Living in Media Darkness
There’s no surprise in learning that over 70%, (roughly 670 million) of India’s teeming masses
live in rural areas. Of these, some 260 million live in almost complete media darkness, without
access to TV, radio, and beyond the reach of newspapers and magazines. Widespread illiteracy
allied with the multitude of languages and dialects puts the most of these people beyond the
reach of conventional media planning.
Yet the villagers are increasingly important as consumers. A survey by India’s National Centre
for Applied Economics and Research revealed double-digit rural growth rates in a cross section
of products ranging from scooters to confectionery between 1995 and 1999.
For companies such as Unilever, Nestle, Glaxo, Lucky Goldstar rural consumers are a huge
market opportunity. About 45% of soaps, 40% of teas and 60% of watches sold in rural India.
Now that penetration for many consumer products in urban areas is high, the rural markets are
growing in importance for both marketers and their agencies.
Ogilvy Outreach, O&M’s rural arm, started with one employee supported by the head of the
media division in 1994. Today it has a team of 1,000 supervisors plus another 5,000 people who
work on a project basis
According to D. K. Bose, Ogilvy Outreach’s president, selling in rural India is no longer
restricted to using mobile vans with television sets screening Hindi film songs interspersed with
messages about a product. New avenues include games (with the product being given as a prize),
door-to-door sales, folk dances, wall paintings, and even putting up shoe racks in temples,
putting tiles in village wells, plus occasionally painting the horns of cows, and putting up
Tapping the rural market calls for new insights into what helps consumers remember and
understand brand messages. Research carried out by Ogilvy Outreach discovere