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Tech bridges India's urban-rural divide

News, 19 December 2014

MUMBAI: Marketers often talk about a divide between rural and urban India, but a leading industry figure has argued that this is a myth and that the play between traditional and progressive mindsets is more significant.

As part of Warc's New perspectives on Indian youth series, Narayan Devanathan, executive vice president and national planning director at Dentsu India Group, drew on his own experiences of travelling around the country to suggest that young people everywhere have rapidly adopted the modern trappings of mobile technology, rendering their actual location increasingly irrelevant to marketers.

"India can no longer be suitably studied by demarcating geographic lines," he declares. The old idea of segmenting youth markets along regional and linguistic lines is no longer particularly relevant in the new digital age.

"More relevant," says Devanathan, "is the play between traditional and progressive mindsets."

And where the rural-urban framework sets up two separate groups for marketers to address, his assessment can be applied to a single person. The mindsets he identifies "are merely characteristics displayed in specific types of behaviour, depending on need and circumstance, most of the time in the same individual".

So, for example, a Jodhpur student can combine "the proud badge of progressiveness in owning and flashing a Blackcherry alongside devouring rajma chawal at the only fast food joint in town".

Devanathan highlights three further factors he regards as significant in addressing India's youth, all of which are being driven by digital and mobile technology.

Internet access is creating a wave of aspiration and fuelling choice as an expectation – "It's why small town India shops in a big way for international fashion brands online" – with e-consumption quickly becoming the preferred mode. Taken together, these are making geography immaterial, or at least, unintimidating.

"Brands and companies would be smarter if they delivered ways for youth to balance the traditional and the progressive, to harness aspiration, to enjoy choice, and enable e-consumption in a world run increasingly by the Internet of Everything," Devanathan concludes.

Data sourced from Warc