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‘Rural marketing needs a sustainable, scalable model’

By M4G Bureau - May 16, 2024

Rural Marketing veteran Sandip Bansal, who was heading Rural Practice at GroupM, has moved on from GroupM and is planning a new rural marketing initiative. In an exclusive conversation with Media4Growth, Sandip talks about the huge potential that can be tapped in the rural market for brand marketers.

Sandip Bansal

“Helping brands build equity and share in rural India,” says Rural Marketing veteran Sandip Bansal, while talking about his mission for the next phase of his career. Sandip, who headed Rural Practice at GroupM and has over 35 years of experience in this area, is moving on from GroupM. 

While he is still in the process of giving full shape to his future plans, Sandip is very clear that his area of focus will continue to be rural. “I have been a rural specialist all through my career. After nearly 12 years in GroupM, I have decided to move on and set up something that will enable brands to reap returns from their investments in rural marketing,” Sandip tells Media4Growth in an exclusive conversation.

Sandip’s professional journey in rural marketing began in 1989 with Video on Wheels, which was in fact the first structured approach to rural marketing in the country. He then joined Ogilvy, where he played a pivotal role in developing Ogilvy Rural, the agency's rural marketing arm. This was followed by his 8-year stint at Starcom, which he joined in 2005 and where he set up the rural practice called Xpanse Asia. He joined GroupM in 2012, where he helmed the Rural Practice.   

Lens on Rural

Through his career, Sandip has been mapping the rural market, understanding its unique dynamics and noting the need for a structured approach that would yield marketing results. 

He says, reiterating the importance of rural in the marketing scheme of things, “Rural India is about 11.87% of the global population and this is a population that spends and consumes. It is a population segment that no one can ignore, with youth being a big part of it. It also contributes significantly to FMCGs and durables sectors. But for lack of opportunities, this consumer segment was not getting the credit that it deserved. You need to treat rural consumers like other consumers, to successfully market your brand to them, and orchestrate marketing strategies/approaches that are sustainable and yield positive returns on investment.” 

Strategic, sustainable & agile 

Helping brands unlock the huge potential of rural markets is exactly where Sandip will steer his next course of action and this means creating new avenues for them to tap into this market.

As he points out, “I am privileged to have created and managed initiatives across brands and categories over the years and had an opportunity to be first hand in touch with this fast-evolving rural consumer and environment. This gives me a unique perspective and POV on how to use that to evolve choices, behaviours and practices.” 

Indeed, winning in rural, as Sandip says, entails a good understanding of the challenges and barriers, environments at the hyper local level, being strategic and inclusive and having entrepreneurial approach and capability with a lot of agility. 

“A transactional or a random/tactical deployment of media or activation may only excite a Brand Manager/CMO but not the CFO. My focus is going to remain on aggregating/creating scalable and sustainable models and equations, networks and partnership that can be triggered objectively to bring about a change in behaviours, practices and choices among rural consumers/beneficiaries in an accountable, sustainable & scalable manner,” Sandip explains further.  

In terms of using mediums like out-of-home advertising and activations, Sandip feels every medium has a distinct role depending on the communication objectives of a brand and emphasises the need for objective deployment and measurement and evaluation to make sure the marketing medium delivers results. Meanwhile, Sandip is gearing up to roll out his new plans into motion. 

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