Imapct factor(SJIF): 6.56
Self Help Groups as a Channel of Distribution: Paradigm in Rural Marketing
CMA Dr.(Mrs) Meenu Maheshwari
Asst. Professor & Former Head
Department Of Commerce And Management
University Of Kota, Kota
University of Kota, Kota
& Assistant Prof (commerce)
Aggarwal College, Ballabgarh
Dr. Ashok Kumar Gupta
Senior Lecturer, Commerce
Govt. Commerce College, Kota
A majority Indian population lives in Rural areas most of which are uniquely characterised by no access, no electricity, no ICT yet world’s biggest emerging market. Hence tapping this huge BOP population through the conventional system is a big challenge that requires a highly customized penetration strategy. Many good products with affordable price tags and very convincing promotional efforts plunge into failure just because of poor supply chain or distribution network or escalating inventory costs. So the distribution network must be tailored to meet the needs of the business and its customers and present paper is an attempt in this direction. The first part of the paper will discuss the problems of Rural marketing in general. This emerging market has a gigantic size and has unique problems of its own. So a marketer needs to focus on a (well defined and suitable to the rural customer) distribution strategy in order to tap the rural market’s potential. One such initiative has been taken by HUL in the name of “Project Shakti” wherein the rural market has been reached through women Self Help Groups. Companies can cultivate the power of these community organizations to increase sales in rural emerging markets. The paper will also highlight the progress of SHGs in Mewat District of Haryana and the potential of Distribution through Self Help Groups in this area as well as other areas having the same credentials. This area has a vast potential as having a very high women population and the ones who are very confident and can communicate effectively which is a prerequisite for an effective channel member partner.
Keywords: SHG, BOP, Women Emancipation, Community Organizations
As per National Council of Applied Economic Research, rural market accounts for 55 per cent of LIC policies, of the 2 Billion BSNL Mobile Connections 50% are in small towns\Villages, of the 6 lakh villages 5.22lakh have a village Public Telephone (VPT), 42 million rural Households are availing Banking services in comparison to 27 million Urban Households, 70 per cent of toilet soap consumption, and 50 per cent of TV, fans, bicycles, tea and wrist watch consumption, Investment in formal savings instruments 6.6 million Households in rural and 6.7 million in Urban India. So as a target market, it is attractive not only because of the size, but also because of impressive growth potential.
Rural GDP has been witnessing strong growth in the last four years (average of 4 per cent) not only on the back of increase in minimum support prices for the agricultural products but also due to availability of alternative employment opportunities.
Source: Ministry of Communications & Information Technology, India
From the above demographic information one can explore the huge potential of Indian rural market. Just like any other market this market is also loaded with its unique features which can be either cultivated as opportunities or may be tackled as threats or challenges. Some of them are as follows:
The Indian rural market is growing at a rate of 3.4% p.a. According to a study by the Chennai based Francis Kanoi Marketing Planning Services estimated the annual size of the market is as under.
Source: Survey by Francis Kanoi Marketing Planning Services
India’s rural market offers a sea of an opportunity for the retail sector as well. The Urban – Rural split in consumer spending stands at 9:11 with rural India accounting 55% of private retail consumption. Currently the Indian Retail Market is estimated at Rs. 123000 crores and almost half of this growing retail Applied Economic Research) reports, rural India is home to 720 million consumers across 6,38,365 villages. 17% of these villages account for 50% of the rural population as well as 60% of rural wealth. This implies that reaching out to just 100000 plus villages will ensure access to most of the rural opportunity. The Urban Market undoubtedly continues to grow but with most of the retail initiatives concentrated in the metropolitan and Tier-1 and Tier 2 cities, these markets are fast getting saturated. Realizing this, most of the big retail companies have started targeting the Tier 3 cities and the rural towns to spur their growth “ The Bottom of the Pyramid”
Keeping in mind the huge size and growth potential of Indian rural markets it is imperative to know the peculiarities of it and designing strategies accordingly because as a matter of fact delivering products and services in rural and agrarian economies poses challenges if it provides enormous opportunities at the same time. In rural markets population is widely scattered, transport is poor or non existent, household incomes are low and sporadic, so traditional methods of distribution, building trust and awareness will not work. So new set of distribution strategies need to be designed. One such out of the box initiative taken by HUL in the name of Project Shakti has been well experimented in the state of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. But the North area has been untouched by these type of strategies where Self Help Groups are taking leaps. In the absence of capacity building training and Marketing expenditure by the Government products manufactured by SHGs are not categorised as marketable. As a result there is a high drop out rate in North for SHGs and those surviving have become merely a saving- lending activity.
