The Indian rural consumer; Different or not so different?

'The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same'.

It gets my goat listening to people characterise the Indian rural consumer as the thoughtful, careful, analytical kind of person. Its almost as if his urban counterpart is the dunce, thoughtless, careless and stupid!

Anisha Motwani joins the list of people advocating a different approach while dealing with the Indian rural consumer. She states, 'Till recently, a large part of marketing was done targeting the urban consumer, and with most marketers having no prior exposure to the rural audience, they are applying the same rules to connect with this completely different segment. The mistake that most companies make while chalking their rural strategies is to treat the rural consumer as an extension of their urban counterpart.'

So, is the rural consumer radically different, the way they make him out to be?

Yes & No!

Yes, different to the same extent that I am different from my colleague sitting in his office adjacent to mine. No, to the extent that we share aspirations about ourselves and our families that are predictably similar.

Now, therein lies the real learning. Sure the rural consumer is different. But as much as he differs, there are issues that resonate with him just as it would, with any urban consumer.

Lets take a look at some of the points Anisha Motwani cautions marketers about. According to her, Marketers ought to 'not just sell dreams, but also tell them how to live their dreams'. Wonder if any urban consumer would have an objection to that. Again, Rural consumers seek, 'Not just economic but emotional security'. She goes on to state, 'Selling a product to them is not a cold commercial transaction (but) an agreement of trust between the marketer and the consumer. And companies that live up to the trust that this consumer places in them will benefit immensely in the long run.' I wonder which urban consumer is the cold fish?

Again, she states, for rural consumers, 'Their children are like stocks in a portfolio'. Well, show me an urban consumer not fixated on his kid.

Sure, I agree that the exposure levels of rural consumers vis a vis the urban consumer does to a certain extent bring in differences. But tell you what, consumption desires are universal. And they are manifest in manners that are universally similar. Cultural differences only require the marketer to modify products and services (read the 4 Ps) at times while retaining the original at other times.

What's important, is to know when to paint consumers, wherever they are, with the same brush and when not to.

Comments

Mitali said…
Indian rural consumer vs urban consumer? Are people really that different across the globe? Perhaps when it comes to habits, some sensibilities and perceptions that have been formed on the basis of their immediate environment...but has Man really evolved? With his needs, expectations...aspirations.. It's interesting to read a perspective that tries to prove that people are different. Indian vs American, rural vs urban.. But is the alpha male really that different from the metrosexual / retrosexual man? Ofcourse the realisation (among other things) that maybe a hairless chest is more appealing to women now..:) Is the rural sachet story in India really that different from the mammoth line in US during a Christmas sale? I am intrigued by the evolution in mankind...and trying to understand where the next level has taken us or will take us..anyway it's always good to observe the change..if there are any..:)
Prof.Ray Titus said…
My take ?

As I mentioned...'The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same'. ;)
DiScOvErInG... said…
But i still do think that rural consumers and their approach to shopping is different from us...their preferences, likes and dislikes are different...Here, of course sir has very aptly bridged the gap and i agree to that, but if i see my maid servant and the way she reacts to certain products and the points she scales her likes and dislikes are different from mine...so i still think, that rural consumers need to be targeted in a lil different manner..
Prof.Ray Titus said…
Niyati,

Your maid exhibits her preference for products and services within the the confines of what she can afford...but deep down her aspirations for her family and kids may just be the same as any mother anywhere...

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