Many of the conventions of rural marketing in India are well past their expiry date, according to two agency strategy executives, who argue that that it’s time to retire these and connect more richly with the emerging rural Indian consumer.

Writing exclusively for WARC, Bianca Joseph and Krishnan Subramanian, respectively strategy executive and chief strategy officer at TBWA India, note that rural India is at the cusp of disruptive social and cultural change.

“There has been a dramatic rise in education, empowerment and relative affluence of these consumers,” they observe.

“In turn, this is making them more demanding, more fickle and more ‘rurban’ (rural-urban) in their outlook.” (For more details, read the full article: Rewriting the sacred tenets of rural marketing in India.)

The “foundational mistake,” they believe, lies in preconceived biases about rural India. “We continue to paint all rural consumers with a rather thick brush.”

Thus, there’s a widespread notion that the aspirations of rural consumers are somehow inferior to that of urban consumers and that they have less access to information sources.

“Nothing could be farther than the truth,” the authors state. The literacy rate of rural India, for example, is fast catching up with that of urban areas (71% vs 86%), while there is no significant difference in their physical access to schooling.

And this in turn has an impact on another stereotype – that of the male provider as the decision-maker of the household.

“This may be true of many regressive households and communities across both rural and urban India,” Joseph and Subramanian acknowledge, “but they are under pressure from educated and empowered women.”

As female children become more educated and aware, they say, there is a shift in decision making towards “decision-sharing” as rural women become an equal in family decision making.

And this development is being fuelled by brand initiatives that aim to empower rural women financially. HUL’s Project Shakti, for example, has trained thousands of village women to develop an entrepreneurial mindset and resulted in over a hundred thousand micro-entrepreneurs across 18 Indian states.

Such initiatives boost the confidence of rural women and have a lasting impact. “It is high time for rural marketing to go beyond male stereotypes and include women as potential decision-makers,” the authors assert.

Bianca Joseph and Krishnan Subramanian’s article is part of a Spotlight series on rural marketing in India. Read more.

Sourced from WARC