So we contemplate that the same model as practised by HUL can be either expanded to North by HUL and by other FMCG companies to serve the twofold purpose of maximum outreach and women emancipation. As C.K. Prahlad writes if we take 9 countries- China, India, Brazil ,Mexico, Russia, Indonesia, Turkey, South Africa, and Thailand collectively they are home to about 3million people representing 70% of the developing world population. In PPP terms this group’s GDP is $12.5trillion, which represents 90% of the developing world and this is not a market to be ignored.” This is something to care about seriously and distinctively.
Research Methodology : This is a conceptual paper however secondary data from Government Sources has been utilised to complement the basic proposition.
Managerial Implications: Selling through SHG may prove fruitful as a distribution strategy as women in the sample area are having high percentage of population and are willing undertake entrepreneurial activities. As a channel member they can serve as opinion leaders to prospective customers as they are full of confidence and good communication skills. Though less educated still capable of understanding this business concept would help them convincing the rural population to buy products and services from them. It is difficult to sell homemade products in the absence of capacity building and marketing training but it is comparatively easy to enter through readymade (Branded) products of well known manufacturers. So it is contemplated in the paper that Self Help Groups can help products/services providers to penetrate this billion dollar rural market with least inventory piling up and at low cost.
Challenges of Distribution in Emerging Rural Markets
Designing Distribution Network: A company operating in a developed market needs to be careful while it is considering its channel design to achieve desired profitability and at the same time distribution channel can not be loosely designed for rural markets as it is characterised by low density of population and poorly developed infrastructure. As a consequence of the low density population, companies may face escalating inventory holding and transportation costs as they are forced to stock and manage sales points in thousands of villages to meet the consumer expectations for availability of products. To confirm the lack of good transportation infrastructure in India Pradeep Kashyap writes in” the Rural Marketing Book” that 68% of the Rural Market still lies untapped primarily due to inaccessibility. On the above predictions it poses a great challenge to distribute a product/service in a cost effective manner in a Rural Emerging Market.
As Colgate decided to hire local entrepreneurial youth to distribute its products in villages and at weekly “Haats”. The youth bought colgate products with cash from a local distributor and biked within 10 KM radius selling the products to villages. This way Colgate has been successful in delivering their oral care products at reduced inventory costs. Coca –Cola has also successfully implemented this model.
It is important to note that no matter what type of product/ service a company is selling, the distribution network must be tailored to meet the needs of the business and its customers.
Distribution Network Logistics
Once the type of distribution network is decided the companies will face the logistics capabilities what it requires may not currently exist in the market or if they do they may be highly disorganised and ineffective. Companies will always be under pressure to keep its logistics costs low in order to keep the prices of the products low , that is a pre-requisite for entering and sustain into rural markets. As BOP forces extraordinary emphasis on price performance and must focus on all elements of costs. C.K. Prahlad writes—“ However if a company does not have a product and brand image it is risky to build out an expensive customer distribution system before the launch of first product.”
