network. As regards road transport nearly 50 per cent of the 570,000 odd villages in the country are still not connected by proper roads. While some improvements are taking place on account of the various road development programs, many areas still have only mud and stone roads and most of the interiors have hardly any roads worth mentioning. As regards transport carriers, the most common ones are the delivery vans and the animals drawn carts. Because of the difficulty on accessibility, delivery of products and services continue to be difficult in rural areas. In warehousing too, there are social problems in the rural context business. Business firms find it quite difficult to get suitable warehouses in many parts of rural India.

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  • V. S. Venkatachalam

    You are quite right when you say that the rural consumer has graduated from generic to branded products. A case to point is the mobile phone which has revolutionalized this concept.j As regards to transportation and warehousing, the railways cannot reach out to all the 6,12866 villages of India since it could result in infringement of lands, diminishing farm lands, government lands meant for some other purposes. In any case one small railway station caters to on an average of 14 surrounding villages which is adequate. Moreover, the smaller and feeder stations are set up for relief work since railways themselves cannot store all their materials at one place. Warehousing is also a problem in the villages. But the government through its PDS has at least made an effort in this regard. Every Panchayat has a PDS in India. This also has a godown under the government schemes. That it is misused or put into disuse by the respective Panchayats is not the fault of the policy makers. It is like the misdemeanour of a small factory of a large group where the promoter cannot be faulted. In the government, the policies and planning are picture perfect. It is only the implementation that is lopsided. Private sector can provide their expertise and much needed funds to locally supplement such initiatives of the government. Only then we will all be in the mainstream of nationa building. At the moment, we are all sitting on the fence and blaming the government. The private sector’s CSR activities is extremely tight and inflexible and heavily prioritized. This does not mean that government should not perk up its initiatives.