GroupM’s Dialogue Factory and Kantar Release Rural COVID Barometer Report on Consumer Sentiments

Industry Watch | December 3, 2020 | News


GroupM’s experiential marketing unit Dialogue Factory, along with WPP’sdata, insights and consulting company Kantar,has just unveiled a Rural COVID Barometer Report. This report provides a fact-based perspective on consumer sentiments, their consumption choices and the behavioural changes brought about by the pandemic.

This survey was conducted in 17 Indian States looking into the lives of rural consumers and their adaptations post-COVID, providing valuable inputs for any brand’s rural strategy.Loss of income, socio-cultural norms, health and hygiene protocols and reverse migration are some key challenges faced by the rural population during the pandemic.

The report highlighted emergence of new trends which will necessitate changes in the way businesses and brands connect with rural consumers:

• Heightened focus on rural affluent consumers: The report suggests that with 1 in 3 rural adults being impacted by COVID-19, the rural economy is likely to take a hit. However, with fewer job losses and consequent reduction in the incomes of the affluent households, the overall impact on rural consumption pattern is likely to be muted in the future. This presents an opportunity for businesses to sharply target their brands towards the upper end of the rural consumer spectrum

• Quest for balancing the budget: The rural Indian is balancing the budget by cutting on ‘indulgence’ categories like cold drinks, ready to eat snacks like chips, etc., and diverting the savings towards hygiene products

• Digital adoption: Like their urban counterparts, rural Indians are increasingly relying on digital services for their day-to-day activities. With the pandemic accelerating digital adoption, there is a huge potential for businesses and brands to leverage mobile as a medium to reach rural consumers

• Focus on the future: The study highlights that rural Indians are today more concerned about their future well-being; especially of the chief earners. With a relatively weaker health infrastructure as compared to urban areas, the mindset of rural Indians is shifting towards financial planning. They are also considering buying health and other insurance products. This opens a large market for the BFSI segment.

• Last mile connectivity: With commute being restricted, the rural consumer is now increasingly shopping within the village for their FMCG needs. It is, therefore, imperative for brands to focus on their distribution and last mile connectivity, since product availability in the local village stores will significantly impact brand choices of the rural shopper.

Dalveer Singh, Head of Experiential Marketing- APAC, Dialogue Factory said, “Rural India has always had a higher degree of resilience, which makes it more confident of a rapid recovery than the urban areas during these unprecedented times. This report, which is one of the biggest assessments of the impact of the pandemic on rural areas, speaks volumes of the new, defining values that are shaping rural India - resilience, planning for future, protection from falling sick and growing reliance on digital.”

“For businesses, we would recommend a regional prioritization. We believe that Western India is likely to bounce back earliest. On the other hand, indications seem to suggest that rural South might take longer to recover as the impact of COVID-19 on employment has been more severe, which in turn has depressed the economic outlook of consumers in rural South. We see this as an opportunity for brands to deploy their resources across zones in a graded and phased manner,” added Puneet Avasthi, Senior Executive Director, Insights Division, Kantar.

The report also assessed the impact of reverse migration. The study suggests that nearly 53 million migrant workers in India have returned to their villages. About 80% of migrants who have returned to due to COVID-19 come from five States. “With 1 out of 3 rural migrants not planning to go back to urban India, we are likely to see a huge shift in rural consumption choices. This will also affect the availability of labour in urban India,” said Avasthi.

The report also highlights a sense of optimism regarding India’s economic future, stemming from a healthy growth in the agricultural sector and near-universal reach of targeted government programmes (75% of all consumers claimed to have received at least one of the major government schemes for Rural India; 66% claimed to have received free rations under PM Garib Kalyan Yojana).

Survey finds that consumers in rural parts of the country show a faster recovery from impact of COVID than those in urban areas

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