There are two income patterns that are the characteristics of the rural poor in emerging markets. Lack of substantial household income and the other one is the sporadic pattern of a person’s earnings. Daryl Collins, Jonathan Murduch, Stuart Rutherford and Orelanda Ruthven write in “Portfolios of the poor” that farmers earn the bulk of their income during 2 to 3 peak harvest months, earning nothing in rest of the months. Farm labours get a daily wage when there is work to do; at other times they sit around idle, migrate to towns or scratch a living from other sources. Whatsoever may be the level and pattern of income it would be a mistake to assume that these consumers desire to buy ‘Cheap’ products. As C.K.Prahlad writes the consumers are very brand conscious and are motivated to buy quality goods. And at the same time they are very value-conscious. The challenge for marketer is to offer consumers high quality products and brands while offering prices and payment schemes that fit with the income levels and patterns of the population.”
Building Brand Image
The next challenge in Rural Market is building brand trust. As C.K. Prahlad points out the poor are actually “very brand conscious” and seek out the brands they know well and trust. Brand Trust is essential.” The Rural Marketing consulting firm MART in India has also shown that when trust is established with rural consumers, they become “Brand Sticky” means they are resistant to switching to new brands. To enter into rural emerging markets with unknown brands a Piggyback on an existing known and trusted brand or local entity. Just like whirlpool did in Japan by piggybacking on Sony. In rural India ITC is a trusted brand that operates large hypermarts called “Choupal Sagars”. When a consumer sees a brand stocked in achoupal sagar the brand receives the consumer’s trust because of its association with ITC. ICICI bank in India has taken piggybacking approach to ITC in building brand trust in rural areas. ICICI uses women SHGs to extend banking into rural communities. Prior to ICICI’s program commercial banks were not trusted by some rural consumers due to their past experiences with trustworthy bank agents. In helping proactive women form SHGs that would then take out group loans , ICICI was able to increase its business by piggybacking off of the trust placed by women consumers in the SHG institution. Further once a women has proven her ability to form multiple SHGs, she is brought on to ICICI’s payroll in order to facilitate the extension of ICICI’s business and brand in rural communities
HUL Project Shakti
It was initiated to reach inaccessible Rural Markets with low potential with a target to reach villages with population below 2000. Started in 50 villages of Nalgonda District of AP since 2001. In the project HUL has partnered with women SHGs. SHG s were offered the option of distributing relevant products of the company as a sustainable income generating activities. The model was based on a win-win relationship wherein the SHG engages in an activity which brings sustainable income while HUL get an opportunity to interact and transact with the rural consumers which is inaccessible through a selling distributor and that too in a cost effective manner. A member from a SHG is selected as a Shakti Entrepreneur referred to as SA to become DTH distributers of HUL products in Rural Markets. On the job training and support were sourced to these SAs. SAs receive goods from the HUL’s rural distributor which is then sold directly to consumers and retailers in the village. Each SA serves 6-10 villages. SA’s are provided HUL products on a cash and carry basis and avail micro-credit from SHG or local banks. A wide range of FMCG are marketed through this route like Lifebuoy, Lux, Ponds, Wheel,Clinic Plus, Nihar,Pepsodent, Annapurana Salt and Three Roses Tea. It fetches a business of approximately Rs.1500 /month to each SA which gives her an income in excess Rs.1000/ month. As most of the SHG members belong to BPL, this earning is very significant and is double of their past household income from any other source. After the success of project Shakti in AP, HUL extended the project to other states as well. Presently there are over 45000 SA’s covering over 1 lakh villages across 15 states and reaching to over 3million homes. The concept is begin to plan to be extended to Health, Education and Insurance which will catalyse holistic rural development and also help SHG’s to generate more income.
The evolution of HUL’s rural marketing strategies from an indirect approach to rural area to door step marketing through SA shows that the company has come a long since it took its first rural initiative back in the 1960’s. Project Shakti is an excellent example of “Doing well by Doing Good”
For HUL, the project is bringing new villages under direct distribution coverage. On its commencement in Andhra the project resulted in 15% increase in rural sales in Andhra. HUL extended the project to other states of the country. Currently, there are over 45,000 Shakti entrepreneurs covering over 100,000 villages across 15 states and reaching to over 3 million homes. Plans are being drawn up to cover more states, and provide products/services in agriculture, health, insurance and education. This will both catalyse holistic rural development and also help the SHGs generate even more income. This model creates a symbiotic partnership between HUL and its consumers, some of whom will also draw on the company for their livelihood, and helps build a self-sustaining virtuous cycle of growth.
