Rural women – how strong is their ‘spending say’?

07 Mar,2012

By Ritu Midha


The rural marketplace has long been touted as Destination Next for marketers. FMCG and mobile marketers along with a few evolved consumer durable ones have made inroads there. Considering that seven out of every 10 consumers reside in rural India, it comes as no surprise.


As per the Nielsen estimates the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) market in rural India will hit $100 billion by 2025. As per Nielsen Consumer 360 India 2011, premiumization, commoditization, indulgence and brand acceptance levels would be the most important components of sales growth.


Another study undertaken by ASSOCHAM on “Rise of Consumer Durables in Rural India states that the consumer durable market in rural India will witness an annual growth of 40 per cent in 2011 -12 due to higher disposable income of the rural India that has brought in lifestyle changes.


But unlike urban India, where women are involved in purchase decisions in most of the product categories – women’s involvement in most purchase decisions was missing till lately. Divya Radhakrishnan, Managing Director, Helios Media, explains, “The rural woman unfortunately does not get involved in the purchase decision of even FMCGs. In the first place, rural India is a lesser consumer of branded products – loose/unbranded products work even in essential segments like salt, tea etc. The incidence of the woman going out to the mandi is limited, and hence it’s generally the male who takes purchase decisions.


However, as per the Nielsen study, “Reaching rural Indian consumers today is becoming easier. Increasingly, rural consumers are upgrading technology – 84 percent have a television and 80 percent own a mobile phone.” With a television and mobile phone at their disposal their exposure to Urban India is increasing, and so is women’s involvement in purchase decisions.


Anita Kotwani, Principal Partner, Client Leadership, Mindshare opines, “Women in these markets do make purchase decisions specially for FMCG brands. The strength of rural marketing lies in the 4A approach: of Affordability, Acceptability, availability and awareness and there is effort by marketers to ensure that they have the pricing strategies in place for such markets.”


Opinion leaders have a huge impact on rural women’s purchase decisions, and smart marketers are taking note of it, and using them as influencers. States Shubha George, COO, MEC, South Asia, “Key influencers play an important role in connecting with the rural woman. By key influencers I mean trustworthy people from their environment such as a lady teacher or a social activist. These influencers are catalysts in permanent change in attitudes and behaviour. Touchpoints such as the local NGO or the health centre are significant in reaching out to rural women. Local activation is an important supplement, especially in the pockets where mass media is still limited.”


Activation is key to reach rural women. And it has been noticed that activation by women’s groups is more effective. Microfinance and children’s education/ opportunities are two other major concerns and brands might gain by associating with these.


No discussion on rural women can be complete without a mention of Shakti, HUL’s rural women empowerment project. States Anita Kotwani, “HUL’s Project Shakti is unleashing the potential of rural India. It is ushering in prosperity and more importantly self-respect. It is an Entrepreneurial Programmer that helps women in rural India set up small businesses as direct to consumer retailers. There is a definite need for such projects as they are all in the space of empowerment and making individuals self-dependent and confident of taking care of themselves.”


In another direction, Nielsen Consumer 360 India presents a very interesting insight based on the spending habits of two rural Indian families for a three-week duration in which income increased each week. The study indicated that as spending increased three-fold, the housewife took on a greater role in the process.


Going by the study, as the per capita income grows in rural areas, there is a fair chance of rural woman’s involvement increasing in purchase decisions. Perhaps it would pay off if marketers increasingly include women’s engagement in their rural marketing strategies.



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