Excerpts from the Panel Discussion:
Mr. Pradeep Kumar,Executive Director at Mother India Farms
Mr. Pradeep Kumar, Executive Director at Mother India Farms began by talking about the highly fragmented sector of the FMCG sector and how 49% of the rural population can be tapped for growth. 50% of products are unbranded which gives companies immense opportunities to make a mark for themselves. Rising income, consumer aspiration and media proliferation have increased penetration in the rural segment, which are significant factors for building a company to consumer channel. He said that half of rural population can be reached now due to increased teledensity and with 542 million smartphone users in India more focus must be given to rural marketing. Mr. Pradeep Kumar then spoke about how technology has enabled firms to assess the stock levels at various junctures of a supply chain. He concluded by saying that the rural market is opinionated and price sensitive which requires marketing strategies like customized packing to target the rural market.
Mr. Mahesh Israni, Chief Marketing Officer, Parag Milk Foods
Mr. Mahesh Israni emphasized the importance of distribution and availability of products and services in any sector to maximize consumer satisfaction. He said that technology, for example, GPS, can play a major role in mapping and tracking distribution channels and customer base. He also commented on the shift of the service industry from the urban to the rural sector and how the massive growth in the urban areas have the potential to trickle down to rural areas as well. He also explored the possibility of technology to help improve efficiency and the optimization of customer-consumer communications.
Mr. Valluvan Vardharajan, Head Marketing-Fevikwik, Pidilite Industries Limited.
Mr. Vardharajan reflected on the time when the penetration of technology was very low in rural India. He said that there was only 10% penetration when it came to television reach in the rural areas, a decade ago. But now he says that there is over 90% penetration. The biggest challenge in rural India, according to him, is their lag in understanding technology. The want of the rural population to catch up and learn the changing trends has pushed them to cover this gap. Although there is still a gap in technical knowledge, their want to be at par with urban population and the want to access technology to have a comfortable lifestyle has increased the inertia. Mr. Vardharajan also said that the consumerism in the rural segment is becoming a lot like the urban population. He concluded by saying that a huge potential segment has opened up in the rural India waiting to be tapped.
Mr. Amit Shanbag, Sr. Area Sales Manager – Pune, Mondelez India Ltd
Mr. Amit Shanbag spoke about how the customer and his environment along with the market has changed. He said that in the last 25-30 years there has been a shift in the customers from the rural to the urban area due to migration. The environment has changed through technology with the initiatives in the development of road and rail. With the increased penetration of mobile phones, the customer is able to have access to media all the time with the help of radio. From a marketers perspective, today consumers have to be a approached through a segmented approach. He spoke further about how technology has upgraded the packaging of goods and storage conditions in the FMCG sector. This development has drastically improved the shelf life of products. Companies can now retain stocks for a longer period of time and can be sure that their product wouldn’t expire in the market. He also stated that technology has enabled us to produce lookalikes of big brands at a much lower cost but we cannot overlook the huge inflow of counterfeits to the market.