5 Rural Marketing Research – Rural Marketing: Text and Cases, 2nd Edition


Rural Marketing Research


Upon completion of this chapter, you will be able to:


•  Recognize the importance of information in marketing decision making

•  Appreciate the differences in rural and urban marketing research

•  Explain the process of marketing research and the special tools required in the rural context

•  Know about the research business and the major research agencies in India


Familiar with the buying habits and preferences of urban consumers, most brand owners falter when it comes to grappling with the distribution of consumer goods and services. However, a bunch of small rural marketing research and consultancy firms have been helping companies, particularly in the FMCG and consumer durables businesses. Pradeep Lokhande, who heads Rural Relations out of Pune, says these are the best of times for him and and his team. The firm recently carried out one of its biggest activation events where it identified 1,800 franchises across 10 states to sell Reliance Money's financial products.1

Innovations are galore in the rural market. The foremost innovation in rural distribution was Project Shakti of HUL that reached out to villages with a population of 2,000 and less. It was designed by MART.2 Another innovation was brought about in this segment by Mumbai-based Sampark Solutions. The company came on the rural marketing scene in the 1970s. Sampark was the first firm in India to introduce mobile video vans as a medium of promotion in the early 1980s. The high demand for rural marketing services from agri-input as well as consumer product companies encouraged Sampark to introduce mobile vans. Insight Connect teamed up with Tata Motors to sell Tata Magic, a passenger vehicle modelled on the Tata Ace. “We used burra kathas or folk art to communicate with the locals help them understand the product,” recalls Khurram Askari, CEO of Insight Connect. Small firms are set to take the next leap forward as new companies in emerging sectors such as telecom, IT, automotive and financial services are gearing up to tap rural Innovations are galore in the rural market. The consumers in a big way. “We are overbooked, foremost innovation in rural distribution was Project corporations such as Intel, Unilever, Microsoft and Shakti of HUL that reached out to villages with a others are chasing us,” says Pradeep Kashyap of population of 2,000 and less. It was designed by MART, among the earliest entrants in this space.3

Two interesting questions emerge from the success stories of research agencies. First, what has made Pradeep Kashyap, Pradeep Lokhande, and Khurram Askari successful in their chosen field? Second, is there scope for new services and new entrants? The market needs more entrepreneurs with sound knowledge and skills. This chapter focuses on rural marketing research and its applications.


Indian rural consumers account for over 70 per cent of the country’s population and live in over 600,000 villages across the country. For several product categories, the rural market accounts for well over 60 per cent of the national demand. This is very good news for companies looking to tap rural markets. However, the market is non-homogeneous and individual subsets of the market tend to be rather small and disparate. Demographical, cultural, geographical, and logistical differences are very apparent. The realities regarding the potential of each of these market segments differ. Sound under standing of these differences is essential for formulating marketing strategies for rural markets. As such, an important challenge for marketers is identifying and utilizing sources of information. Among the varied sources, marketing research has a significant place, as it provides specialized and focused information for decision making.


It is universally accepted that information is a critical factor for decision making. Decision making is often seen as the centre of what managers do—something that engages most of a manager’s time.

Types of decisions and information support

Decision making can be divided into three type—strategic, management control and operations control. Table 5.1 presents a brief explanation of marketing information system (MKIS) with examples.

Strategic decision making

This level of decision making is concerned with deciding on the objectives, resource policies and strategies of the organization. This process generally involves a small group of high-level managers who deal with very complex, non-routine problems. The implications of strategic decisions extend over many years. For example, introduction of a new product, starting a new branch and adoption of new technology are strategic decisions taken by an organization.

Management-control decisions

Management-control decisions are more tactical than strategic. Such decisions are concerned with the efficient and effective utilization of resources and performance management. The decision to increase the advertising budget to improve sales and adding new dealers to improve distribution are both examples of management-control decisions.

Operational-control decisions

The focus here is on how enterprises should respond to the day-to-day changes in the business environment. Determining which units or individuals in the organization will carry out the task, establishing criteria of completion and resource utilization, evaluating outputs—all these tasks involve making decisions about operational control. For example, the allocation of territories to sales persons.


Table 5.1 Support of MKIS to Marketing Decisions—Level-wise

Level Decision/Action Description
Strategic (Complex, non-routine and unstructured decisions) ▪ Sales trend forecasting ▪ Preparation of 5-year sales forecasts
▪ Acquisition of a company ▪ The evaluation of current capabilities summarized in a special way for planning use
▪ Addition of new product lines ▪ Evaluation of capabilities for new ventures based on current or expected developments for alternative strategies
▪ Making decisions regarding entry into a new market ▪ Conducting customer analyses, competitor analyses, consumer survey information, income projection, demographic projections, and technology projections
▪ New organization of company
▪ Consideration of new markets and new marketing strategies
Management (Tactical decisions) ▪ Making market-trend analysis ▪ Identifying customers and markets using data on demographics, markets, consumer behaviour and trends
▪ Conducting pricing analysis ▪ Determining prices for products and services
▪ Selecting credit line ▪ Analysing performance of sales territories
▪ Allocating advertising ▪ Analysing distribution and dealer strengths
▪ Comparing overall performance against a marketing plan ▪ Preparing reports of advertising budgets
▪ Preparing data on customers, competitor’s product and sales-force requirements
Operational (Simple, routine and structured decisions) ▪ Order processing ▪ Entering, processing, and tracking orders
▪ Evaluating point-of-sale system ▪ Recording sales data
▪ Selecting dealers ▪ Provide dealer information
▪ Hiring new supervisors ▪ Appointing new supervisors
▪ Preparing sales orders ▪ Presenting promotion ideas
▪ Hiring and training the sales force ▪ Taking care of the day-to-day scheduling of sales and promotion efforts and periodic analysis of sales volumes by region, product, customer, etc.

The major approaches to secure information required for operational and strategic needs of an enter prise are through:

  • Gathering intelligence
  • Internal reporting
  • Marketing research

The kind of support that the three approaches of information gathering can provide to marketing-mix decisions is illustrated in Table 5.2.

Gathering intelligence

A company may initiate the following actions to sensitize organizations and secure information from the sources given below.

  1. Sales Force: Sales representatives are the eyes and ears of an organization. They can provide information about competitors’ products and their moves, attitudes and performance of middlemen and consumer preferences and buying approaches. Being at the grassroots level, they have access to a wealth of information that can be easily accessed. Companies have to train and motivate the sales force to supply the relevant information. The intelligence data can be obtained through periodical letters, meetings and seminars.
  2. Middlemen: Middlemen may be encouraged to pass on information they consider important to the marketing team. They can act not only as information disseminators but also as idea generators for the company.
  3. Staff: Managers and other staff members of the organization can be a major source of information when they are motivated to do the following:
    • Scanning the publications—dailies, magazines, journals, research abstracts, government reports, trade journals and reports, etc.
    • Browsing the Internet
    • Attending meetings, conferences, seminars and workshops
  4. Company: Companies can learn more by participating in industrial exhibitions, development programmes and sponsoring events (music festivals, sports, etc.). Being a sponsor, they can see the world differently and gain access to information, sometimes from unexpected sources.

Internal reporting

Growing enterprises are storehouses of information. The internal records that are of immediate value to marketing decisions are orders received, stockholdings and sales invoices. Given below is a list of the information that can be derived from sales invoices:

  • Product type, size and pack type by territory
  • Product type, size and pack type by customer
  • Average value and/or volume of sales by territory
  • Average value and/or volume of sales by sales person

By comparing orders received with invoices, an enterprise can establish the extent to which it is providing an acceptable level of customer service. In the same way, comparing stockholding records with orders received helps an enterprise ascertain whether its stocks are in line with current demand patterns.


