Digital Marketing for Rural India

India, the fastest growing large economy in the world, is still popularly known as the country of villages. Around 70% Indians are still staying in 6.5 lakhs villages with 50% of nation’s population heavily dependent on agriculture.

 

Heavy dependence on agriculture is one of the reasons of poverty in rural India. This can be very well observed from the big gap in per capita income of urban and rural parts of India. As per statistics of 2012-13, urban per capita income was INR 1,01,313 while rural per capita income was INR 40,772. Most of the businesses and consumer demand were concentrated in urban areas which have very small pie of total population.

 

Improvements in Rural India

With improvement in infrastructure, villages came closer to cities. Mobile and, to some extent, internet brought villages closer to urban population further and hence, rural India became familiar to urban lifestyle. This motivated rural people to increase prosperity and improve their lifestyle.

 

This motivation along with availability of easy capital through micro finances and governments’ schemes helped rural India to set up side businesses related to agriculture. Notable examples of these businesses are Poultry, Milk, honey etc. These activities have started bridging the gap between per capita income of urban and rural India. Consequently, disposable income in hands of rural Indians increased thereby increasing demand of various products which were being sold in urban India only.

 

Revenue opportunities in rural India for businesses

Post-independence, economic growth happened mostly in and around metro cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Bangalore, Pune etc. Post liberalization, small cities like Indore, Bhopal, Nashik etc. started growing. Most of the consumer companies till 2005 were more focused only on urban area. As cities started saturating due to high population and low opportunities, many consumer product companies faced stagnant revenues.

 

Hence, it became important for organizations to enter into rural areas to sell their products and achieve targeted revenue growth. Companies introduced their products in new (rural) geographies to create new product cycles as existing product cycles in urban areas had reached saturation for many products. Firms came up with many rural specific programme, for ex, Shakti by HUL. FMCGs also came up with rural specific small packs and advertised them in yearly rural fun fairs to generate product demand. To cater growing rural demand, auto companies like TATA Motors started ‘Neev’ which is rural specific programme.

 

How will digital marketing help businesses?

10 years back, it was very difficult to get mobile network in rural India. With rising competition in telecom industry, need of increasing customer base and high band width, mobile usage has grown in villages. No. of mobile users in rural India has gone up. Though feature phone volumes are higher than smart phone volumes, we can easily observe the shift towards smart phones with entry of next generation in rural employment. Social media tools like Facebook and YouTube are at nascent stage but have started gaining momentum (though twitter has long way to go in rural India).

 

Also, rural market brings lot of demand for consumer products. Between 2009-2016, this industry has grown by 13% annually. With consecutive above average monsoon seasons, incomes in rural India will rise steadily and it will become difficult for companies to grab the available market.

 

For such cases, digital can be a good option as people using internet will become influencers in most of the villagers as people using smart phone and internet are considered as smart and intelligent ones in the village. Companies, especially in consumer goods place, should start targeting people with smart phones and internet connections who in turn will spread word of mouth across locations. Businesses should start taking every Facebook user seriously as she/ he will be a big influencer in near future.

 

How will rural India benefit from digital?

With digital, information flow to rural people will become easier. Info regarding weather, daily rates of crops, milk and milk products, poultry etc. can be made available on mobile phone either by government or by NGOs. This will increase not only farm efficiencies but also the market understanding of farmers. In addition, training on advanced farming techniques and use of proper fertilizers can be done across many villages at a time.

 

Many Indian villagers have capability to produce user specific products but they cannot be sold in cities where demand for such products is available. Online merchandizers can extend their services for such products so that they can be sold in cities. ‘Okhai’ is one such initiative by TATA trusts to connect Gujrati rural women with cities where rural products can be sold directly.

 

In long term, digital will help to increase the consumption in rural India and will also create employment opportunities, thereby increasing disposable income- this in turn will have positive effect on economic growth of the country.

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81 thoughts on “Digital Marketing for Rural India

  1. An interesting read. A rather different perspective. I think it’ll help to think of the rural areas as opportunities instead of burden. Hope the decision-makers are listening!

  2. well said. it is important to view rural markets as growth areas. taking the example of the USA, 60 or so years ago..nearly 50-60% of the workforce was engaged in agriculture..now it’s at 2% due to improvements in farming and mechanization.. also the Labour count working in the coal mining industry has dropped as new avenues of work opened up.. the influx of information alone can count for great opportunities in Indian villages

    1. Thank you Arun,
      US took 100+ years to reduce agricultural dependency of population from 50% to 2%.
      We definitely don’t have so much time.

