I happened to be reading a book on Rural India a few days back and an interesting point was raised by one of the authors with respect to a consumer dichotomy that exists between urban India and Rural India. One needs to keep in mind that consumers in rural India are extremely different with respect to their tastes, preferences etc. when compared to Urban consumers. The author mentioned SEC, Occupation, Community, Environment, and Mobility as certain differentiating factors. Here is a list that i tried to develop using various insights, which i think shows clearly an Urban Rural Dichotomy:
- Urban: Manufacturing and Service
- Rural: Cultivators, agricultural based
2) Size of Community
- Urban: Larger than rural communities, engaged in a variety of communities – schools, colleges, colonies, social, clubs, and internet. Thus one can see that the urban consumer is bombarded with messages and are relatively more open-minded. There is also a high population density.
- Rural: Open farms, relatively smaller and fewer communities with a low population density.
3) Homogeneity of Population
- Urban: More heterogeneous due to a cultivation of varied personalities.
- Rural: More homogenous on radial and psychological traits.
4) SEC differentiation
- Urban: Higher
- Rural: Lower, fewer instances of income inequalities.
- Urban: Extremely easy, connection to National as well as International destinations. The telecom revolution has ensured that people can travel without moving.
- Rural: May be restricted for occupational purposes, mostly territorial.
a) Social: More numerous interpersonal interactions; less frequent.
b) Economic: Monthly income
c) Marketing: High brand exposure and retail outlets
a) Social: Less numerous interpersonal interactions; more frequent with the same people; (a valuable insight)
b) Economic: Seasonal income
c) Marketing: Low product and ad exposure
I think the major insights that stand out are the fact that Rural Populations are similar on Radial and Psychological Traits as opposed to urban populations who are more culturally heterogeneous. So i think that affects content on social networks to a large extent. Consider your Orkut or Facebook. There is so much culturally heterogenous content on social networks and that pulls the user to the website – there is so much more to see, and its so different. Its almost escapist in one sense.
Because Rural Communities are homogenous on radial and psychological traits, i don’t think there will be too much diversity within social networks.
Now one may say that there are potentially 6 lakh individual rural communities and thus there is bound to be cultural heterogeneity. Well that may be possible but i do not think it will reflect in the initial stages primarily because if you look at the Geography factor, rural populations so far have restricted territorial mobility. So in their minds, something beyond their territory ceases to exist (or atleast it’s something that cannot be perceived, and communicated with everyday) . Thus i think it will take probably a generation for our rural brothers and sisters to break those mental barriers.
If one looks at community structures too, i find the fact that there are less numerous interpersonal interactions but more frequent interactions with the same people pretty interesting. This indicates that a twitter or pownce kind of platform will not be too successful initially. A network that allows quality and deep interactions with a core group will probably succeed. Micro Social networks especially within a large social network will be the order of the day.
I still can’t forsee a scenario anytime in the near future where rural populations will travel without moving i.e. mingle with those other 5 lakh odd communities all around India. Even urban populations have really not succeeded in communicating with audiences from other cities too well. Think about it – if you are in Delhi, what % of your friends are from Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai, Calcutta etc.? Very few i would imagine. And most of those who are in other cities would have probably lived in your home city for a while.
How will this play out for marketeers if a significant population of our rural population comes online? I think the key for marketeers will be to tap into individual communities. A marketeer will need to be a part of those ‘frequent interpersonal conversations between a few people’. So they need to become a topic of conversations within communities just like they do today. They need to find drivers of conversations, incentivize them, and ensure quality conversations. I think social marketing for rural communities will be even more important than it is for urban based communities. (Will that mean more business for WATConsult, our sister concern?:p)
To Give you an Idea of these ‘Communities’ that i am Talking about, heres an overview of India’s GeoGraphy and her Villages:
India has a total of 5, 76, 000 Villages.
90% of these villages have a population which is less than 2, 000 people. Thus we are dealing with extremely fragmented markets where the population density is extremely low. This is vastly different from the urban markets where population density is high and distribution is standardized.
1, 50, 000 villages have a population of 500 or less inhabitants.
3, 16, 800 villages are in the range of 500 – 1000 inhabitants
6, 300 villages are in the range of 5, 000 or more inhabitants.
1,02, 900 villages are in the range of 5, 000 or less people but more than 1, 000
Just look at the numbers – they remind me of the online communities that currently exist especially in terms of the distribution of population per ‘kind’ of community and the size of each community.
So how can a brand or a variety of brands become topics of conversations in all these fragmented communities? And how can brands bring together a few communities?
All these things are pretty interesting and will shape up our social fabric but that won’t happen unless Broadband penetration skyrockets across our country. Maybe im looking too far ahead but i do see rural populations online (maybe when i am an old man) and at that point of time i think we will see the rules of Online Marketing being rewritten.