The report explores rural India’s concern about the impact of COVID-19 and how it alters consumer behavior with data points such as consumers preferring local village shops for purchasing groceries, personal hygiene, and cleaning products.
Kantar along with GroupM’s rural and experiential marketing unit, Dialogue Factory unveiled the 2nd edition of the Rural COVID Barometer Report. The research was conducted with Kantar’s data and insights network and Dialogue Factory’s rural marketing intelligence in 18 Indian states, across rural adults (18+ years in age) with representation across gender, NCCS, and age groups.
Rural India is highly concerned about the COVID-19 situation in the second wave. Concerns are higher amongst females (91%) as compared to males (85%) and within the higher age bands (55+ years old’s). These concerns are mostly driven by COVID-19’s impact on day-to-day life and functioning (most for 25-55 years old’s), fear of falling sick, and the overall need for financial planning. As a result, rural consumption and shopping patterns have witnessed a major shift.
While consumers are concerned, most are also positive about economic recovery once the situation normalizes. Nearly 3 in 4 rural households have received some form of assistance via Government of India schemes, thus providing the much-needed financial cushion to consumers.
Rural consumers are saving 25% of their income. Southern India (except for Tamil Nadu) is saving more in comparison to other parts of the country. As expected, expenses are higher on personal care, hygiene, and cleaning products while spends on indulgence and beauty products have been deprioritized.
With respect to retail channels, consumers prefer local village shops for purchasing groceries (56%), personal hygiene (49%), and cleaning (45%) products. Even big-ticket items like consumer electronics (50%) and durables (46%) are preferred to be bought at these local shops.
There has been an internet revolution in rural India, with online being the most consumed media after television.
With respect to online content consumption, music/ audio (69%) leads the pack followed by news (49%) and gaming (33%).
Usage of video / OTT apps is driven by YouTube at 87% (most in Rajasthan, AP/ Telangana, TN, and Bihar) followed by Disney+ Hotstar at 30% (highest usage in UP, TN, Gujarat, Kerala).
WhatsApp and Facebook are the most used social media/ messenger platforms at 87% (most in Rajasthan, AP / Telangana, Karnataka) and 66% (most in Odisha, UP, Gujarat, and West Bengal) usage respectively.
Phone Pe is the most used digital payments app with 19% of rural consumers having used these services in the last 6 months. Usage of Phone Pe is driven by Karnataka at 46% followed by Rajasthan at 38%.
Growth in the consumer durables and automotive (2-wheeler) sectors is likely to slow down in the next 6 months. However, the smartphone category is expected to see fast growth in the near future.
The construction sector is also expected to see a bounce-back with consumers expected to spend on building a house/ undertake smaller construction work in the next 6 months.
Commenting on the report, Dalveer Singh, Head of Experiential Marketing- APAC, GroupM Dialogue Factory said, “The pandemic has evolved the rural consumer’s decision-making process. They are watching their spending and prioritizing their buying patterns by the need of the hour. There is a positive acceptance of the vaccination. The upper- and middle-class rural Indians are being more proactive in financial planning to deal with covid constraints, which make these markets a significant place to introduce investment and savings products. To sum up, there is a deep sense of uplift on the subject of India’s economic future.”
Puneet Avasthi, Senior Executive Director, Insights Division, Kantar said, “With a highly concerned rural consumer, rural India is planning finances better and inclined towards a savings mindset. This offers significant headroom for growth to savings and investment products such as insurance and even mutual funds. Additionally, we are witnessing a significant rise in digital payments as an important mode of transaction, this offers a robust platform for rural financial inclusion, as also as suitable hyperlocal promotions. With the change in consumption priorities in favor of health and hygiene products (a trend that has held since the first wave), FMCG marketers should leverage this trend for planning their innovation pipeline.”