Rural vs. bottom of the pyramid

Harish Bijoor has written from the heart in this piece called "Creating brand strategies for rural India" where he says, most insightfully,

The case I present in this piece
therefore, is a case that seeks to preserve the sanctity of rural India
and discover commerce and sense in it all! A plea to really stop this
one-sided movement that seeks to make the rural man a consumptive
animal of cornflake and dog biscuit alike!

Create brands keeping in mind rural imperatives then. Here goes the ideal rural brand map. My ultimate want as a marketing man.

1. Reverse-engineered brands: Rural markets are different
than the urban. Understanding is the key point. Reverse-engineer the
brand quite unlike what we have done in the past. Go to the rural
market and find out its wants, needs, aspirations, dreams and
expectations. Go and meet up with a million villagers and create the
product that is relevant to their needs. Stop depending on research
numbers that run in the hundreds and a few thousands at the best! Ask
the rural man what he wants. Engineer the product and the brand appeal
and get back to him for a ratification. This time round as well, go
back to the million hearts you reached out the first time to. Show it
to him. Get it ratified. Insulate it all from the urban paradigm you
have operated thus far within.

If
you’re at all interested in developing brand strategies for rural or
bottom of the pyramid segments, those which have been overlooked and
under studied from the marketing point of view then I urge you to read
the rest of Bijoor’s article. He makes a valid point that underscore’s
CK Prahalad’s constant reminders that the bottom of the pyramid person
should not be considered a "victim" but given respect as a "consumer"
of goods and services.  He ends with a heartfelt plea,

6. The price and promotion mechanics:
The rural consumer has been through the throes of the games the urban
marketer has played in terms of price and promotion. The rural dweller
is tired really of collecting those inane sets of combs and tumblers
and calendars alike.

The rural consumer needs to be approached with a savvy sense of
understanding his needs. Is it value that he seeks? If so what kind of
value? Is it a value dictated by price? By quality? By quantity? Or by
appeal? Functional or Emotional?

Creating brands for rural India is a science that will require many
ardent students who are willing to participate in this great big task
of doing the different thing altogether in branding. It will require
quite a bit of swimming against the tide of all that we have done in
marketing in the past.

It will require decimating many a myth. It will demand many years
of hard work, something the urban marketer will find daunting. The
rural market for brands is a powder keg of an opportunity waiting to be
explored…not exploited! The traditional means of taking the urban
brand and its appeal into the rural heartland will only destroy the
fragile rural mind and milieu.

I really hope the harm has not already been done! If it has, I rest
my case…a defeated soul in search of the ideal rural market!

But the really key thing that is often confused is that the rural market is not equivalent to the bottom of the pyramid and vice versa. While in terms of rupee value the average rural resident might be ‘poorer’ than his urban cousin, it is not a given that he or she may not have disposable income to spare. On the other hand, it is the unskilled worker in the city who is often the true exemplar of poverty, living on a pavement on $2 a day.

And Bijoor’s article clearly underscores the need for an indepth understanding of the rural customers and their aspirations before creating or implementing a national marketing strategy.

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One Response to Rural vs. bottom of the pyramid

  1. nikhil says:

    hey there…liked ur article.
    m doing my research dissertation in rural marketing and media, and I completely agree with u. rural markets are still misjudged and companies and their personnel are still worried about selling their soaps in the market immediately rather than creating a relationship marketing base with them for a better future.equiping them with some stupid brands wont make them satisfied and it wont serve their purpose too!

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