"The debate about metros and non-metros in India is basically the tale of tussle between six Indian cities and the rest of the country," opined Nalin Sood, executive vice-president, foods, PepsiCo India. Sood was speaking on a panel titled 'Made for Unmetro' at the Dainik Bhaskar Unmetro conference in Gurgaon. The event was organised by afaqs!.
Moderating the panel discussion, Satyajit Sen, CEO, ZenithOptimedia opened with a question to the panellists, asking them to provide a sneak peek into their learnings that are common across these small markets.
Dhirendra Kumar, founder and chief executive, Value Research opined that markets are homogenous. "It is the people in those areas who are neglected and media is a big opinion leader in such markets," Kumar informed.
Nalin Sood observed that media preferences and consumption habits are very different in the Unmetros. "Doordarshan still reaches the 60 per cent of the Indian rural markets and it is huge there. Besides, media like radio and newspapers are still the prevalent ones in those areas," he added.
Delving on whether the uniqueness of these small town markets are an added challenge, Dhirendra Kumar further noted that especially in a metro, for a private financial brand, the biggest rival is the government. "People in small towns have very trustworthy post offices and a friendly public sector bank manager, who help them out in their savings and financial issues. Since financial products don't come with instant gratification, selling them in non-metros becomes a challenge," he revealed.
Elaborating on the uniqueness of such markets, Sood mentioned that in many cases, small towns differ a lot from metros. "Consumption habits in categories like food products differ a lot as people there have a different taste palette. However, when it comes to categories like technology, not much of a difference is observed. So it depends on the brand and the marketer on how they want to communicate their product, based on its category," he added.
It is important for a marketer not to lose touch with the insights of consumers from these markets, irrespective of where the marketer hails from. "Most marketers who originally hail from small towns tend to lose touch with their roots amidst the hustle of the bigger cities. This should not be the case with a marketer," opined Laveesh Bhandari, director, Indicus Analytics.
Pointing out how best to reach the audiences in smaller towns where the condition of electricity is abysmal, Sood stated that other kind of media like wall paintings are very relevant for audiences in such places.
"Besides, most Chinese handsets find their buyers in the rural parts of India. One great innovation I saw a few days back in a handset was that when a consumer puts the phone on, he is greeted with a brand message. That can be done in partnership with the handset manufacturer, who can embed a brand message with the phones they build. I felt that was a nice way to build a recall among the rural audience in the country," Sood cited.
Continuing on advertising that works best in these belts, Sood presented the diversity that lies in India's different rural markets. "In the South market, a marketer needs to run different versions of the same commercial in different languages, whereas for the northern market, one Hindi ad works for the entire Hindi-speaking belt," he said.
Presenting his views, Nirmallya Roy Chowdhury, founder and CEO, Radicle Strategy Group, stated that though brand essence doesn't and will not change from market to market, the way the message is communicated at times needs to be tweaked accordingly.
Laveesh Bhandari finished off the session by stating that gradually, as global identities become narrower, these towns will see more interest from brands and marketers and new ways to reach those audiences will emerge.