10 YEAR RECORD
Source : HUL website
Source: HUL website
Source: HUL website
Some International Examples:
CEMEX: Companies can cultivate the power of SHGs to increase sales in rural emerging markets. CEMEX in Mexico is a success for SHG Model. CEMEX is one of the largest producers of cement in the world. The company found that most of the women who saved money for building additions to their houses with concrete end up spending the same on food, clothing, emergencies or school fees. Company prepared a program called “Patrimony Hoy” which calls for formation of a group of 3 women. Once a SHG has been formed it becomes responsible for weekly payments to CEMEX. Over a period of time SHG makes payments and builds creditworthiness, CEMEX delivers building materials on credit to the women. It’s a win win as company increases sales with decreased financial risk and helps women save money to improve their homes which previously was giving trouble to them.
Loyaway: This program can be adopted as a successful model to facilitate selling of expensive products in rural emerging markets. As per the model the customer who wish to buy an item pays for that in small investments. Once the total purchase price is paid the customer receives the product. This way company forms a payment relationship with customers while extending easy credit to them.
M-PESA has been adopted by a company selling water pumps in rural Africa very successfully. According to a company personnel people come to them to buy but shows inability to pay due to sporadic income pattern. By working with M-PESA a mobile banking service in Africa that allows customers to bank from their mobile phones and retail outlets in rural areas, Kickstart Internatioanl allows customers to pay for water pumps overtime when they have access to capital. The company has found a significant reduction in purchasing time under Loyaway program which is 2 and half month as compared to 12 months under normal method.
Potential for SHGs in the sample district
The sample area has immense potential for the spread of SHG scheme and is already having many functional SHGs but it has been found during survey that most of these SHGs are not using their capabilities due to want of capability training. Members of these SHGs can be roped in as distributors of popular products to serve Bottom of Pyramid customers and at the same time making SHGs economically functioning.
Demography of the Sample District
Evident from the table that the sex ratio is highest in district mewat at 906 females per 1000 males which is more than the total sex ratio in Haryana. Female literacy level is quite low but women in the district are hard working and in almost all categories of workers female are also a contributory either main worker or marginal worker category. This indicates a huge potential and their willingness to work which can be harnessed by the marketer.
Consolidated S.H.G. Financial information as on 31-03-2014
CONSOLIDATED SHG INFORMATION AS ON 31-03-2014
Source: MDA, March 2014
Evident from the table that there are 2213 SHGs which are presently working. So one member from each SHG can be made Shakti Amma which will make a monthly income of 1500Rs for self and for other members of the group in the form of interest payments against the loan taken from the group. Similarly other companies like Banking and Insurance companies can also appoint SHG member as a direct selling agent with a condition that she should not be a Shakti Amma thereby giving others too a chance to be entrepreneur and becoming financially independent. This will help women to work individually and collectively for different companies selling products and services. It will help in socio-economic upliftment of the women in rural areas and will give a fillip to the SHG scheme in north region.
According to Dean Karlan and Jacob Appel in their book “More than Good Intentions” SHGs decrease the risk of default by BOP customers.” The reasons associated for low rate of default are as under
According to Pradeep Kashyap Founder and CEO of MART--- “if companies want to succeed in an emerging market, they must link up with India’s vast social networks to reach remote customers. In a country like India or any developing economy, the physical infrastructure is weak, but the social infrastructure is very strong.” Unlike in the west, where the physical infrastructure is very good- the roads, the electricity- but the social infrastructure doesn’t need to be strong. So we have to leverage on our social infrastructure to reap the benefits of community organizations for Distribution such as availability of personnel at lower cost, localised partner, distribution channel and direct marketing, advertising and promotion, communication linkage, decision making tool etc.
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