Harit Nagpal, MD and CEO of Tata Sky analyses the biggest challenges in villages and opportunities facing the industry indicating rural consumption and spoke about his observation which was very distinctive from what the media, financial analysts and indices make us believe.

Amid rainstorm when voyaging to villages becomes inefficient, I have gone through 4 days in rural markets in October. I have gone to 35-40 villages by driving 2000 Km, about 250-300 impromptu customer interactions have made me feel way better. Since 2/3rd of our populace lives here, their state and conclusion are important for any national brand. What they need in per capita consumption, is more than made up by their numbers.

Nearly all homes visited were single room homes, most ‘pakka’, a few thatched. A few had a partitioned kitchen whereas most cooked within the same room. Each domestic had to get a latrine, inside the home or public. A few of the indicators are:

  • Two wheelers plying in large numbers between the villages and the cities, ferrying goods, produced or bought in one place for sale or consumption in the other.

  • Two-wheeler showrooms, in main towns were full of stocks and customers with the onset of Navratras.

  • Village shops well stocked with packaged goods from national and regional brands. Large quantities, fresh stocks, hence indicating good throughput.

  • Roadside food stalls, along the highway, as well as in the villages had customers, standing and eating, whatever time of the day we crossed them.

  • Women were in different stages of cooking or cleaning after meals, no one looked hungry or undernourished.

  • Every house had its façade or backyard covered with clothes hung for drying. No one was wearing soiled or dirty clothes.

  • Almost every house had a TV and a fridge. The TV was running, hence the household had paid Rs 250-350 for an active subscription.

  • Half the households had an old, box type TV while the other half had a flat screen LED TV. Of the ones with an old box TV, a large number were planning to replace it with an LED TV soon.

  • We noticed that many homes who’d recently received or ordered a LED TV from Flipkart or Amazon during the festive sale. All on COD.

  • Most homes had two active mobile phones.

  • Many homes were getting ready for the forthcoming festive season by painting or repairing their homes.

  • Children were enrolled in schools and almost every home had 2-3 shelves full of school and other books.

  • Most of the men in the age group of 18-50 were missing, probably working on the fields or serving in the neighbouring city.

  • The large base towns where I spent the nights, had vast sites with residential and commercial projects under construction. Workers in orange safety vests and helmets thronged the streets. I was told that the lowest paid amongst them was paid Rs 600 for the day, 2/3rd of which he remitted to his village home, every day.

Many states had experienced unremitting and prolonged downpours this year with the storm overstaying by over a month. This has expanded the agribusiness cycle by a month. These to begin with hand perceptions, over a fairly vast and diverse rural sample, compared favourably with my past visits, I had comparable perceptions amid my visits to rural India, after the approach of the global crisis in 2008. The utilization of our masses did not let our economy be affected.