Posted by: alok | November 18, 2005

Who is the best marketeer…..?

Is it somebody who has a MBA in Marketing, read all books on Advertising, Branding, well versed with 5C-4P, market segmentation, conjoint analysis, 2-by-2 matrix? Or is it the likes of Kotler, C.K. Prahlad of ‘Bottom of the Pyramid’ fame, or the much adored professors of marketing in B-Schools?

In one of my lectures in rural marketing, the prof put this same question infront of a ‘well-versed and learned’ audience of prospective MBAs – aspiring to be brand manager of Hondas, leaders in FMCG marketings, HLL, P&G and few finance, strategy folks who thought rural marketing to be a timepass course…! None of us had the right answer, before the Prof. Mr. Harish Bijoor (erstwhile brand manager of Red Label’ and current CEO of Bijoor consulting) said its the rural people…!!!

How…think over it, the rural India is able to sell all of their produce (vegetables, cereals, milk, handicraft) in urban market, but even the most revered sales folks from the best B-Schools in the world will find it difficult to sell a can of coke or a bar of soap to the rural people.

Its really interesting to think it in in this way…. we urban folks crib about poor infrastructure as the problem for our inability to reach rural market, but the same infrastructure is used by farmers to establish their Supply Chain of their produce to urban market efficiently. A milkman delivers milk everyday in so-many urban homes, fresh vegetables are made available to the urban everyday, and the rustic-dhoti clad vegetable vendor have a thorough knowledge of his potential customers, consumers purchasing power, and all the fancy marketing funda, which can give the ‘A’ graders in B-Schools a shame. We need to learn few courses in SCM, ERP from these folks.

These thoughts were further reinforced today while talking to my brother Animesh, who is running his retail chain in ‘Chhipramau’ a small town (or village) in Kanpur. He shared his experiences of selling a Lux bar soap to rural customers.

The customer: “tum log thok mein 144 rupey mein 1 dozen sabun kharidtey ho to futkar mein 13 rupey mein kyon bechtey ho… 50 ps ka fayda tum log ke liye bahut hai”.
To this my bro. replies “arey dukan ka kharcha bhi to chalana hai, aur fir uper se thodra apna paisa nahi banyoonga to khayoonga kya”
the customer: “50 ps isiliye to de raha hoon”
Walks off the store either after buying the soap for 12.50 or not buying at all.

Second incident, A coke bottle which very easily sells for Rs 15 in urban market despite the MRP of Rs.11 – how does it sell in rural India:
Ani ofcourse knowing that he can’t sell it for 15, marks it at 11…
The customer: “Ye cold-drink 11 rupey mein kyon de rahey ho”
Ani: “Is par company ne 11 rupya likha hai isliye”
Customer: “likhney se kya hota hai… kal ko tum 15 likh dogey to kya ye 15 ka ho jayega” (All funda of MRP goes for a toss…!!!)
Ani: “10 rupey mein hamko milta hai, yahan bijli to hai nahi, isliye thanda karney mein barf ka hi 1-2 rupya chala jaata hai, hamein to 11 rupey mein bhi bechney ne nuksaan hi ho raha hai”
Customer then buys the coke at 11…!!!!

Moral of the story, you just can’t sell anything at anyprice to a rural person, he has to be convinced that the product really warrants the cost. ‘Time is a liesure item, and money is precious’, so they have ample time to bargain for hours and then leave the store without buying anything. Contrast it with urban where ‘Time is precious, money spent on day to day goods is a rounding error’.. or bargaining in posh super malls is not considered culture… but simultaneously bargaining is a hep thing if you are buying from road side vendors or small shops in Palika Bazaar….!!!!


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