With a faltering economy, many companies are sending their sales force into rural areas to increase sales and market share. MNCs like P&G, Unilever and Nestle are not only targeting the tier-1 rich consumers but also the very poor. Here is a look at the rural push by various companies:

Unilever in Pakistan – The Guddi Baji Program

Unilever, world’s second-largest consumer-goods company is aggressively pushing its beauty products in rural villages in Pakistan through Guddi Baji program. It hires beauty specialists and village women as sales representatives who understand rural women. They provide them with samples and equipment stocked in vans.

Hindustan Unilever in India

In 2011, Hindustan Unilever (HUL) was in talks with leading telecom firms and banks to create a joint distribution model to reach out to a wider rural market.

Colgate-Palmolive in Pakistan – 5000 to 15000 villages

Colgate-Palmolive, the world’s largest toothpaste maker is moving away from Pakistan cities by tripling the number of villages where its products like Colgate toothpaste are available.

ITC in India – Extending rural push

To extend the rural push, ITC collaborated with companies like Maruti Suzuki, Nokia and State Bank India (SBI) to connect with rural consumers. Rural consumers could thus get a chance to mingle with different companies and organizations under the ITC e-Choupal umbrella (rural distribution channel). The idea is to add more products to its rural distribution channels to increase awareness of its products and brands among rural customers. By 2011, ITC had around 6,500 e-Choupals in 50,000 villages across India.

Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) – Rural Sales Drive

M&M, the car-maker increased its focus on the rural and semi-urban markets and gained by strengthening its after sales network in all districts of India.

Procter & Gamble (P&G) in China

To cater to poor people in developing markets, P&G introduced the “$2 a Day” project in China. P&G plans to target consumers with average income of $2. It calls them the “$2 a day” consumer. P&G’s team involves mostly technical people than market researchers who attempt to study and learn how best to develop products for the poor. The team devotes time by visiting homes in China and other countries like Brazil, and India.

U.S. Telecoms – Closing the rural divide

In July 2011, six major U.S. broadband companies (AT&T, CenturyLink, FairPoint, Frontier, Verizon and Little Rock-based Windstream) made a proposal to the FCC to speed broadband deployment to rural areas. There are more than 4 million Americans living in rural areas.

Coca-Cola – The ‘parivartan’ program – Training small town retailers

Coke’s new strategy involves training retailers (around 6,000 of them) in a program launched by the Coca-Cola University. [In 2007, the company launched Coca-Cola University — a virtual, global university for all learning and capability-building activities.]
The company calls this the “parivartan” program (meaning “Change” in English). Read More on Coke’s Rural push.

Pepsico – Affordable and accessible breakfast cereals in rural India

PepsiCo is targetting smaller cities in India for its breakfast cereals – like the Quaker Oats brand. The company wants to keeps the product affordable (@ Rs 5 for a bowl of Oats) and wants to educate the customer its health benefits in tier I and tier II cities of India.