Table 5.2 Information Support to Marketing Mix


Marketing research

Marketing research can be viewed as a process and a system. As a process it is a non-routine, specialized activity undertaken with a clear focus and well-defined purpose to obtain relevant data for decision making. From the process point of view, Philip Kotler4 defined it as “the systematic design, collection, analysis and reporting of data and findings relevant to a specific marketing situation facing the company.”

Marketing research can take two forms. It can either be ad hoc and specific-problem oriented or continuous in order to gather information about the trends. In many cases, data is collected to find solutions to a well-defined managerial problem. Research agencies and policy makers attempt to continuously monitor the marketing environment. They undertake monitoring or tracking exercises, often involving panels of farmers, consumers or distributors from whom the same data is collected at regular intervals.


The key decision areas that require careful consideration of researchers are:

  • Defining problems
  • Determining the research budget
  • Choosing research design (exploratory, descriptive or causal; qualitative or quantitative and based on primary data or secondary data)
  • Determining sampling method and size
  • Selecting appropriate data analysis tools
  • Preparing the research proposal
  • Organizing field work
  • Analysing and reporting findings

Defining problems

It is often said, “A problem well defined is a problem half solved.” Research-problem definition involves an understanding of the information needed by managers and specifying the area of inquiry. Research problems can be formulated using one or more of the following methods:

  • Funnelling or narrow-down method
  • Problem audit
  • Background analysis
  • Situation analysis
  • Model development

Management problems that warrant decisions exist when there is a gap between the actual situation and the desired situation. When the actual performance falls short of the standard performance, we say that there is a problem. When the current situation is satisfactory but there is scope for improvement, we say that there is an opportunity. In either case, management needs specific and perfect information for sound decision making.

A situation model is a description of outcomes that are desired and the variables that influence the outcomes. The research problem is stated with reference to the

  1. Dependent variables, and
  2. Independent variables.

The basic questions are:

  • What variables determine the outcome and to what extent?
  • What are the relationships between them—positive or negative, linear or non-linear?
  • How can they be classified—hindering, moderating, promoting or stimulating? Criterion or predictor?
  • How can they be structured and shaped to cause the desired outcome?

Based on certain assumptions, the researcher may postulate the relationships of variables for testing their validity, if necessary. The hypotheses not only serve to indicate the researcher’s understanding of the phenomena but also help make objective inquiry.

Specification, as such, involves:

  1. Listing the variables to be studied,
  2. Specifying the degree of measurement required,
  3. Formulating testable hypotheses and competing hypotheses,
  4. Defining basic concepts, and
  5. Stating underlying assumptions that govern interpretation of results.

We now illustrate the various components of problem definition.


Management objective: To increase the market share of televisions from the current rate of 20 per cent to 23 per cent.

Management problem: Whether the new model that it is proposing to introduce will be a success?

Research problem: What are the perceptions of consumers requiring a new model?

Decision criteria: The company will introduce the model if 70 per cent of the consumer responses

Hypothesis: Consumers favouring the new model are equal to or more than 70 per cent.

Determining the research budget

Research is considered necessary when the available information is inadequate or not very reliable. Managers gather data relevant to the problem on hand from two principal secondary sources:

  1. Internal reporting system, and
  2. Marketing intelligence system.

When the two sources fail to provide perfect information that can help managers in making decisions without uncertainty, managers will be willing to pay for marketing research. The principle guiding their decision, therefore, is:

  “Conduct marketing research only when the expected value of perfect information (EVPI) is greater than the cost of obtaining it.”

As such, the budget decision involves two steps:

  1. Specifying the approximate value of information
  2. Determining the maximum amount that can be spent

There are two approaches to assess the value of research:

  1. Intuitive approach that relies on the individual’s ability to judge
  2. Expected value approach that utilizes statistical analysis such as the Bayesian approach.

Choosing the research design

Different research approaches are identified based on the purpose, nature of data and sources of data, as given under.


Based on purpose Exploratory, descriptive and causal
Based on nature of data Quantitative and qualitative
Based on sources of data Primary and secondary

Exploratory, descriptive and causal

Available literature classifies research designs into three categories as shown in Table 5.3. When a manager is unaware of the phenomenon, he may initiate exploratory research to gain a basic understanding of it. Next, he may go for descriptive research to have a thorough and analytical view of it. He may opt for experimentation before making huge investments on it.

For instance, a company is interested in marketing its products in the rural market for the first time. The marketing manager is interested in knowing whether rural markets are attractive. He prefers a small-scale survey, a sort of pilot study to assess the attractiveness of the rural market. If the results are positive, he will order for a descriptive research, a large-scale survey to assess the market potential and identify the strategic options. In the final stage, he may undertake experimental research to test market his product in a few select villages to predict the success of the product. If the result is positive, he will implement his marketing plan for the entire rural market.


Table 5.3 Categories of Research


In rural markets, the research is more exploratory in nature as many companies are looking for information to make entry decisions. FMCG companies that have already spread their wings in rural areas such as HUL, Godrej, Colgate, LG, Philips and others are interested in assessing consumer preferences, consumer behaviour and brand loyalty. Hence, they require descriptive and analytical studies. Agri-input companies selling seeds, pesticides, fertilizers and farm equipment will be interested in going from the laboratory to the field and conducting real-life experimental studies to know how well their product works and how it will be received by the farmers.

Quantitative versus qualitative research

Quantitative research is numerically oriented. It requires respondents to give specific answers that are measurable. It often involves statistical analysis. For example, BSNL might ask its customers to rate its overall service as excellent, good, poor or very poor. This will provide quantitative information that can be analysed statistically. Most market research surveys in an urban setting involve using questionnaires with scales for respondents to rate or rank their responses. However, such scaling techniques cannot be used in rural areas as the respondents are less educated.

In qualitative research, there are no fixed set of questions but instead, a topic guide (or discussion guide) is used to explore various issues in-depth. The discussion between the interviewer and the respondent is largely determined by the respondent’s own thoughts and feelings. For example, HUL personnel may stop a consumer who has purchased Lux and ask him or her why he or she has chosen the soap. Research of this sort is mostly done face-to-face employing one or more of the following techniques:

  • Observation
  • Interviews (in-depth interview conducted face-to-face with one respondent, paired-depth interview with two respondents or group interview with 3 to 5 members)
  • Group discussion (more than 5 members)
  • Focus groups
  • Participatory research method

Focus groups are usually made up of 6 to 8 targeted respondents and a research moderator whose role is to ask the required questions, draw out answers, and encourage discussion.

Primary versus secondary market research

Table 5.4 distinguishes between primary and secondary market research. Primary research involves collection of data afresh from the subjects of research through methods such as observation, survey and experiments. It is essential to develop more accurate descriptive and analytical analyses. While it provides accurate data, it has limitations in terms of cost, time and convenience. However, primary research is the only reliable approach when perceptions and behaviours of the target market are to be studied. Secondary research is useful in obtaining an understanding of scenarios, trends and estimates.

Secondary research is based on data collected and published by another researcher or agency. It is, therefore, more economical and easier to undertake when compared to primary research. By investing in secondary market research, target markets can be analysed, competitors can be evaluated and political, social and economic factors can be assessed. Table 5.5 provides secondary data sources in the marketing research process.

