Way Forward for Brands in Post-Covid 19 Rural India

Way Forward for Brands in Post-Covid 19 Rural India
Lockdown and Covid19 has changed the way we behave and look at everything around us, right from food choices we make, places we visit, the way we see healthcare, transportation, working from home; pretty much everything. Both urban and rural population in India has been affected by the pandemic equally. The situation has helped many new ideas emerge in the market, and accelerated wider acceptance of ideas that already existed for some time and hoped to achieve its peak possibly four to five years down the line. One such idea is ‘use of technology’ among the first time users including aged population and those who had been reluctant to adapt technology. Right from street vendors (both urban and rural) to teachers have been left with no choice but to work hand in hand with technology to deliver their commitments. From Rural India’s perspective, many new developments have happened that in a way, have changed the demography of the country. While it has always been evident that the brands would witness next wave of growth from rural India, Covid has brought to a situation where the brands may see that expansion happening sooner than planned due to several factors.
  • Reverse Migration: The plight of migrant workers in cities during lockdown had made us all question our society. These migrants, many of them highly skilled and specialized, started to look for opportunities to work close to their home. Reluctant to go back to cities, many of them have opened small businesses to meet their ends while they stay close to their families. It is common to witness the surge in roadside stalls in smaller towns and villages, increase in traffic due to reverse migration. This provides a great opportunity for brands to use these skilled workers in respective regions to create excellence delivery infrastructures locally that can reduce the transportation overheads and delivery uncertainties. A hub and spoke model of production/assembly and distribution will not only employ these workers, but help create more efficient system.
  • Use of Technology: Right from online ordering to telemedicine, the rural India has been exposed to use of technology for their daily needs. Local shops had started home deliver using phone and WhatsApp as primary source of taking orders. Screen time on phones have surged create a larger pool of users that can be targeted.
  • Penetration of Ideas and Innovation: Not just daily wage workers, even white collar professionals who ended up spending months in their villages or towns during the lockdown have taken their ideas to their natives opening up services and shops creating a parallel to their environment in cities. It is now becoming common to find moderate tech shops, well decorated restaurants, walk in mini grocery shops (compared to traditional kirana stores) and overall customer friendliness and transaction etiquettes present in urban market
  • Growing Customer Base: Both skilled daily wage workers and blue collar professionals have also taken their lifestyles back to the towns and villages, increasing the demand for quality products and services. Brands will have more takers for their quality products increasing the demand and thus reducing the cost of transportation improving margins. Needless to mention the already aware customer base potentially reduces the need for additional advertising budget.
  • Use of Social Media: Social Media, the monster and angel of the decade, has far more number of users in rural India post lockdown. This new, diverse, larger and perhaps vulnerable user base provide greater insights on consumer behaviour in rural markets, much different from the way we learned about rural market earlier using traditional methods. It will be now easier to reach to these users, to communicate about the offerings, engage them online and enhance brand awareness.
In some of the reports, it was predicted that by 2020 the FMCG market in rural market will grow at 300% compared to 200% in urban India. Similarly the durables market would grow at 27% in rural compared to 12% in urban India. With the current factors, post-Covid, discussed above, it is likely that these numbers will self-adjust to meet the new demand from the changed demography. Brands’ revised approach towards rural India will not only create avenues for employment locally, it will in retrospect also help empower rural population to purchase better products creating a sustained rural economy.
About Author: Yogi is a seasoned marketing and sales leader with experiences across categories such as healthcare, lifescience, edtech, consumer healthcare and technology.

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