Marketing or journalism, rural India is the next destination

“Things are changing like never before,” said rural marketing expert Pradeep Lokhande.

“Today, urban markets are all about product upgradation,” the Rural Relations CEO explained, addressing students at Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication.  “But growth lies in the markets of rural India. And that’s why no company can choose to ignore the rural markets.”

There was a time, he said, when “video on wheels” represented the premier tool for reaching out to village consumers. As many would have seen in Bollywood movies, brand promoters would roll into town early in the day and start spreading word about an evening show. In the meantime, marketers would utilise time by distributing free samples wherever viable or holding demonstrations of electronic goods and other products. “This technique doesn’t really work now,” Lokhande said. “Most of the families own TV sets, which means they have access to movies, shows and advertisements too.”

Lokhande’s company is one of India’s largest rural-oriented organisations, with a presence in 11 states and ongoing work in more than 60,000 villages. Drawing upon his 19 years of engagement in village marketing and social engineering projects, he offered students five ways of reaching out to rural India for successful brand positioning and product visibility.

“One of the interesting aspects I have noticed,” he said, “is that the point of contact in villages is usually the secondary school children. They become the opinion leaders. Hence, it is advisable for marketers and journalists to reach out to these children at first.”

Apart from conventional techniques, such as outdoor advertising, wall paintings and POP (Point of purchase), Lokhande stressed the importance of bazaar days and fairs in rural India. “There are 25,000 fairs every year in this country,” he pointed out. “More than a crore attend these fairs. I think this is the best location or period to launch a product.”

Reporting for this article took place at “Opening the Indian mind,” a SIMClairvoyance seminar held Dec. 5, at SIMC. SIMClairvoyance is a forum where professionals share their experiences, insights and foresights with the students.

Pradeep Lokhande addresses the students as Dileep Padgaonkar, RK Laxman Chair Professor and Ramesh Menon, professor and renowned journalist look on. Picture Courtesy – Srikanth Prasad Nishtala