One can purchase information directly from agencies or book stores or obtain material from libraries and other public information centres. Information is also available on the Internet (Web sites, blogs, etc.). The information tools developed by research agencies can help managers get the required information with great ease. Some of the tools are given in Table 5.6 to illustrate this point.


Table 5.4 Primary Versus Secondary Research

Base Primar Secondary
Nature Fresh collection needed To be searched and selected
Sources Consumers Libraries
Sales persons Trade associations
Dealers Media
Experts Internet
Organizations Research organizations
Methods Survey Purchasing from other sources
Observation Scanning available databases
Projective techniques
Participatory appraisals
Merits Accurate first hand information Economical and easier to obtain
Demerits Expensive, cumbersome and time consuming Data gaps and non-availability of relevant data
Application Consumer purchase process, brand loyalty, promotion effectiveness, etc. Assessing trends in income, savings, and consumption, estimating demand for select goods, understanding the changing rural lifestyles, etc.


Table 5.5 Secondary Data Sources


Table 5.6 Information Tools of Research Agencies


Determining sampling method and size

In primary data collection, the researcher has to decide three things:

  • Sampling procedure
  • Sampling methods
  • Sample size

Qualitative research uses non-probability sampling as it does not aim to produce a statistically representative sample or draw statistical inference. Indeed, a phenomenon need only appear once in the sample. Table 5.7 indicates the factors influencing the choice between the probability and non-probability samples. The need for predictable totals, low allowable errors, high population heterogeneity, small non-sampling errors, and high expected errors favour the use of probability sampling.


Table 5.7 Choice of Sampling Procedure


Table 5.8 Sampling Methods in Rural setting

Sl No. Method Description
1. Random sampling Population elements are chosen by lottery method or every nth unit is selected.
2. Stratified sampling Mini-reproduction of the population. Population is first divided into two or more mutually exclusive segments based on some categories variables and a sample is drawn from each subset.
3. Cluster sampling Selecting respondents from certain areas or certain time-periods. In the first stage a sample of areas is chosen; in the second stage a sample of respondents within those areas is selected.
4. Quota sampling Sample size is proportional to the population in terms of a chosen characteristic like a demographic variable.
5. Convenience sampling Choosing subjects who are available or easy to find.
6. Judgement sampling Using judgement to decide who will be included in the sample.
7. Purposive sampling Studying the entire population of some limited group (farmers) or a subset of a population (marginal farmers).
8. Snowball sampling Researcher identifies one member of some population of interest, speaks to him/her, and then asks that person to identify others in the population that the researcher might speak to.

The next question relates to the choice of sampling method. Table 5.8 describes some of the useful methods.

The final decision is about the size of the sample that should be used. Should the sample size be large or small? Table 5.9 presents the factors influencing the choice. When time and cost constraints are insignificant, the population is heterogeneous and high level of accuracy is desired, large sample is suggested. Small samples are common in case of experiments and focus groups.


Table 5.9 Choice of Sample Size

Factor Large Small
Time available More Less
Accuracy High Low
Cost High Low
Population Heterogeneous Homogeneous


Table 5.10 Data-analysis Methods

Analysis Method
Univariate t test, z test, one-way ANOVA, Chi-square test, McNemar test, Cochran Q test, Sign test, Mann–Whitney U test, Kolmogorov–Smirnov test
Multi-variate ANOVA, Rank correlation, Multiple regression, Factor analysis, Discriminant analysis, Cluster analysis, Conjoint analysis, Multi-dimensional scaling

In qualitative research, sample size is important only to obtain complete information about the issue taken up for research. As such, a researcher can stop collecting data once information redundancy is achieved. As Sandelowski5 points out, “determining adequate sample size in qualitative research is ultimately a matter of judgement and experience.” In view of this, flexible research designs are desirable to allow researchers to employ iterative sampling and analysis strategies.

Selecting appropriate data-analysis tools

A good number of statistical tools are available for analysing data and drawing inference.

It is imperative that the researcher select the analytic techniques prior to collecting the data and carry out a sample analysis with synthetic data. Such an exercise ensures that the result of the analysis will provide the required information to the researcher.

The type of analysis (parametric versus non-parametric) and the choice of analysis technique (crosstabulation, hypothesis testing or association) depend on the following factors:

  • Purpose of research
  • Type of data—quantitative or qualitative
  • Number of variables being examined—one or more
  • Type of measurement scale used—interval, nominal, ordinal
  • Number of samples to be compared—one or more
  • Nature of samples—dependent or independent
  • Size of the sample—small or large

Table 5.10 provides some of the appropriate techniques for testing hypotheses and measuring association.

Preparing a research proposal

A research proposal needs to be prepared for discussion and approval. A research proposal provides the researcher with a blue-print for conducting and controlling the research project. It facilitates meaningful exchange of thoughts and opinions between the researcher and the decision maker. It helps them to come to an agreement on various terms of the research project.

The elements of a research proposal are:

  • Executive summary/abstract
  • Background/introduction
  • Objectives and hypotheses
  • Methodology
  • Time schedule
  • Research staff and equipment
  • Cost estimates—recurring and non-recurring
  • Appendices (any relevant information)

Organizing field work

The effectiveness of the design depends on its execution. Regardless of how carefully a researcher has designed his research, the data collected will not be accurate unless the field force does its job properly. Field work can be effective only when it is properly managed.

The key steps in organizing field work

The important steps in field-work management are—the preparation of data collection plan, the organization of research effort and controlling for time, cost and accuracy.

  1. Preparation of data collection plan that specifies:
    • Number of supervisors
    • Number of field investigators
    • Period of data collection and schedule
    • Budget
  2. Organization of research effort:
    • Selecting investigators and supervisors
    • Training the staff
    • Allocating work
    • Briefing the investigators
    • Compensating the staff for the work turned out
  3. Controlling:
    • Supervising the data collection with respect to time and cost
    • Checking the data for validation
    • Carrying out corrections, if any, or repeating the data collection wherever necessary

Investigators—selection and training

It is obvious that the entire research effort depends on the efficiency, effectiveness and ethical integrity of the investigators. To be successful, investigators should have the right mindset and appropriate skill.


Table 5.11 Guidelines for Research Investigators


Like the rural sales person (as discussed in Chapter 1), the research investigator should have social skills, patience, be respectful and humble, and be courteous and concerned. Table 5.11 presents some useful guidelines in brief. Some important don’ts are:

  1. Don’t pretend: Villagers look at a newcomer with some degree of apprehension. They may avoid you, mistaking you to be a health/insurance employee or micro-finance agent. Sometimes, they gather around you considering you to be a government/NGO employee who has come to discuss some benefits. Avoid promising benefits that you cannot offer.
  2. Avoid direct inquiry: Do not ask direct questions when conducting an interview in the presence of others. The respondent villager may find it inconvenient to answer and may not like others to talk about it.
  3. Don’t touch: Touching the arm or placing a hand on the shoulder of a villager without first establish ing an intimate relationship is not desirable. Male researchers should never touch women.
  4. Avoid suspicious behaviours: Villagers are traditional in their outlook. In view of this, male researchers should not talk to women without a female assistant. It is always better to interview them in the presence of their relatives.
  5. Don’t become controversial: Avoid speaking about village politics or raising controversial issues that may lead to heated arguments and disputes. Also avoid violating cultural and religious norms. Don’t criticize traditions such as the “purdah” among Muslim women.

Locating respondents

The choice of location for conducting interviews is another important consideration in the research process. The following locations are considered appropriate by researchers.

