Rural India- Game for economy
Spread across 650,000 villages, with an average population of 1,100 rural villagers were longregarded by city dwellers as backward and impoverished and irrelevant, something to drive paston the way to something else. That is no longer the case. Rural India is now becoming a major market for India Inc. It is not to forget that India lives in its villages. That's because roughlythree-fourths of the country's population resides in the rural interiors of the country.According to a new report by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), rural Indiahas 3.3 million active internet users. The research - part of the ongoing I-Cube 2008 being jointlyundertaken by IMRB International and IAMAI - also notes there are 5.5 million people whoclaim to have used internet at some point. For the first time rural India was mapped. IAMAI president Subho Ray says that the penetration of internet in rural India is directly related to theactivities of the government and NGOs. India's 700 million villagers now account for a massive$100 billion a year consumer spending in the country. Millions step into consumerism each year,graduating from the economics of necessity to the economics of gratification, buying themselvesmotorcycles, televisions, mobile handsets and four-wheelers.The National Council of Applied Economic Research, or NCAER, has pared its demand forecastsfor automobiles, refrigerators and television (TV) sets for this fiscal year and the next, signallingthat a slowdown in demand for these products, which make up a quarter of India's manufacturingoutput, may drag on longer than foreseen by industry executives. NCAER is, however, bullish onuntapped potential in rural areas and believes demand in the countryside will continue to clock double-digit growth.Korean consumer electronics firms LG Electronics India and Samsung, two-wheeler maker HeroHonda, pharma products maker Nicholas Piramal, mobile services provider Bharti Airtel areamong a handful of well-established companies making a concerted push into rural India inrecent months to boost flagging sales. They are joining some notable segment leaders like BajajElectricals and Bajaj Auto that have had a strong presence in rural areas. Now, the largestconsumer electronics company in India by sales, LG, plans to focus heavily on rural marketsthrough channel expansion, set up a services network and roll out a slew of entry-level products. Earlier Airtel and Samsung tied up with IFFCO to sell their mobiles and services.IFFCO is the world's largest farmers co-operative of fertilizers.
The rural market holds tremendous potential for any media. However, for the internet to flourishin rural India, the applications need to be in vernacular languages, preferably with Text to Speechcapabilities. It would be better if visual symbols, graphics and rich media applications are used.The key question is, whether we have the right infrastructure to support these applications.