Today someone has sent me a mail with the following question.

What are your thoughts on the role mobile can play in rural india? Are there significant revenue opportunities in either mobile advertising or messaging?

First of all, what is the media that through which you can reach rural consumers? Currently it is TV or Radio or Movies (for the sake of simplicity in our discussion, I am not considering audio or video players or even gaming devices although these can be considered as media). Fundamentally they lack the following elements when you look at urban and rural as separate markets.

  1. Customization: You find that TV/Radio programs or movies are also meant for urban as well. This means they cannot customize their content specifically to rural consumers. There is an another way, they may run specific TV/radio programs at a particular timings customized for rural folks. But then, India is culturally so much diverse that you can’t take all those rural people into a single bucket.
  2. Interactivity: Our traditional media is not interactive. You can’t get any inputs from the consumers. It is always pushing to them.
  3. Mobility: Mobility is missing in all existing channels. However, radio is an exception. But then due to lack of interactivity & personalization, this media loosing out the numbers.
  4. On-demand services: There is no on-demand concept in any of the existing media. However, this is the mantra today.

There are many more issues such as ‘reachability’ etc. All of the above issues can be addressed when you consider mobile as the media. That shows the potential of the market considering the fact that the large number of people reside in rural areas.

Usually because of too much content being supplied in urban markets, urban consumers are started to believe that information is free. And it is the end-to-end service that is to be paid in their case. However, for the next few years, information scarcity will be prevalent across rural India. This means, rural Indians are ready to pay for information provided if that is worthy enough for them. Of course, we have a challenge of understanding, what exactly is worthy for them. Second challenge is that how do you reach them through low cost models.

Malapati Raja Sekhar

I work with few small startups focused on rural services (for-profit). I am based in Mumbai, India.