By Sanjay Kaul
The weltanschauung has changed for many around the world. It has somehow become uniform over the years. This shift has been prompted by telecommunications and technology-enabled augmentations in our surroundings, allowing us to live in a world that generally promotes familiarity. It won’t be wrong to say that, today we live in a global village, where advancements in mechanisms and communication interlink our ecosystem. The marketing biome, which accommodates within its brands, has also been exposed to these changes. They now have to find a way to reach the hinterlands for a holistic expansion.
The potential in the suburban areas
With 70% of the population living in the villages and 53.5% still looking to dwell in secluded areas by 2040, the market size is enormous. The good news for the companies looking to win the relay is that this contest is far from over, and there is still a lot of headway to be made. The size of the retail space and the fast growth of digitization within the remote areas would suggest that the race to the finish here is not a sprint but a marathon. The village markets are expanding by the hour, and many brands are looking to reach the most-wanted destination just in time. The saturation point is still far from sight, but the speed of the enterprises looking to win the hearts of the hinterland still needs to be steady.
The heart is where the home is. It won’t be wrong to call the hinterlands the home for several market giants going forward. Rural India accounts for approximately 55% of the manufacturing GDP. These agrarian areas have been the abode of nearly 75% of the new factories built over the last few years.
The see-saw between the towns and the villages seems to have shifted the balance and the scenario has fully transposed. The conquest of the countryside is a contest to the last mile. Adapting to the needs of the rural population with the use of resources and leveraging technology will help these brands gain mileage in this marathon.
Phygital is the preferred combination
Phygital, a new and modern term, is a fusion of the old and unconventional used to describe omnichannel marketing. E-commerce giants have a way with the urban crowd, and it is also catching up with the village dwellers. Even with 299 million internet users in rural areas and three-quarters of the suburban population owning a smartphone, the pure-play of digital is still a forethought. The digitisation of the secluded areas is still an ongoing process, and most of the users who are part of the digital dynasty in these areas are technological neophytes. A physical presence will always incite the confidence of a lot of people. With 87% of the conventional share, 10% of modern trade, and 3% of business through e-commerce portals, the predominance of traditional processes is evident. For at least the next decade, companies need to invest in the transitional journey from assisted commerce to total e-commerce.
Devise a plan to give direction to the digital destination
The utilisation of modern technologies like GIS mapping, past or historical retail data and the index of prosperity can be used to identify the opulent areas within the rural geographies. A strategic plan with the augmented technology capacity can be the best companion for many companies trying to increase their rural footprint. It would also ensure their logistics systems are fluid and adapt well to the chaotic regions that are enveloped within the rural landscape. Delivery can be made hassle-free by expending resources on warehousing at the micro-level. Keeping a check on the stock-keeping unit (SKU) of products in different pockets can help with convenient planning and stocking.
The digital literacy in urban areas compared to suburban areas is still a lot higher. Around 61% of city-dwellers boast the ability to operate well digitally. However, only 25% of the rural population can say that they can fluidly maneuver through the digital world. Customising technology to suit the masses in a suburban setup could be the way to go. An easy user interface and smart, bottom-up technology can simplify it and help them gain trust and brand loyalty. As many as 40 million smartphone users from small townships use voice input to interact with their devices rather than typing. Therefore, brands need to be more customised and focus on tech aspects to make their presence felt in the bucolic settings.
The great Stan Lee prophesied the quote, “with great powers come great responsibilities.” The giant corporations looking to enhance their rural footprint is a great power, and the onus is now upon them to derive the maximum leverage. The digital wave that has enveloped the rural areas will only act as the catalyst to this process. The suburban neighbourhoods are slowly becoming the new battleground for economic growth and brand success. The expanse is clear, and the opportunities are there to be capitalised upon.
(The author is founder and CEO, Xpand. Views expressed are personal.)