  • Women—houses, retail shops, and farms.
  • Youth—schools, play grounds, and STD/Internet kiosks
  • Men—houses, retail shops, farms, tea stalls, STD/Internet kiosks, chaupals, mandis, haats, banks and post offices.

Studying rural consumers in their natural environments is better than employing CLTs (central location tests) that are non-indicative of their natural surroundings.

Analysing and reporting findings

The heap of data collected makes no sense unless it is properly analysed. Researchers can analyse data manually or with the help of a computer making use of statistical tools. The final step is report writing. The report should be built around the management problem that needs to be solved and for which the research is undertaken. There is no one format that is best for all occasions. The nature of the audience and the topic of the report combine to determine the most describable format. However, the general format is:

  • Title page
  • Table of contents
  • Executive summary
  • Introduction
  • Methodology
  • Findings
  • Limitations
  • Conclusions and recommendations
  • Appendices
  • Bibliography

It is a well-known fact that traditional marketing research tools and techniques used in urban areas are not applicable in the rural context. They must fit with the technological and cultural milieu of rural India.

Rural India has traditionally had an oral collectivist culture (forming community relationships and joint families) and information and communication technology is in the nascent stage.

Oral communication: While urbanites can interact with a mix of oral (mobile phones) and written communication (e-mails and fax messages), rural people depend mostly on face-to face oral conversations.

Ascribed status: In urban areas social-class structures are based on jobs and incomes. Social status is achieved and not ascribed. In rural areas, socials structures based on caste, land-holding and wealth are rigid and formalized. Care needs to be taken so as to respect the hierarchical, rigid, social-class structure.

Affiliation oriented: In a less literate collectivistic culture, affiliation needs are stronger. Therefore, a villager’s highest priority is to identify himself with his tribe. There is a feeling of collective identity felt by the villager. Individual interviews will be less effective.

Participative: Oral collectivistic cultures are participative in nature. Stage shows, plays, puppet shows have always been popular in rural India owing to their participatory nature. NGOs have been able to appreciate the above fact. This is evident by their increasing usage of role plays and puppet shows. Games can be used as effective marketing research tools that involve collective participation of the tribe.

Emotional thinking: The rural culture is by nature emotional. As such, rural folk are less adept at sequential and rational urban thinking approaches. Articulation of the rural villager’s motivations and attitudes is, therefore, difficult when exposed to rational means of testing.

Not spatially equipped: Typical, 5-point, 7-point or 10-point scales used in the urban market are not effective in the rural context because they involve complex understanding on the part of the rural consumer. The rural consumer is not spatially well-equipped. Pictorial scales may be used in their place. Scales can also be simplified to three-pointers that involve less complex processing of information.

Limited information processing: A photograph/painting is highly visual and supplies more information than that can be processed by the rural consumer. In their place, cartoons or caricatures that lack information are cool media sources that provide a participatory role of all the five senses.


The increasing use of participant observation methods in cultural anthropology provides an important lesson to researchers in marketing. Participatory research methods can be conveniently classified into four main types, each with a distinctive style and ethos.

  • Participant Observation (PO)
  • Rapid Rural Appraisal (RRA)
  • Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA)
  • Participatory Action Research (PAR)

Each approach has its merits and limitations. It is for a research agency to select the best mix of methods to serve their research objectives.

Participant observation (PO)

The researcher actively participates in the rituals and activities along with the tribe so as to understand the shared meanings not as a passive and objective observer but as an active participant. Such socio-participatory roles played by the researcher in the village may lead to important insights that may be overlooked otherwise by objective means of measurements. The researcher can document the lifestyles, customs, values, interrelationships, etc. of the community members.

Rapid rural appraisal (RRA)

In this method, the research team goes to rural areas and collects data using a combination of iterative methods and verification. It may employ the following techniques.

  • Secondary data sources: Review of books, files, reports, news articles, maps including aerial photos.
  • Observation: Direct and participant observation, brief aerial observation, do-it-yourself (DIY) exercises.
  • Interviews: Semi-structured interviews where some of the questions are predetermined and new questions arise during the interview in response to answers from those interviewed. The interviewees may be (i) individual farmers or households (ii) key informants (iii) group interviews (iv) community meetings (v) chains of interviews.
  • Diagrams: Maps, aerial photos, seasonal calendars, historical profiles, etc.
  • Stories and portraits: Biographies, local histories, case studies and trend analysis.

Participatory rural appraisal (PRA)

PRA involves local people and outsiders from different sectors and disciplines. Outsiders facilitate local people in analysing information, practicing critical self-awareness, taking responsibility and sharing knowledge of life and conditions to plan and to act.

RRA versus PRA

The differences between RRA and PRA are given in Table 5.12.

Principles of PRA

There are five key principles that form the basis of any PRA activity no matter what the objectives or setting.6

Participation and empowerment: PRA relies heavily on participation by the communities, as (i) partners to the research team and (ii) sources of information.

Flexibility: PRA makes use of different techniques for collecting information. The combination of techniques will be determined by such variables as the size and skill mix of the PRA team, the time and resources available, and the topic and location of the work.

Teamwork: PRA is a team method. It is best conducted by a local team (speaking the local language) with a few outsiders present.

Optimal ignorance: It optimizes trade-off between quality, relevance, accuracy and timeliness. This is possible by knowing what is worth doing and what is not worth doing. It avoids unnecessary details, and irrelevant data. It does not measure more precisely than needed.

Systematic: PRA-generated data is seldom conducive to statistical analysis for two reasons (i) it is largely qualitative and (ii) sample size is relatively small. Hence, alternative methods have been developed to ensure the validity and reliability of the findings. These include (i) sampling based on approximate stratification of the community by geographic location or relative wealth and (ii) triangulation—using more than one, and often three, sources of information to cross check answers.


Table 5.12 Differences between RRA and PRA

Rapid Rural Appraisal (RRA) Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA)
Research teams go to rural areas, obtain information and then process and analyse the information. Research teams go to rural areas, facilitate rural people in collection, presentation and analysis of information by themselves.
The information is owned by the research team. It is not shared with rural people. The information is owned by rural people but usually shared with the research team.

Inclusiveness: The method allows researchers to involve different people—marginal and vulnerable groups, women, children, the aged and the destitute.

Localization: The extensive and creative use of local materials and representations encourage proper understanding of the research subjects.

Techniques of data collection

PRA is an informal, interactive and innovative approach. It makes use of a similar “basket of techniques” that RRA method employs.7 They are as follows:

  • Secondary data sources
  • Observation
  • Interviews
  • Diagrams
  • Stories and portraits

The central part of any PRA is semi-structured interviewing. While sensitive topics are often better addressed in interviews with individuals, other topics of more general concern can be focused on during group discussions and community meetings. The interviewers stimulate debate by encouraging discussion. Diagrams, pictures and symbols are used to facilitate easy understanding and recording.

However, for easy visualization by one and all in the group, the diagrams are drawn on the ground making use of sticks, stones, seeds or other useful materials available at the site of the interview. Later, they are transferred to paper for future reference.


PRA is not without drawbacks. The following problems are said to be common when the method is applied:

  • Time deadlines: One common problem is that insufficient time is allowed for the team to relax and mingle with the local people, to listen to them and to learn about the more sensitive issues under consideration. Rushing will also often mean missing the views of the poorest and least articulate members of the communities visited.
  • Credibility: The reporting of the results of PRA in a standard evaluation report is a challenging process. Individuals unfamiliar with participatory research methods may raise questions about the credibility of the PRA findings.
  • Hijacking: PRA agenda will be externally driven. This results in legitimacy problems.
  • Formalism: The “PRA hit team” arrives in a local community to “do a PRA.” This abrupt approach is all too common. It will be more exploitative than explorative.
  • Disappointment: Unnecessary local expectations may be raised. Local communities may view it as a wasteful exercise.
  • Conflict of interests: The empowerment implications of PRA and the power of its social analysis can create threats to local vested interests, although less so than with PAR. PAR is discussed below.