  3. Rural markets provide a vast potential for products from across the categories . Most organizations are increasing their penetration in rural markets through physical presence. With increasing competition in the rural markets, digital marketing is surely going to be a cost effective technique to reach out to majority of the rural customers .

    1. Thank you for your inputs Rahul.
      As rightly pointed out by you, rural will be the differentiator of growth in near future.

  4. Currently all farmers are starving to sale their products directly to consumers as currently all middle men are exhorting farmers as they are single and unorganised,hence digitalisation tool will prevent them from exploitation and can generate better profits to their products .With digitalisation farmers will be aware of demand and supply accordingly they will select and harvest crops as per consumer demand, while as currently all farmers cultivate one kind of crops during each seasons hence supply is more than demand which yields them less profits .Digitalisation application should give every right to farmer to decide price of his product which is sold in markets as he himself is aware how much expenses are incurred during cultivation.Digitilisation will also stop migration on skilled manpower to urban cities as farmers will earn more profits to their crops .Digitilisation should provide correct data and should be farmers friendly as most of them are less educated. Digitilisation will improve purchasing power of farmers which will help them to experiment more in new technology and crops

    1. Thank you for your thoughts sir
      Combining analytics with digital will help us to make agricultural supply chain stonger. Going forward this will help farmers to understand the market better.

  5. Very nicely drafted basics of Indian economy and details of use of digital world. In metro cities people’s life became digital life. In rural area definitely it started changing and in few years it will become part of life.

  6. Precisely and agree use of digital tools including mobile, IOT and AI can boost rural sector growth

  7. Very well written @ Shireesh Divekar……
    There is a lot of scope of improvement in Rural Areas…

  8. लेख उत्तम आहे. भविष्यात ग्रामीण गरजा व अर्थव्यवस्था यांना महत्व प्राप्त होणार आहे. बचत गट, प्रशिक्षण केंद्रे, कौशल्य विकास अभ्यासक्रम, बाजारपेठेची वाढती मागणी या गोष्टींबरोबर व्यवस्थापन आणि साखळी व्यवस्थापन यांना फार महत्व प्राप्त होईल.
    सांख्यिकी चा अधिक वापर लेखात हवा असे वाटते.
    नाखरे सर

  9. Nice one ,yes opportunity at rural India is enormous , perhaps reaching them or approaching the segment needs to be explored by marketer while keeping the ROI intact

  10. Well said …. and thos statistics are really promising in respect of scope nd need for marketers for expanding there market. Looking for your future work. I guess
    You just found a perfect area of interest which is ignored by many . Keep it up.

  11. It is a nice initiative of digital marketing in rural area, it will definitely help in every sector where day to day life concern. Fruitful blog. Appreciated.

  12. Great thinking and reality of india is seen virtually
    Go ahead
    Brilliant thought scripted

  13. Truly digitization has reached to every corner of the country. Need to harness the best out of it in rural areas too.

  14. Nice article!!!! The concept of digitailising the rural market will definitely benefit the farmers who can easily sell his products directly without any hazel. But it will definitely take time to get implemented​…

  15. Very well written details about digital and its impact on rural India. Indeed it’s very good thing that people are using internet and it’s count is increasing specially in young people which lessen the gap in urban and rural India. It will also beneficial if government can omit the taxes applied on net transactions and will really become digitalization of India. Government should step it’s efforts for digitalization of rural India specially farmers which help them in sell their goods directly to consumers which will help both.

  16. Excellent article!.Improving rural modus operandi by providing them the modern technologies can lead to many advantages for the farmers to have excellent farming and can reduce the fatal rate in rural areas due to lack of money .

  17. Well said…
    Digitisation definitely increases the efficiency of any market…
    And rural India is ocean of opportunities for any business, be it infra, food industry, IT etc…
    But before some one outsider put an eye on it, the villagers should get the benefits of it by using the digital tools.
    Govt/NGOs can drive some campaigns for introducing and explaining the usage of the digitalization with some real time examples…

  18. Very well Articulated and informative Blog. Digital marketing is surely help villagers and help them to get complete benefit of their products, which in current scenario take away by middle man.
    They not only sale their products in india but they can sale out side India as well.
    Only thing is to spread awareness about digital marketing in Villagers and make them understand about the benefit of the same. Helpline number for the same could be created.
    This will definitely beneficial villagers as well as Indian Economy.
    Nice Article Shirish!

