Ujaya Shakya
Oct 15, 2014

Rural Nepal: The new promised land for marketers

The country is changing, and not only in economic terms.

Ujaya Shakya
Ujaya Shakya

Given the diversity of culture and lifestyle, as well as aspirational changes that are taking place across rural Nepal, the traditional definition of rural may be of little use to marketers in terms of studying consumer insights.

If you have not visited any rural juncture of Nepal in the last five years, then you will have little idea of the developments that are being discussed. The change is not just about economy or standard of living, it is also about the way rural Nepal is thinking, the way they are accepting trends that were once alien to them, and the sense of finding their own identity in this new setup. In fact, it is an interesting blend of traditional beliefs and modern practicalities that is governing the present rural Nepal.

As marketers, we mostly travel around in the cozy comfort of a luxury car and easily tend to miss the new changes and discrepancies in environment settings that flash by on both sides of the highway. Just by travelling a distance of about 15 to 20 kilometers away from the core Kathmandu city or any other major city across Nepal, towards a less prosperous belt, one can notice that a good investment is happening in the real estate sector to create better homes, not only indicating a rise in the aspiration levels to have high standard homes, but also reinforcing the fact that people can afford to fulfill those aspirations now.

Another significant development that generally goes unnoticed is roads that got constructed in these recent years across Nepal. One can see so many of them taking turns and stretching deep inside somewhere off the main highway. These ‘new roads’ allow a decent amount of economic activity to happen in places once considered too remote and non-viable. From the movement of vehicles of agriculture products, to the transfer of goods from towns to villages…the volume and scale of such activities are steadily increasing. Various signboards with direction towards villages on both sides of the main road suggest how deep the roads have gone, communicating the sign of physical connectivity. A telecom tower can be seen every time you slow down or stop anywhere on the highway, indicting how the invisible airwaves virtually connects with their sons and daughter working in some foreign land to bring prosperity and new trends in their village homes. Dish antennas over the shanty-like houses in a village assure that people there recognize both domestic and international celebrities and they are well-aware of what is happening in the political circuits in Kathmandu and even in international arenas.  

A peep at the stock of a kirana shop, typically known for a Grocery Shop in Nepal, in the village centers will depict the success of advertising slots purchase by big brands on popular television channels. You will find soaps, shampoos and detergents, noodles, chips and carbonated drinks, candies, toothpastes of brands not different from those available at the upscale Bhatbhateni Stores across Kathmandu. All big FMCG brands are all now available in these kirana shops in these villages. You will regularly see color television sets being carried in rickshaws and doko to their homes that used to be a rare scene only few years back. Motorbikes and other vehicles are now looking out to find owners in these villages to achieve their sales targets. The brand and price points may differ, but trends and aspiration levels seem to be merging across the length and breadth of the country.

In the context, several FMCG companies have been able to grab the maximum share of these new consuming rural Nepal due to their first mover’s advantage and are also credited with bringing about significant lifestyle changes in rural Nepal. Today, most people in villages are concerned about their oral hygiene and also washes their hands with soaps, it is because both companies and likewise NGOs working in these villages have make it a point to teach the rural populace about the benefits of the same. Similarly Ncell, a leading telecom operator in the country, is not far behind these FMCG brands as they been able to find their customers in the smallest of areas with high penetration of Chinese mobile handsets in the nearby feeder markets.

The new generations in these villages are living the development boom with international exposure brought about by their family member who has travel outside Nepal as migrant workers to bring prosperity to their family and also by international channels that are getting beamed in rural homes now. Because of which they are becoming more aware lot and live with great aspirations and are open and relatively rational about changes in life.

Ujaya Shakya is the managing director of Outreach Nepal. You can tweet him your comments at @shakyau or reach him at [email protected]


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