And so when he asked me what my future plans were . I had to give him the truth . I told him though i am in the advertising field I would like to explore opportunities in Rural or Health care marketing . I also told him that 5-10 years down the lane I would like to specialize in marketing/branding for rural areas and start a non-profit company.I am very passionate about using the tools and knowledge of marketing and integrated PR in Health care/fitness Industry or Rural Marketing.
He gave me that OK-i-don't-get-your-stupid idea look with a you-aint-gonna-go anywhere with that kinda nod and changed the topic. But not before it got me thinking about , " why not rural India ?" .
Have you guys read the phenomenal book " Fortune At the Bottom Of The Pyramid" by C.K Prahalad (Alumnus of Loyola College , IIM-A and Harvard)? If you haven't yet .. then run to your library or better still buy yourself a copy of the book read it . Now is the right time to read the book. As global recession is going south bound and no one has a clue to what to do next .. here is the book which will give answers to the big MNC 's .. and entrepreneurs alike .
(This is not a book review. As a personal principle , I don't write write reviews. I recommend books to my friends but i never give them or at least try not to unless asked, a review of the books I read. Who am i to take a judgment call on another man's work ?)
Getting back to the crux of the post and in conjunction to blog title , I think multinational companies in India and abroad should start looking at reaching out to rural cities/villages to stay afloat during recession. Or prevent another recession
Most SME's and MNC's ignore rural areas because they believe that people in such cities/villages have no buying power. They are considered poor by most global standards. But, that is exactly why we need to see them in a completely different perspective . C.K Prahald challenges the myth that considers poor people as poor when they are not . He quotes the work of Hernando De Soto's book "The Mystery of Capital" which postulates that poor countries ; people from rural areas are not really that poor. They are often asset-rich and capital -poor. To quote from the book , " Assets cannot become capital unless the country guarantees a rule of law- primarily the law of contracts - whereby the ownership of assets is clear..... For example, he ( Mr Hernando Soto) estimated that the trapped resources of Mexico are about $ 300 Billion" .
That is a phenomenal number! Imagine what potential can India have when 80% of India's population in the Bottom of The Pyramid (BOP) slab will be able to quantify ? This 80% currently accounts for 67% of the current consumption. Aint that an awesome information to behold ? India is quite simply and easily one of THE richest nations in the world and all that potential waiting to be tapped and unearthed. We should be doing that now!
The Big Idea ? If MNC's and SME's ( Small and Medium Enterprises ) can come up with innovative, cost effective and customized products for the rural markets we would unleash a massive wave of marketing and innovation revolution in India. This would also force goverment to work with private companies to set up better infrastructure, proper health care and free education.
Here are my thoughts on a macro scale where we can make some mega changes in this sector :
Not just 4 metros : Metros are so termed because of the huge population and infrastructure growth. I suggest the state govt with the center remove the metros tag altogether. metros means metropolis. Taking TN as an example, let there me more metros in TN alone. Identify and improve those cities . say - Trichi, Coimbatore, Erode..etc .This idea can also be reflected in other states ..
Infrastructure : Have you been noticing that the number of cars in Chennai increasing and really pissing you off ? Ever wondered why ?The answer is obvious, the middle class are getting prosperous and buying new/more cars. But why only chennai ( and other metro cities across the country) city alone? Because every year, of the lacs of engineers,diploma holders who pass out of universities come to cities like Chennai to work. Because MNC 's are well entrenched in metros. Simply put - they seek out better job opportunities and enhanced standard of living. Why not give these Young Turks opportunities in their home cities? Why not prevent them from migrating to the cities? Instead provide opportunities in their native places.
Young Turks : Have better local knowledge: These Young Turks ( as i would like to call them) can be better exploited or rather groomed by companies as they will have better working knowledge of the people in their area. Give them proper training and they will reward you with a better perspective on marketing, product development and sales, much better than IIM grads. And hey, you don't have to pay top dollars for these turks . Pay them not with just good salaries but show them how they are contributing to their society through the company and you would even reduce attrition rates. Make them not - sales executive and stop their career growth. Give them titles like - Sales Manager or Marketing Manager of the area.. This will usher in sense of ownership as well. Unlike high funda grads these guys are more loyal to companies than most.
Streamline these grads - take care of them : Assign a experienced mentor and segregate these grads to become experts in Rural Management,Micro Finance, market research,rural marketing etc , step up teams and send them out to the field to visit the villages . Make the job profile exiting. A team can consist of 1 rural management expert- he will evaluate and micro manage, 2 market research experts- 2nos because this involves number crunching , 1 micro finance guy - who will identify how and how much loan to provide and 1 marketing expert - he will conduct survey and collect customer info and come up with ideas on marketing. The marketing guy with the rural management guy can work on business development and sales. 5 in a team for one area/district, as necessary. 20-50 teams can be supervised by a General Manager . 10 General Managers can come under one Head . 5 Heads will report to Vice -President Operations of that Area - say South Market .. etc ..
And when they are out in the field- in villages and rural cities for days - give them the sense of security that their families are taken care of when they are not around. You will see ever lasting commitments to the parent company from these guys. Indians from rural cities give more value to relationships and sentiments than money and luxury.
Teach them to be innovative : Pick the latest copy of Businesswold. You will read the cover article about "The Real Nation builders". They are not from IIM's or IIT's . what i am trying to convey here is if you can teach grads from rural areas to be innovative they will bring in results. They will give you great ideas . The MNC only has to identify the right idea , ideate on it , strategize and implement them. There you may need the IIM and XLRI graduated guys with Mckensiey background to do the work.
Use technology : The best software is not good enough if it cant deliver. India is already a tech/software giant. Software companies can then join hands with services companies and launch customized products in rural areas and benefit from that .
You don't have to depend too much on global money when it is right there to be taken from our backyard.
Rural India is a gold mine waiting to be tapped. MNC companies wont just rake in profits but also built a nation in its truest form. All they need to do is understand customer demographic profile clearly and launch products according to them.
Welcome your thoughts and ideas on this .. If you like what you read here.. spread the word around and would love discuss more of the same- here in my blog.
Further reading from Economic Times :Rural spend,housing to rescue growth