Participatory action research (PAR)

PAR is a more activist-centric approach in which participants take total responsibility for reflection and preparing the research report. It is a reflective process of progressive problem-solving led by individuals working with others in teams or as a part of a community of practice to improve the way they address issues and solve problems. PAR should not be confused with PRA. PRA is an assessment technique that could be a part of a PAR process. However, it does not encompass the full actionreflection cycle.


As the conventional research tools did not prove to be effective in the rural markets, researchers started working out new solutions to problems.

Scaling techniques

Simple, easy-to-understand techniques to indicate varying preferences and feelings have been evolved by rural researchers. Table 5.13 shows some of the popular methods.


When used for ranking, the number of rungs correspond to the number of items ranked. For rating purposes, a typical Likert scale on the ascendancy is achieved by the steps on the ladder (Figure. 5.1). The respondent is asked to place a visual card corresponding to the product or preference on a rung according to his ranking or rating.


Table 5.13 Rural Scaling Techniques

Sl No. Tool Purpose
Ladder Rating and ranking
Images of faces Rating
Colours Rating
Dice Rating
Carom coins/Rummy coins/Stacks Ranking and rating
Playing cards Ranking
Pigeon holes Ranking
3-point scale Rating


Figure 5.1 Ladder

Images of faces

The images of faces with varying expressions (smiling to wailing) is another useful tool that is used to ascertain preferences and liking (Figure 5.2).

Colour wheels

Colours are very strong indicators and forms of expressing feelings in the rural areas. The selection of colours is done on the basis of the association of rural people with colours as given in Table 5.14.

MART has experimented with success with these colours in its rural research. The colour wheel has a circular base divided into five segments and a rotating pointer (clock hand) attached to its centre. The five segments show different colours or colour shades as given in Table 5.14. The respondent is explained what each of the colours represent and he/she is asked to move the pointer to the colour or shade that represents his or her rating of the item.


Dice are wooden or plastic piece with 6 faces with varying numbers of holes or dots ranging from 1 to 6. They are commonly used in games like Ludo and Snakes and Ladders. A face value of 1 is the lowest and a face value of 6 is the highest. The respondent is asked to rate the item by assigning the face value of the die to the item.

Rummy coins/Carom coins/Stacks

Fifteen coins are given to the respondents and they are asked to distribute them among the brands under study in order of their preferences—more coins for the most preferred brand. The process usually takes a long time. So stacks of 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 coins are made. The respondent can easily select the stack by considering different heights of the stacks. Care should be taken to make the stack heights visibly different. If needed, more coins may be used to create stacks with a constant difference.


Figure 5.2 Faces with varying expressions


Table 5.14 Colours and Associations

Colour Rating Association
Dark green
Represents a good crop or haryali (as they call it) and hence, represents prosperity. It is considered to be the best.
Light green
Represents a not very good crop and stands next to the dark green.
Represents dry sand or a dry field and hence, comes next.
Represents the setting sun and the end of the day and is placed next to yellow.
Represents danger.

Playing cards

Playing cards are well known, especially among rural men. The face cards with K, Q, J, 10 and 9 represent a descending order in terms of values. As such, they are assigned ranks from 1 to 5 in that order.

Pigeon holes

The measurement kit consists of a plastic egg tray, card board cut-outs with visuals of the items to be compared and white tennis balls. The items are placed along the left side of the crate. The scaling is done using the paired comparison method. For example, you are trying to find out the ranking of four brands A, B, C, and D.

The visuals of the brands are placed on the left side of the crate. The respondent is asked to compare pairs of A and B, A and C and so on and to place the ball in the hole against the one that is preferred. Suppose the results are as given under, the conclusion is that Brand A is the most preferred one followed by C and B.



3-point rating scales

Researchers interested in conventional scales may use three-point scales, especially when the respondents are school educated.


Can marketers replicate the urban marketing research approaches, methods and tools in rural areas with the same efficacy? Does the rural–urban divide reassert its presence requiring the invention of different tools and techniques?

The answers to the questions appear to be an affirmative “yes.” The time-tested research tools fail to get the desired information from rural subjects, however well you may design and administer them. We now consider the differences between urban and rural research and their implications on marketing researchers.


Urban consumers are educated and possess good comprehension and presentation skills. They are marketing savvy and better exposed to marketing offers. They are aware of the wide range of brands. They are independent and assertive. It will not, therefore, be difficult to obtain individual responses, either from men, women or the youth.

Rural consumers, on the other hand, are semi-literate or illiterate. They cannot understand sophisticated terms and tools. Also, they cannot verbalize their responses with the same ease and efficiency as their urban counterparts do. Although they are becoming marketing savvy, with the changing times and rising prosperity, they are less exposed to the brand offers and hence, are less aware of them. Their brand identifications (Nirma is identified as yellow powder; Lifebuoy as red soap) and quality measures might be in a form unfamiliar to urbanites. Rural subjects cannot be interviewed individually. People, nearby, surround the interviewer and the respondent and take part in the interview. The net result will be a mini group response.


Urban life is very time-bound. Urbanities are hard pressed for time, particularly those living in metros and cites. This can be understood from the way they maintain dairies and take part in “time management” training programmes. They are willing to spare very little time for researchers.


The dominance of the time can be understood from the way a multitude of ads define products and lifestyles with a.m. or p.m. A consumer can wake up on Friday morning to “Times FM—a.m. to p.m.”, have a 7 o’clock shave, switch on to morning transmission on TV, eat “2-minutes noodles,” put on “nine a.m.” shirt and pack a “weekender” trouser in a “kalbhi, aajbhi, kalbhi” suitcase.

Source: Pawan Bhandari and Rajat Iyer, “Chalk and Cheese,” A & M (August 1994): 25.


The rural scenario is altogether different. Farm schedules begin well before 7 a.m. and while daily activity is routinized, it is not pervaded with urgency. The attendance demands of rural occupations are a lot more flexible when compared to urban areas. Rural folk may devote time for researchers.


It is easy to access urban people geographically and psychologically. Urban people are more familiar with the different inquiries of market-research agencies. Day in and day out, they are faced with researchers with short questionnaires at places like the home, office, retail outlets, industrial exhibitions, railway stations/bus stations/airports, hotels and hospitals. Some of them might have participated in experiments or acted as panel members. In fact, they suffer from research fatigue. Still, they co-operate as they know the value of marketing research.

Against this, we find rural people are relatively difficult to reach because of physical distances and apprehensions about researchers. Road networking has enhanced the access to about 40 per cent villages. They are connected by all-weather roads and communication lines. The remaining villages are tough to access. When the psychological dimension is considered, both the researcher and the respondent find it difficult to interact. The researchers are used to men and women who know their role and expectations. Villagers cannot understand and appreciate the value of market research. They either consider them as unwanted intruders or mistake them as officers propagating a government scheme.

