Building new markets in India: insights from Unilever and Ford

David Tiltman

The big issue in Indian marketing is how to access consumers outside the major towns and cities. In such a vast country, with a scattered population, limited infrastructure and a diverse patchwork of local authorities, regulations, languages and cultures, simply putting a brand in front of a consumer can be difficult – but this is increasingly where the next wave of growth lies. In early November, the front page of the business section of The Hindu described 'India Inc's new fixation with the rural markets'.

The story looked at a number of recent tie-ups between FMCG companies, which have spent a lot of time and money building reach in rural areas, and companies from other sectors. For example, Hindustan Unilever (HUL), one of the pioneers of marketing to rural consumers, tied up with Tata Teleservices to distribute telecoms products via HUL's distribution network. HUL, according to a recent study, has access to 6.3 million retail outlets and 166 million households in India, giving it a reach that other companies lack. Similarly, drug manufacturer Ranbaxy Laboratories has partnered with local conglomerate ITC to access 40,000 Indian villages. Both HUL and ITC have partnerships with State Bank of India, which is keen to use their reach to target financial products at rural consumers.