  19. Excellent Article Shirish !!
    There lot of potential for business by digital marketing from both side.With digital marketing product & Service can reach at any part of world. Affordable Smart phones & competitive data plan will be major drivers in country like India.

  20. Very well written, agree to the point that digital marketing can change the perception of farmers towards agriculture and it will definitely help development for rural areas!
    It’s one of the need now that government should focus on!
    GOOD POINTS YOU HAVE HIGHLIGHTED SHIRISH!

  21. I’m really enjoying the theme of this blog.
    It’s simple, yet effective. A lot of times it’s difficult to get that “perfect balance” between superb usability and appearance.
    I must say that you’ve done a great job with this.

  22. Nice write up Shireesh. While digital is the way ahead, change has to be brought about thoughtfully keeping in mind the behaviourial and attitudinal pattern of average man so that he is not unduly burdened. It’s where innovation comes in Disruption without disturbance.

  23. Efforts appreciated. Many aspects of rural markets are covered.Examples need to be supported by statistical analysis . Good work. Keep it up.

  24. Very nicely drafted basics of Indian economy and details of use of digital world. Many aspects of rural markets are covered.
    I agree to the point that digital marketing can change the perception of farmers towards agriculture and it will definitely help development for rural areas!
    Keep it up.

  25. The article is very much in sync with the current mood in the economy and touches upon most bases. One industry which the article did not touch base upon is e-commerce. It,in all probability, will lead this revolution and will use many of the tools mentioned in the article to capture the rural segment. Many similar initiatives took place and are evolving as we speak in China.

  26. Good write up shireesh.. One revenue opportunity point is how village kids migrate to cities but some send remittance to parents which add to the buying power of rural parents..

  27. Nicely articulated the difference between now and then. I like the way urban India and rural India were explained in simple language in terms of the growth. Hopefully going digital helps the farmers in warning the real income that they deserve to.

  28. With digital marketing, it can often feel like you’re able to see results much faster than you might with offline marketing due to the fact it’s easier to measure ROI. However, it ultimately depends entirely on the scale and effectiveness of your digital marketing strategy.

    If you spend time building comprehensive buyer personas to identify the needs of your audience, and you focus on creating quality online content to attract and convert them, then you’re likely to see strong results within the first six months.

    If paid advertising is part of your digital strategy, then the results come even quicker — but it’s recommended to focus on building your organic (or ‘free’) reach using content, SEO, and social media for long-term, sustainable success.

  29. Although Pay Per Click is one of the methods many companies use to advertise (Google AdWords being one of the most widely seen), it needs more relevance based on past internet usage of the prospect. A large chunk of the Indian population still getting lured makes it one of the potent techniques for the next few years though.

  30. Digital has brought inormous opportunities all over the world. But considering vast size and low penetration of mobile and internet in India, it will be difficult to fully utilize the potential of digital.
    Task is difficult but not impossible.

  31. Quite insightful read Shirish, digital Marketing will be quite useful in overcoming structural issues related to rural markets like low awareness levels and customer retention.

  32. Very nicely articulated – Shireesh
    You are aiming at the right opportunity for improvement in rural areas. I completely agree with your thoughts – Digital marketing has a great future potential.

  33. Well noticed and brief article Shireesh. Digitalization has potentially bought urban lifestyle to Real India – Rural India. Indeed, rural areas are full of opportunity for economic growth which will lead India towards Developed India. Digitalization has capacity to literate farmers about advanced farming technique, online marketing and potential business opportunities which will ultimately reduce dependence on conventional business n losses.

  34. Indeed a nice read . Digitalisation has a potential to change the way business is done which eventually will help change the rural market place.

  35. Good idea to go digital in rural India but penetration of Internet and mobile will take lots of time. I feel it is better to improve mobile and internet penetration before going digital.

  36. Great thoughts, Shireesh. Execution will be critical. But, the only questionable thing remains : how soon can we provide the supporting infrastructure for this implementation ? And how do we account for learning curve, if any..

  37. Nice article Shireesh. I agree with the thought of the article , but I remain skeptical on the execution aspect of it. The number of languages that we have pose a problem for the anyone who wants to get into digital marketing for the rural segment. Also, a secondary concern would be providing the infrastructure required for this implementation. It would be good to look in-depth into these aspects as well.

  38. A very interesting and discussion worthy topic indeed. Since rural as a market is growing and digital as a media is growing and both have a lot potential. With new innovations such a reliance Jio, tapping on this market has become even easier. Such an intervention will redefine marketing.