Secondary data sources

Large volumes of secondary data relating to urban markets is available from multiple sources. Companies that have been in the urban markets over a long period of time have a relative advantage. They have vast accumulated internal data, for example, past and forecasted sales, market environment, product performance, sales force size, potential and performance, product-distribution strength and availability and cost effectiveness of media. There is an established service sector to supplement the readily available internal data. The National Readership Survey IV, Business Men’s Readership Survey, National Television Survey III, Television Rating System, Video Watch, ORG Retail audit are some examples of the surveys carried out in the Indian market. Newspapers and magazines occasionally provide coverage of all India trends, urban-rural comparisons and information about metros, state capitals and towns.

Most companies are recent entrants in the rural scene. The result is a paucity of internal historic data. Coupled with this is the fact that the contribution of syndicated research services is meagre. The National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) conducts regular studies and then there are publications, few and far between, such as Villages of India 1991. Very few magazines such as Kurukshetra, Annadatha and Khadi Gramodyog deal with rural issues and present rural data.

Some research agencies have come forward to generate a rural database.

  • ORG-MARG set up a rural consumer’s panel. The ‘R’ Panel comprises over 20,000 households whose purchasing and consumption habits are monitored every day. The study covers 16 state clusters, over 1,000 villages and 32 FMCG product categories.
  • Initiative Media: The AP Lintas’ media-buying arm developed LinQuest—a soft ware package that provides marketers with data on rural India. It is claimed to be the first database to present the census data in an interactive manner. Till now, census data was mostly available as indices. With LinQuest, marketers can simply enter the parameters they seek along with weightages and obtain lists of most suitable districts and all the villages that match the company’s requirements. The database can be sorted on five parameters–demographic, literacy, agricultural, civic amenities and income.
  • MICA (Mudra Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad) has come out with its exhaustive Rural Market Rating. Additionally, it brings out a quarterly newsletter catering exclusively to the rural sector called “Ruralscan.” It has been brought out by Mumbai-based rural communication specialist Sampark Marketing and Advertising Solutions Pvt. Ltd. It covers the rural sector extensively and fills the gap of qualitative information on rural markets on a regular basis. It features case notes, experiences, changing trends, data and information.

Primary data sources

In urban areas, the data sources are many as well as large. The number of experts and middlemen, the size of sales force, the proportion of actual and potential customers and the number of opinion leaders are large in urban markets compared to the rural markets. In urban areas every member of the family can be a source of information. In rural areas, the male head of the family dominates. Women are not allowed to voice their individual opinions. However, the rural market has seen marked transformation with substantial increase in the disposable incomes of rural consumers. The proportion of potential customers of several products is now much higher than in urban markets. The youth are growing independent and women are slowly becoming active through various schemes promoting self-help groups and entrepreneurship.


Despite varying linguistic and cultural backgrounds and geo-physical differences, urban markets show a marked convergence in aggregate behavioural patterns. The differences are nullified as a result of high mobility and exposure facilitated by infrastructure facilities, regularity of income receipts, savings patterns moulded by tax problems and time schedules and incomes. Urban consumer sets have a marked similarity. This makes sampling an easy process.


A profile of the Hush puppies buyer in Delhi on parameters of income, family size, education and occupational status would be reasonably valid for Mumbai or Kolkata. Van Heusen shirts are bought equally by executives working at Brigade Road in Bangalore or Nariman Point in Mumbai.

Differential and limited development of infrastructure, geo-physical differences, variation in literacy levels and differences in proximity to towns have contributed to the heterogeneity in the rural market place. Inter-rural differences are evident between the states and even within a state.


Rajpuria Hundan is a village 24 km from Loonkaransar in Bikaner district in Rajasthan. The village economy is based on rain-fed cultivation of bajra, chana, and maitra (a type of water melon). These crops have a very low monetary yield but the choice is limited by soil conditions and dependence on rain fall. The result is a drop in disposable incomes.

Dabri, a village in Hissar district, Haryana is a picture of rural affluence with pucca connecting roads. Most of the cropped area is irrigated. The crops are wheat and cotton.

Most villages in Bikaner district have houses that are semi-pucca or made of mud, while in neighbouring Sri Gangangur district, one sees pucca or cemented houses.

Source: Pawan Bhandari and Rajat Iyer, “Chalk and Cheese,” A & M (August 1994): 25–28.


Differences in lifestyles and utility value of products in the rural areas can be better understood with the following examples.

  • In Rajpuria Hudan, toothpaste and soap are luxuries whereas in Dabri they are necessities.
  • In milk-rich Haryana and Punjab, hair dye has been used on buffaloes and washing machines have been used to make lassi.
  • In some parts of Rajasthan, utensils are cleaned with sand and ash owing to water scarcity. A washing powder would face competition from these alternatives that need very little water.
  • Brackish or hard water in most villages in Bikaner, coastal Andhra Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh is the reason for the low acceptance of soap.

A variable such as income cannot be used to stratify rural samples. The reason is that incomes are uncertain and unaccounted. In the urban context, the income category is the primary criterion for grouping consumers. Often, rural market research utilizes land holding as an indicator of wealth and income. This can be misleading, especially if the study is spread over a large geographic area. The land holding has to be balanced with the productivity and realizations from the crop mix. A farmer growing cotton in 25 acres of irrigated land would be lot more prosperous than a farmer growing food grains or pulses on 200 acres of rain-fed land.

Data collection

Urban and rural research may be designed to get the same data; however, the process of acquiring it differs. Quantitative research is the main strength of many research firms. They take pride in the use of sophisticated instruments. They could be successful with such forms, scales and terms because urban respondents are comfortable with numbers, ratings and time lines.


At NFO-BL for instance, if they want respondents to rank a brand on a five-point scale, researchers prefer to ask repeated questions: first “Is the brand good or bad?” Next, “Is brand x very bad or slightly bad?”

Rural research requires a different approach. The time-tested sophisticated tools fail to evoke the required response.

Likewise, detailed questions need to be asked to simplify the inquiry and to pin down the response. Rural consumers are comfortable with colours, pictures and stories.

In addition, rural researchers make use of participatory research methods.


Table 5.15 Differences in Urban and Rural Market Research


The differences discussed earlier are summarized in Table 5.15. For a better understanding of the differences, the personal experience of two researchers is given here.


Rural market research is still at a fledgling stage. While Indian market research is worth Rs 40 billion, it forms barely 10–15 per cent of the total research pie. According to ORG-MARG, the rural market research spend will be around Rs 0.5 billion. However, with the growing importance of the rural markets in corporate marketing strategies, there is an increased recognition of rural specialists in helping companies plan and implement their rural marketing activities. This has resulted in a number of players, both big and small, entering the field in the last couple of years. While the present scenario is very encouraging, there were times when companies planning an entry into rural India faced the problem of knowledge gap. Pradeep Kashyap of MART (Box 5.1) and Pradeep Lokhande of Rural Relations (Box 5.2) are two researchers who had taken initiatives to bridge the gap during those years.

