Tuesday, July 24, 2012


FUTURE OF RURAL INDIAN CONSUMPTION

No, it is not about the statistics. There is no dearth of numbers when it comes to rural India. Internet is full of it.  In short, 1.2 billion people in 600,000 villages ready to consume modern goods, are an eye candy for every company looking at Indian market keenly. Though 70 % of total population lives in rural areas in India and primarily engaged in agriculture, ends-up contributing only 19% to India’s GDP. While the overall penetration of urban goodies like TV, refrigerator or a motor bike is still very low yet the rate of growth (more than 40% in certain categories YoY) is highly promising, compared to urban markets. Indian government has been focusing on rural India through several schemes in recent past through women’s education, national rural health mission, rural road schemes, employment guarantee schemes etc. We have started seeing stories of women sarpanch from the villages, corporate from municipal councils and parliament is also talking of women’s quota in the parliament. Television as a media, reaches 92% of the Indian population. Mobile phone is now reaching close to 62% of Indian population (in some states it is close to 80%). People in rural India see and hear the same things that urban India drools for. CSR activities from several corporate are reaching villages and doing two fold transformation a) of infrastructure b) of awareness. Migration to cities has not stopped and nor is it going to stop in the next decade. It will continue. But at the same time, reverse-migration i.e. educated urbanites settling down as a novice but organized farmers, is also a reality.

Change is visible. One can see a lot of rural women becoming aware vocal. Electricity and the fruits of electricity is becoming a key to a village’s overall growth. As the modernity is being pressure injected through television and other media, the rural India is on a cusp of tradition and modernity. Sociologists and marketers are raising a question whether the core Indian DNA will manifest at all in the future consumption or will it just get subdued in the poring goodies.  Will they turn all American in next few years? Will they clinch the fist and close themselves to the cultural onslaught? Will the women in rural India, become career-takers from care-takers? Agriculture will become more or an urban-organised culture? Will the migration ever stop? Focus on simple living and high-thinking ever manifest again as a core Indian way of living?


Onio has been working on some innovation projects targeted at rural India for the last few years. Through our socio-cultural research methods, we have been preparing our own map of what might evolve as the cultural code of rural India in next few years to come.

1.      Modernity, as we know MUST turn Indian:  A rural Indian will need a TV. But it may not necessarily mean a black glossy slab of glass. Black is inauspicious. Indian eyes are aligned to seeing saturated colours and ornate objects. While digital entertainment is a reality, SAMAGRA aesthetics and SADAIV features are the Indian take on the products.

2.      Role reversals for productivity:  Rural Indians migrate to urban areas for better job prospects. Urban consumer companies and high net-worth individuals are going back to villages to set the new trend of organized agriculture. Processed food industry is growing by leaps and bounds and there is a dearth of large scale land farming. Very soon, these role reversals will generate a huge new opportunity in several sectors.

3.      Predicatability Predicament: Modernity brings predictability. Patience and reliance on nature is set to become passé. Switch-on, switch-off culture is tearing the urban minds down. Rural folks will be no different in times to come. Role of modern education, which is highly sought after today, will fuel this.

4.      Retreat & hardening: Tolerance was one of the core Indian virtues, preserved through the years. We can see that dwindling in cities. Whole of rural population will refuse to turn to the blind lane of modernity. Barring a few essential consumption items, this set of consumers will create a hardened shell around them. Some of the recent happenings in Khap Panchayats of Haryana are a living proof of these. These groups of people may resist the modernity and changes through a cult of social oppression. Another evidence of this seen in Asians living in the west who desperately try to preserve their own culture and some time end-up being more conservative than their own countrymen.

 One of the sure outcome is that rural market will stop getting treated as an alien markets. We are not doing business with strange creatures. The core Indian DNA that runs through an urban consumer, will also define the behavior of a far-off rural consumer…with minor tweaks.