  39. very well explained in simple language ,
    Technology needs to be implemented properly in due course of time with proper infrastructure and people should be educated to use digital medium

  40. Good thoughts. Nicely articulated the evolution of Rural markets in India. Digitalisation definitely has potential to take rural markets to next level.

  41. Rightly said.. for the free market, every individual is a consumer and hence taking their products through marketing is vital for them, be it even to villages. For Maruti, that has over 50% market share in passenger segment, over 30% sales come from villages. Digitalization with less cost for infrastructure has brought the world even closer. With Jio from Reliance, this change has got faster pace now. A right article at the right time.

  42. With its huge potential, digital reveloution is changing the way business is done in India. Ever increasing penetration of mobile internet has connected rural Bharat with Modern India and this creates a huge opportunity for marketeers to tap the rural segment.Shireesh has nicely explained this

  43. This article shrewdly points out the potential our villages have. Digital India will definitely help improve the overall economy as it is a ‘tried and tested’ way in the West. In fact, India will reap more benefits just because of the enormous population that resides in these untapped areas. Sadly, we are not utilizing the great market of India by neglecting the rural side. I hope to see more digitalization in the rural India.

  44. Nice article and good area of interest considering its huge future potential and country’s growth . More than digitalization, it’s affordability to poor rural farmers should be given more consideration in it’s initial stages.

  45. Thank you for focusing on the need of digital medium to roadmap rural sections towards growth. This article is deep diving into improvement areas and will surely help India to increase their global footprint. Keep it up.

  46. Hi Shireesh,

    An Interesting and a vital info shared, I am glad that you chose the topic to write on Digital Marketing In Rural India,
    It was interesting to read the points you brought up in your write up. Moreover, I myself belong from a tier 2 city, i have seen the growth of Digital Marketing in rural as well as tier 2 city areas. Though the growth is gradual and slow, but, it is improving nonetheless.

    Thanks for sharing a very meaningful post.

  47. I really liked this read. It is very interesting. I hope that rural India continues to grow as well as the rest of India.

  48. Nicely compiled. One reason I could think of for the ever expanding spending potential of the rural population is the rising aspirations of emulating a urban lifestyle. Digital Marketing could tap on this factor as well. Digital Marketing could eliminate the middle men and increase the profit margins for the producers from the rural parts of India but this would mean that facilitating the necessary logistics would be crucial and this opens up a world of opportunities for people to come up with innovative ideas.

  49. Good read! I specifically liked the point of ‘weather’, very important in case of agriculture.

  50. Good read. Gives an interesting perspective about the two most opportunities posed by the nation – digital and rural.

  51. Very nice article. A large part of the rural Indian market is under-penetrated and presents good opportunities. With digital marketing it will become easier to capture this market.

  52. Very well researched and expounded upon a significant area. Made for an invigorating read prodding to think upon the parameters highlighted by you. Liked the use of data to back up every point.

  53. Interesting read. Definitely a topic to ponder on since bulk of the Indian population is still based in rural india. If utilised effectively this digital transformation could do wonders….

  54. Great minds think alike!
    Almost all aspects are already covered.
    People have got connectivity, network, they are updated. Many villages have become cashless, specially after demonetisation. They’ve got banking facilities on smart phones only. Now they’re not dependent on moneylenders who used to take high interest / mortgage / bondage labour . They can easily get there still checked along with the report which tells them what all crops are suitable for the soil and how they can increase the yeild manifolds. manifolds.They can get loan at very less interest rate. Most of village household has atleast one person working in urban area and he can easily send money online.

    Also, as mentioned, these people can directly sell the product to consumer rather than going through mediator, again credit goes to digitisation. People not even physically go too far distance for selling or search for employment thereby overcrowding the crowded cities.

    What all to mention. The list is endless. Surely it is a boon… Sheerish is on shirsha…

  55. Nice article mapping the future progress of marketing.With more and more people coming into connectivity net digital marketing will gain more importance in future.

    What you can add up is the increasing and efficient use of whatsapp. I have seen people using it very effectively for marketing as whatspp groups give some element of trust where you know each other hence sources can be verified.Second point is that Whatspp uses less data and hence accessed by everyone as opposed to Youtube or facebook where data consumption is comparatively high.

  56. A very thoughtful article. It highlights the potential demand ok n rural areas and how digital marketing can help fill the void of awareness & convert the potential user into a consumer. Very well written Shireesh

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