Every visit to the rural vicinities across Nepal today presents a new sign of change, a call to marketers that they will have to re-strategize their promotion plan. But there is no specific formula to plan marketing campaigns for these rural folks, no specific statistics that may allow us to generalize our plans and no guarantee that the learnings from a previously successful campaign will help us to repeat the same success again and again. A very successful rural campaign of the past may not work well the next time around because of the changing context that are taking place in rural Nepal today.
In fact, it is only a deep understanding of the complex characteristics that make up the people and the markets in these rural Nepal that will help brand marketers in finding their niche and do business with them.
And of course, there isn’t anything unique or different about marketing to these rural Nepalese populations. We are to apply almost the same techniques, use almost the same forms and expect results the same way as we have been doing for their counterparts in urban areas. All that we need to understand is the changing context of rural Nepal. We need to understand and create, understand and reach, understand and connect, understand and build faith. These “understandings” will automatically help us to sell to the rural folks. Yet, it is very important to be consistent in all our communications with them.
Looking at the standards of living indicated by government census data, the houses that villagers live in are dramatically changing in the hinterland, from almost temporary or unstable houses to more permanent houses with uses of bricks and cement. Farming is no longer a non-performing sector in the region. Farming is steadily emerging as a promising income generator not only for rural Nepalese but also some educated urban dwellers who want to get into organic farming ventures utilizing the agricultural land in these rural centers. Even the government today is seriously looking toward uplifting the standards of farming in Nepal, with every passing country budget announcement. The agricultural sector has been empowered with new incentives in irrigation, rainwater harvesting and other areas.
The increasing prices of agricultural products in the marketplace have increased profitability for rural families, which has consequently increased their disposable household income and attracted the corporate sector to focus toward marketing its products in rural Nepal. Quality farm produce without the use of chemical fertilizers and harmful pesticides are in great demand among urban consumers, and this is commanding premium pricing, which has come as a blessing for the farming community across Nepal.
The basis of the steady increase and shift in consumption patterns is escalating incomes due to growing economic activity, which is not directly related to agriculture alone. Employment in the form of foreign employment opportunities is contributing as a topmost foreign-currency earner for the country, and other earning opportunities are knocking at the doors of villages that were once considered remote and backward until they got connected—physically through roads and virtually through television channels and mobile phones—to urban centers. The rural non-agricultural sector has, in fact, emerged as a significant employer of the skilled or semi-skilled workforce, which includes trading, retailing, repairing, construction, transport and other services in these villages or semi-urban towns in their vicinities.
The paradigm shift that has taken place has refocused rural marketing practices to become a part of mainstream marketing and a requirement for brand marketers to succeed. Today’s brand marketers are expected to chart out the roadmap for penetrating rural Nepal, and the priority is to connect, gain trust, and be friends with the rural population. Stage two is, of course, the execution of a marketing plan that is sustainable enough to generate a return on investment and ensure future earnings from the changing dynamic of rural Nepal.
Ujaya Shakya is the managing director of Outreach Nepal and also serves as vice-president of the Advertising Association of Nepal (AAN). You can tweet him your comments at @shakyau or reach him at [email protected].