While consumers are concerned, most are also positive about economic recovery once the situation normalises
In the last few years, there has been an internet revolution in rural India, with online being the most consumed media after television. With respect to online content consumption, music/audio (69%) leads the pack followed by news (49%) and gaming (33%), the second edition of the Rural Covid Barometer Report by Kantar and GroupM revealed. The research was conducted in 18 Indian states, across rural adults (over 18 years in age) with representation across gender, NCCS and age groups.
According to the report, usage of video/OTT apps are driven by YouTube at 87% (most in Rajasthan, AP/ Telangana, TN and Bihar) followed by Disney+ Hotstar at 30% (highest usage in UP, TN, Gujarat, Kerala). WhatsApp and Facebook are the most used social media/messenger platforms at 87% (most in Rajasthan, AP / Telangana, Karnataka) and 66% (most in Odisha, UP, Gujarat and West Bengal) usage respectively. Phone Pe is the most used digital payments app with 19% rural consumers having used these services in the last six months. Usage of Phone Pe is driven by Karnataka at 46% followed by Rajasthan at 38%.
The report also stated that rural India is highly concerned about Covid situation in second wave. Concerns are higher amongst females (91%) as compared to males (85%) and within the higher age bands (over 55 year old’s). These concerns are mostly driven by Covid’s impact on day-to-day life and functioning (most for 25-55 year old’s), fear of falling sick and overall need for financial planning. As a result, rural consumption and shopping patterns have witnessed a major shift.
However, while consumers are concerned, most are also positive about economic recovery once the situation normalises. Nearly three in four rural households have received some form of assistance via Government of India schemes, thus providing the much-needed financial cushion to consumers. With respect to retail channels, consumers prefer local village shops for purchasing groceries (56%), personal hygiene (49%) and cleaning (45%) products. Even big-ticket items like consumer electronics (50%) and durables (46%) are preferred to be bought at these local shops. Rural consumers are saving 25% of their income, the report added.
The pandemic has evolved the rural consumer’s decision-making process, Dalveer Singh, head of experiential marketing- APAC, GroupM Dialogue Factory said. “They are watching their spending and prioritising their buying patterns by the need of the hour. There is a positive acceptance of the vaccination. The upper and middle-class rural Indians are being more proactive in financial planning to deal with covid constraints, which make these markets a significant place to introduce investment and savings products. To sum up, there is a deep sense of uplift on the subject of India’s economic future,” Singh added.
As for the future, growth in the consumer durables and automotive (two-wheeler) sectors are likely to slowdown in the next six months. However, the smartphone category is expected to see fast growth in the near future. Construction sector is also expected to see a bounce-back with consumers expected to spend on building a house or undertake smaller construction work in the next six months.
For Puneet Avasthi, senior executive director, insights division, Kantar, with a highly concerned rural consumer, rural India is planning finances better and inclined towards a savings mindset. “This offers a significant headroom for growth to savings and investment products such as insurance and even mutual funds. Additionally, we are witnessing a significant rise in digital payments as an important mode of transaction, this offers a robust platform for rural financial inclusion, as also for suitable hyperlocal promotions. With the change in consumption priorities in favor of health and hygiene products (a trend that has held since the first wave), FMCG marketers should leverage this trend for planning their innovation pipeline,” he stated.