Our country is endowed with a good degree of ethnic and regional diversity. About three-fourth of the total population resides in the rural areas and majority of them are dependent upon agriculture for their subsistence. Agriculture contributes about 24.7% to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country. It also contributes about 13.1% to the total Indian exports. This sector provides employment to 58.4% of the country's workforce and livelihood to more than 650 million people. Despite this fact, the condition of these people has not shown any significant improvement.
The development of the nation largely depends upon the development of the rural population. Mahatma Gandhi had once said: "India's way is not Europe's. India is not Calcutta and Bombay. India lives in her several hundreds of villages".
Rural Market Potential
India is an agro-based economy and the growth of most of the other sectors of economy is driven by rural demand. Urban market is reaching towards the saturation point, thus bringing in and urgent need to focus on rural development. Moreover, more than 70% of India's population lives in villages and constitutions a big market for industry because of increasing disposal incomes and awareness level.
In comparison to just 5,161 towns in India there are 6,38,365 villages in India. This in itself is an indicator where the real India resides. Companies are realizing slowly but surely that the key to gain true market leadership lies in tapping the rural potential. However, the rural sector in India suffers from different kinds of problems. Some areas are having enough money but their level of awareness and hence consumerism is very low. But there are many areas where economic empowerment, education, health etc., are major problems.
What is rural marketing
While there is a large growth in the urban market, the rural or latent market is yet to be tapped, and has an enormous potential for growth. A rural market can be defined as any market that exists in a area where the population is less than 10, 000. The rural market in India is scattered and spread over a wide geographical area. Indian market is divided into urban and rural markets.
o Urban market is flooded with low demand.
o Rural market witnesses a high demand It's the rural segment of market that contributes more profit than its urban counterpart. Rural marketing broadly involves reaching customers, understanding their wants, supply of goods and services, and ultimately satisfying consumers, leading to more sales. The general impression is that only agricultural inputs like seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, cattle feed and agricultural machinery have a potential for growth in the rural market. However, there is a growing market for consumer goods now. It has been estimated the rural market is growing at the rate of five times its urban counterpart.
Challenges in Rural Marketing
Though rural markets are a huge attraction to marketers, it is not easy to enter the market and take a sizeable share of the market, in the short time due to the following reasons.
There are not enough opportunities for education in rural areas. The literacy level is as low (36%) when compared to all- India average of 52%.
Demand for goods in rural markets depends upon agricultural situation, as agriculture is the main source of income. Agriculture to a large extent depends upon monsoon and, therefore, the demand or buying capacity is not stable or regular.
Many rural areas are not connected by rail transport. Kacha roads become unserviceable during the monsoon and interior villages get isolated.
An effective distribution system requires village-level shopkeeper, Mandal/ Taluka- level wholesaler or preferred dealer, distributor or stockiest at district level and company-owned depot or consignment distribution at state level. The presence of too many tiers in the distribution system increases the cost of distribution.
Facilities such as telephone, fax and telegram are rather poor in rural areas.
Life in rural areas is still governed by customs and traditions and people do not easily adapt new practices. For example, even rich and educated class of farmers does not wear jeans or branded shoes.
Rural consumers are cautious in buying and decisions are slow and delayed. They like to give a trial and only after being personally satisfied, do they buy the product.
Media for Promotions
Television has made a great impact and large audience has been exposed to this medium. Radio reaches large population in rural areas at a relatively low cost. However, reach of formal media is low in rural households; therefore, the market has to undertake specific sales promotion activities in rural areas like participating in melas or fairs.
Career in Rural Market
While rural marketing offers a challenging career, a rural sales person should require certain qualifications and specialized talent.
Culture is a system of shared values, beliefs and perceptions that influence the behavior of consumers. There are different groups based on religion, caste, occupation, income, age, education and politics and each group exerts influence on the behavior of people in villages.
There is a belief among rural people that experience is more important than formal education and they respect salespersons who can offer practical solutions to their problems. Therefore, it is desirable that sales persons, especially those who have been brought up in cities are given a thorough training consisting of both theory and practical aspects of village life. The training will help these sales persons to align themselves with the market realities and settle down smoothly in their jobs.
Rural market has a tremendous potential that is yet to be tapped. A small increase in rural income, results in an exponential increase in buying power.
Markets which are not able to face the stiff competition posed by MNCs, can restore their profits in the rural sector. The market share of urban market when compared to the rural market is low, hence if Indian industries concentrate on rural markets their sales will increase. If rural markets are brought into the limelight of development, they pave way to prosperity. Prosperity of India lies in the prosperity of every Indian, hence no rural segment should be left untapped.