The main players in the rural marketing consultancy and research field are:

  1. NCAER, New Delhi
  2. AC Nielsen ORG-MARG Research Limited
  3. Sampark, Hyderabad
  4. MART
  5. ORCN (Ogilvy Rural Communication Network), New Delhi
  6. Rural Communication and Marketing (RC&M), New Delhi
  7. Initiative Media
  8. Anugrah Madison, Chennai

Pradeep Kashyap is regarded as the “Father of Rural Marketing in India” for his intellectual contribution to policy making in the context of rural development. An engineer from BITS Pilani, with a post graduate diploma in business management, he followed his passion for rural development and set up MART in 1993. Notable among his contributions are:

  • The highly successful pioneering “Gramshree melas” to sell rural products in cities. Nearly 300 such melas have been held in 60 cities benefiting 100,000 poor women.
  • The 3M micro-enterprise model, the most comprehensive approach for large-scale employment generation in rural areas using the micro-finance route. 3M has been approved by NABARD, Governments of Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Orissa and CARE India.
  • He co-created Project Shakti with Hindustan Unilever to appoint women micro-entrepreneurs among SHGs as company dealers. 15,000 women in 12 states have benefited and each of them earns Rs 1,000 per month as profit from this business.
  • He engineered a novel low-cost, last mile rural distribution model using village volunteers on bicycles for Colgate, Godrej, Eveready, Heinz and others.
  • He joined hands with other agencies to form Rural Marketing Agencies Association of India (RMAAI) and became the President of the Association.

Under his leadership, MART was conferred the RMAAI Gold Award for Innovative Long Term Rural Marketing Initiatives for its Rasoi Ghar model for HPCL.

Source: www.martrural.com, accessed March 2010.

Pradeep Lokhande, founder of Rural Relations, India’s largest rural marketing company based in Pune, is a human encyclopaedia of rural India. He has personally visited over 4,000 villages in India, recorded their populations, markets, education systems, consumer habits, and can rattle off these figures just like that.

Rural Relations commands a network of rural marketers in more than 7,000 villages across India. Lokhande has been recording their populations and capturing facts about markets, education systems and consumer habits in rural India. Giants like P&G and HUL have hired his services. He started the venture of visiting these villages to compile information on them and selling it to companies. He has used his travels to learn about the great digital divide between rural and urban India and is working towards taking computers to 28,000 village schools in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. His conviction that computers can do wonders for the confidence and learning style of the children in rural areas prompted him and his team to embark on the project of providing computers to schools, free of cost. They wrote letters to various persons and institutions and the response was overwhelming. With a personal expenditure of about Rs 1,000, he collected computers from the donors and initiated a new movement of computer education in rural areas.

Source: www.indiatogether.org/stories/lokhande.htm, accessed March 2010.

R.V. Rajan, Chairman, Anugrah Madison Advertising, was the founder president of RMAAI. Announcing the formation of RMAAI he said, “The association has been formed to improve and develop the cause of rural marketing and protect the interests of rural marketing specialists.” One of the important objectives of the Association was to set industry benchmarks in areas of performance evaluation and financial practices. To improve the overall understanding of rural markets by the corporate world, the Association conducts seminars, workshops and conferences, besides offering guidance to the management institutes in running courses in rural marketing. The Association also undertakes syndicated research in rural marketing on selected topics that help to increase the knowledge base of rural marketers, which in turn could help marketers develop better and more effective rural marketing strategies. Further on, the Association also plans to conduct award functions to recognize individuals and organizations who have actively contributed to the growth of the rural marketing industry. To make the Association broad based it has been renamed Rural Marketing Association of India in 2009.

The association has decided to confer the first ever RMAI Lifetime Achievement Award on R.V. Rajan, Chairman, Anugrah Madison Advertising and the immediate past President of RMAI. The Award was given to Rajan for his association with the rural marketing and communication scene for over three decades, during which he has made significant contribution to promoting the cause of rural marketing.

According to Pradeep Kashyap, President, RMAI, “RMAI decided to recognize Rajan’s role in spearheading the formation of the Association and also for steering it for four years as the Founder President. He has helped in establishing the Association on a solid foundation by implementing a variety of activities, all of which has helped in creating more knowledge bases on rural marketing.”

Source: www.anugrahmadison.com, accessed April 2010.


Rural marketing association

A few leading players who have been providing tremendous value-added rural marketing services across the country have decided to come together on a common platform and work towards recognition, credibility and meeting the needs of the rural marketing industry. The founder members of the Association are Anugrah Madison, MART, Rural Relations, Sampark, Ogilvy Activation, Linterland, RC&M, Impact Communications, Kripa Outdoor Publicity, Indian Agribusiness Systems and Rural Eight. Box 5.3 highlights the contribution of R.V. Rajan in the formation and successful functioning of the association.


To understand rural markets and design marketing programmes, companies require at least three assets.

  • First, they need the resources to undertake a study of the large and diverse rural economy. The kind of explorative study of behaviour that is needed to understand the peculiarities of each segment of the rural market will necessarily be expensive.
  • Second, they need to believe that the expenditure is worth their while. This belief must exist with the recognition that the exercise need not always result in a profit-generating project.
  • Third, companies must use their technological expertise to create right products and communication for the rural economy.

MNCs versus Indian companies

MNCs have an edge over several major Indian companies for the following reasons:

  • They have much deeper pockets than Indian companies.
  • They place greater emphasis on research than most Indian companies.
  • Being new to this country, they are sensitive to both rural and urban markets. They have no prejudices like urban companies.
  • They are technologically more advanced than their Indian counterparts.

These advantages of multinationals are, of course, not impossible for Indian companies to challenge. They can generate resources, develop right attitudes and overcome technological barriers if they make a concerted and determined effort. However, if they are preoccupied with either retaining or expanding their urban market share or reaching out for new global ones, they may find that have handed over the rural backyard to the multinationals.

Large versus small firms

Small research firms are doing good business in this area because the bigger firms are not interested in it. The following reasons may be cited for this.

  • The size of rural market research is small. As such, big names in market research are putting a lower priority to it. Rural marketers are generally not looking for nation-wide rural research, just for the data that will bring them profits. Thus, the scale of operations is too small.
  • Big agencies do not have the rural touch—their researchers are primarily urban. They find it hard to break the ice with wary rural consumers. They feel more comfortable dealing with men in suits who speak management jargon.
  • The core strength of big agencies has always been quantitative research. Since rural marketers are engaged in market development, they are more interested in qualitative data than in numbers. The numbers, they opine, will come later when the market matures.
  • Another important reason for the big companies not undertaking research is that their sales forces are out in the field and interacting with retailers on a regular basis while agency personnel visit rural areas for 15 days a year. On the contrary, some of the small rural research agencies have made the following claims.
    1. NFO-MBL has a report called “A day in the life of a farmer.” Their researchers wake up at 5 a.m. with farmers, go to their fields, hang around at the chaupals noting down what is going on. Clients find it eye-opening.
    2. MART has a permanent field staff of 10 employees with relevant qualifications. They are from a rural background and have lived in villages working with NGOs and thus, gained acceptance. The agency is banking on their comfort levels with rural research. The agency is planning on hiring graduates from IRMA (the Institute of Rural Management) to utilize the thinking, writing and analytical skills that MBAs are famous for.
    3. Small agencies are more attractive as they are cheaper. Because they conduct localized research, they do not have to support large overheads. Agencies such as MART quote prices that are 50 per cent lower than large agencies.

However, some large agencies interested in rural research are getting ready for it. MARG and IMRB both have rural knowledge heads who are NGO personnel with acquired wisdom in rural matters.


