Call of the small towns and villages

D. Murali | Updated on October 12, 2011


In Hindi, ‘ aamne saamne' means face-to-face. To Ericsson, it is the name of a ‘video telephony service' using 3G that connects migrant workers to their families. “Ericsson converted the virtually dying PCOs into public video telephony booths. This way, the consumer paid only for the minutes used, while the actual investment was made by PCO (public call office) owners,” reads one of the many stories in Rural Marketing, second edition, by Pradeep Kashyap (

Among the range of 3G services, video telephony seems to have particular potential in developing markets such as India, feels Ericsson.

Shifts in small towns

A chapter on Marketing in Small Towns debunks the common perception that DTH (direct-to-home) is an urban or metro phenomenon. “Seventy per cent of subscribers reside in small towns and rural areas. It is towns with a population under one million that contribute to the two million DTH subscribers.”

The book also cites a 2009 study on Internet usage in India, which found that around 36 per cent of the Internet users in the country are from towns with a population of less than five lakh, such as Kolhapur, Thrissur and Panipat. Observes Kashyap that corporate India is taking a cue from these ‘awareness' shifts in consumer trends; he mentions, as examples, Fair & Lovely Woman's Emancipation, Colgate Scholarship, Hero Honda Career Programme, and ICICI Prudential Life Insurance's ‘ Pragati Ki Anokhi Paathashaala' programme.

Water purification

An instructive chapter is the one on Rural Services Marketing, which opens by narrating the story of water purification initiated by the Byrraju Foundation in Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan using community filtration plants. The facilities are operated and maintained by a local gram vikas samiti (GVS) or village development committee. “The GVS begins with a short marketing campaign, raising villagers' awareness of the benefits of clean water. Residents are then asked to contribute an amount equal to about three-quarters of the total cost of setting up the plant and installing the equipment.”

Informed farmers

Another service highlighted in the book is Reuters Market Light (RML), a personalised, professional mobile phone-based information resource for farmers, started in Maharashtra in April 2007, and reaching about half a million farmers. How do farmers benefit from the Krishi Vouchers (prepaid cards with a value of Rs 75 distributed by Idea Cellular, in partnership with RML)? Through SMS alerts in Marathi, English, and Hindi on achieving better yields and prices by leveraging weather and market information. There is information on produce arrivals, tips for the best practices based on stage of crop cycle, and agri-news updates on regional and crop-specific events. In, a customer quote reads thus: “I wanted to sell my maize produce when the market rate was Rs 800. RML SMS informed me about bird flu in West Bengal. Based on this I sold my produce immediately and made a profit of nearly Rs 30,000 (Ramchandra-Bhutekar, Maharashtra).”

Dheeraj Bhaik, a subscriber in Himachal Pradesh, recounts how when he was in the process of transporting his produce of about 1,000 boxes in two trucks to Delhi, he received an SMS through RML that the freight rate from Kotgarh to Delhi was Rs 41.07 per box. “I showed this message to the truck operator, who till then was citing a rate of Rs 44 per box … Freight rate information was critical as I transported 8-10 truckloads of apples this year.”

Rural malls

In the chapter on Distribution, the author extols the ‘model fair price shops' in Gujarat, begun in 2007. As on August 31, 2010, there were 13,437 such shops, says FP shopkeepers get commission of Rs 1,500 to Rs 3,000 every month, and the objectives of the model are to supplement the income of FP shops, to provide other consumer durables thereby making FPS more viable, and to mitigate diversion of PDS (public distribution system) items, the site avers.

Companies such as ITC, Hindustan Unilever, major oil companies, Videocon, and telephone service providers such as Tata and BSNL sell their products through these shops, the author finds. Both State-run and private banks are trying to position themselves in rural areas by making the ‘micro rural malls' a sale link for their financial products, he adds.

Published on October 12, 2011

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