In the present competitive business scenario, the support of marketing information in decision making has become indispensable. Marketing information systems consist of four components: (1) internal reporting system, (2) marketing intelligence system, (3) marketing research system and (4) decision support system. Internal reporting system provides transactional data analysis and reports for routine decision making. Marketing intelligence system expands the knowledge horizons of the managers by providing up-to-date information. Marketing research is a problem-specific, non-routine data collection and analysis activity that provides solutions to decision- making problems of strategic importance. The key decision areas that require the careful consideration of researchers are: (i) defining problems, (ii) determining research budget, (iii) choosing research design (exploratory, descriptive or causal; qualitative or quantitative and based on primary data or secondary data), (iv) determining sampling method and size, (v) selecting appropriate data analysis tools, (vi) making research proposals, (vii) organizing field work and (viii) analysing and reporting findings. Choosing the investigators and training them to work in the rural cultural milieu is a difficult task. Urban research techniques cannot be replicated in the rural markets as there are many differences with respect to respondents, time, accessibility, secondary data sources, primary data sources and data collection. New research tools such as ladder, images of faces and colours are being tested by rural marketing research agencies. Rural research is growing in size and value. Many small agencies have already made a mark of their own. However, when MNCs enter the field, they seem to have the competitive advantage by virtue of their resources and professionalism.

Short Answer Question

  1. Explain the role of information in marketing decision making.
  2. Define marketing research. When do companies go for marketing research?
  3. Briefly explain the steps involved in the marketing research process.
  4. Is the qualitative research approach more suitable in the rural context?
  5. What is primary research? When is it preferred?
  6. What are the sources of secondary data for rural research?
  7. Identify the factors that influence the choice of decision making.sample in the rural setting.
  8. Suggest guidelines for rural research investigators.
  9. Explain some of the data collection tools specially developed for rural research.
  10. Examine the differences between rural and urban market research.
  11. Who are the major players in rural marketing research?
  12. Do you think MNCs have more competitive advantage than Indian firms?

Discussion Questions

  1. Neither the approaches nor the tools useful in urban research can be replicated in rural research. Discuss.
  2. Participatory research tools are qualitative and cannot provide substantial evidence to help make policy decisions. Discuss.
  3. Discuss the use of new tools of research in conducting exploratory studies in rural areas.
  4. Discuss the role played by any two research agencies in promoting rural marketing research.

Essay Questions

  1. Explain the significance and sources of information for decision making with reference to rural markets.
  2. Explain the key decisions involved in rural marketing research.
  3. Explain the differences between rural and urban marketing research. Suggest guidelines for rural research fieldwork.
  4. Discuss the innovative tools and approaches adopted by rural researchers.

Internet Exercise

Visit the Web sites of four research agencies and prepare a consolidated report on the services mix offered by them.

Mini Project

Conduct a study to describe the lifestyle of the rural and findings. Draw comparisons between rural youth youth. Include in your sample, rural youth studying in in your institute and in villages. your institute and those residing in their villages. Prepare a research paper that explains your methodology and findings. Draw comparisons between rural youth in your institute and in villages.

Case 5.1 Rural Market Survey

Raj recently attended a seminar on “Rural Marketing: The New Challenge,” organized at Time: The Management School. He heard various speakers criticizing corporations for neglecting rural areas. They held forth on the various ways that companies can go rural. Raj, the head of the marketing division of the personal care products division of Sindhu Pvt. Ltd, became curious to know whether the rural markets have changed so much. During his interaction with the management students, he identified a batch of ten students specializing in rural marketing who were quite eager to help him. The ten students went to villages in nearby Vadamalpet in Andhra Pradesh and carried out a survey.

Research Problem: Are villages worthy of consideration for the marketing of personal care products?

Objectives: The objectives of the study are:

  1. To find whether villages are accessible to marketers

  2. To identify the demographic profile of villages

  3. To know more about the products they possess and their brand preferences

  4. To examine the existing distribution system

Research Site: Chittoor district is one among the 23 districts of Andhra Pradesh. It is widely known today, because the former Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Sri Chandra Babu Naidu, hailed from it. The district has a population of about 3.26 million, which constitutes 5 per cent of the total population of the state. The district is divided into three revenue division, i.e. Chittoor, Tirupati and Madanapalle. There are 66 mandals, 3 municipalities and 1,540 revenue villages in the district.

Data Collection: Data was collected from five villages, i.e. Kadiri mangalam, Obalraj kandriga, Vadamala bazaar, Vadamala gramam and Rama samudram with the help of veterinary medical officers and village assistant officers. Preliminary information indicated that 85 per cent of the population is literate. The mainstay of the villages is agriculture. Keeping this information in mind, a questionnaire was developed to guide the inquiry (see Exhibit 5.1).

Exhibit 5.1: Questionnaire

Village Profile (General inquiry)

  • Number of households
  • Population :
    Male :
    Female :
    Children :
  • Literates :
    Male :
    Female :
  • Occupations
    Agriculture :
    Agricultural labourers :
    Non-agricultural labourers :
    Salary earners :
    Business :
    Unemployed :
    Others :
  • Number of schools :
    Primary : ( )
    Secondary : ( )
  • Primary health centres: ( )
  • Cooperative stores: ( )
  • Banks: ( )
  • Post offices: ( )
  • Distance to nearby town:
  • Transport facility:
    Buses: ( )
    Trains: ( )
    Vans/tempos: ( )
  • Road facility :

Distribution Profile:

  1. Retail outlets


    Size Number
  2. Co-operative society

  3. Haats/Melas

  4. Do mobile vans come? Which company sends them? How frequently?

  5. Any other way of selling in the village?

Profile of Village Consumers (Individual inquiry):

  1. Product possession
    1. (i) Durables related to occupation
      (ii) Consumables related to occupation
    2. (i) Durables related to households (TV, 2-in-1, etc.)
      (ii) Consumables related to households
    3. Local and national brands in use
    4. Spurious brands in use
  2. Exposure to media
    1. Is TV watched? What are the preferred channels and programmes?
    2. Are newspapers read? Which papers?
    3. Are magazines read? Which ones?
  3. Do you take the opinion of someone before you buy? If yes,


Size Number

Source: TIME: The Management School, Tirupati.

For discussion

  1. Evaluate the research design with reference to the problem and objectives.

  2. Critically evaluate the questionnaire design.

Case 5.2 Pharma Surveys Rural

Padma Pharma Ltd has decided to go for a special rural marketing drive. When it looked up the available database, it found that there is a lack of proper information about chemists operating in or nearby rural areas and catering to rural markets. It, therefore, decided to conduct a research and contacted Deepti Rural Research and Solutions.

Research Outline

The research agency presented an outline of the proposed research.

  1. Objectives
    • To estimate the potential of chemists catering to rural markets
    • To analyse the problems that chemists face in receiving supplies and making payments
  2. Methodology

Rural Market Classification

Rural formulation market has three broad segments.

  • Feeder market, which is a small town
  • Semi–rural–urban market
  • Village market

Therefore, it proposed to cover these three markets.

The parameters proposed for selection of the rural market are given below


Information Range

The information focus can be on one or more of the following.

  1. Doctors’ Survey

    Qualification, specialty, number of patients seen per day, major ailments normally treated, patients referred to a specialist, major molecules prescribed, source of information of drugs (literature, direct mailers, conference, medical representatives’ visits, etc.) and so on.

  2. Hospitals/Polyclinics/Nursing Homes Survey

    Government/private, number of beds, number of patients treated (percentage of patients referred from nearby places), doctors attached to the hospital, whether pharmacy is attached, etc.

  3. Chemists’ Survey

    Location, size of the outlet, whether attached to doctor/hospital, turnover, practice of doctors nearby, buyers from nearby villages, place and mode of purchase of stocks, mode of repayment, pharma sales, people’s visits, etc.


This study is confined to chemists. A questionnaire designed for data collection is given in Exhibit 5.2.

For discussion

  1. Evaluate the questionnaire and suggest improvements.

  2. Do you suggest any alternative method of inquiry?


Exhibit 5.2
(Strictly confidential)


Thank you for your cooperation.