Accenture Study on Women Consumers in Rural India


  1. Female consumers is India have been long ignored. However companies cannot afford to do so anymore as they become more aspirational, networked and discerning
  • The buying preferences of India’s female rural consumers are changing fast, and their decision-making power and their independence are increasing.
  • These women are more aspirational than ever, eager to purchase branded, high-quality products. They are also becoming more networked, using mobile devices to connect with family and friends.
  • They are more discerning, no longer willing to accept inferior products simply because such offerings cost less than higher-quality one

  1. Few companies have deep understanding of this shift they’re at risk of missing out on the opportunity to drive new growth by effectively and profitably serving rural women in India.
  • Women in rural India are changing in terms of their buying goals, attitudes and behaviors. Several forces are driving these shifts, including an increase in literacy rates and employment among rural women, along with rising income levels.
  • Women in rural India are also better informed about their consumption and lifestyle options, thanks to mobile penetration into India’s hinterlands.
  • Women have more influence on purchase decisions than many executives have assumed. They’re surprisingly willing to travel to make purchases.
  • They buy high-value goods as well as low-value impulse items, and they’re more willing to make purchases on their own than many companies expected.

  1. Women consumers in rural India is turning out into a new category in itself which companies looking to expand into Indian rural areas can’t ignore
  • The literacy rate among rural women in India is rising; it jumped from just over 46 percent in 2001 to nearly 59 percent in 2011, rising more quickly than it is for India’s urban female population.
  • Meanwhile, more rural women than urban women in India hold paying jobs (35 percent in rural versus 21 percent in the cities), and their income levels are rising.
  • In addition, women in rural India appear to be taking somewhat greater advantage of social security schemes.
  • Our findings suggest that companies would benefit by paying attention to India’s female rural consumers’ hopes and dreams and crafting the right strategies for fulfilling them.
  • To devise offerings and marketing campaigns that will appeal to these consumers, companies need to understand—and then let go of—all-too-common myths about female consumers in India’s hinterlands.

  1. Companies targeting Indian women rural consumers assume a lot of things about their purchasing patterns, decision making ability for a purchase and about their buying habits.
  • Our research points out rural women play a significant part in purchasing decisions.
  • Eighty four percent of travel outside their own village to nearby city or district headquarters to make purchases and bring the products home.
  • Majority of rural women consumers buy high value goods – which again is a myth buster for companies thinking that women mostly prefer to buy low value goods.
  • Thirty seven percent of the rural women consumers make purchases on their own. The figure is as high as forty percent for working women in rural India. This is one of the significant finding as many companies we interviewed thought these women purchased things after taking inputs from family members

  1. Despite all the signs indicating that female rural Indian consumers defy common assumptions, our survey of executives from companies in an array of industries suggests that few enterprises are actively tailoring their strategies to real women living in rural India
  • Attitudes and behaviors among rural women consumers are still changing, and it’s doing so quickly.
  • In fact, it’s catching up with urban India on a number of fronts, including female consumers’ income levels, their awareness of different forms of value and their aspirations for a better life. Companies that don’t continually rethink their offerings to appeal to India’s female rural consumers will miss out on an immense opportunity.
  • To capitalize on the collective growth opportunities presented by these women, companies will need to understand the “purchase journey” that such consumers travel—and master key imperatives associated with each stage of that journey.

  1. For many female buyers in rural India —working and nonworking alike—practical concerns powerfully trigger recognition that they have a need.
  • For instance, in answer to a survey question about what causes them to realize they have a need, 46% female respondents cited obsolescence of a product they’re currently using.
  • Additional triggers included a sense of necessity and advice given by family or friends about a product or brand.
  • What should companies do?
  • These findings suggest that companies can benefit by designing marketing campaigns that tap into the opportunity to replace female consumers’ existing goods.
  • Companies also need to deepen their understanding of what female rural consumers want and value. Doing so requires an investment in data collection and analysis, carefully developed insights into sub-segments of the female demographic in rural India (such as women from different socio-economic groups), and sometimes even on-the-ground observation.
  • Companies may also have to get creative in gleaning such insights, such as investing in new market research capabilities and data-visualization tools, tapping into local social networks and partnering with agencies that possess usable customer data

  1. Fifty three percent of the rural women consumers gather information about products through ‘word of mouth’ while 32 percent from local mom and pop shops in rural areas
  • What companies should do?
  • Women in rural India rely heavily on the opinions of others they trust. Companies seeking to enhance these consumers’ awareness of their offerings and ultimately win their business would do well to build a go-to-market model that leverages influencers in local communities, such as women’s offline social networks and rural retail partners.
  • Cause-related marketing can also help companies boost female consumers’ awareness of a business’s social values and its brands.
  • Companies also need to carefully weigh their choices about which media to use to foster rural women’s awareness of their offerings.


  1. Women in rural India, working and nonworking alike, are more discerning than many outsiders might assume. When asked which product or service attributes they give the most weight to while making a purchase decision, 34 percent of the working women in our survey and 35 percent of the nonworking women cited price.
  • What companies should do?
  • Companies can sweeten the odds of getting their offerings into female rural consumers’ consideration set by ensuring reliable product functionality and good value (in terms of product features and benefits) for the price consumers pay.
  • It is critical here to tailor value propositions to meet female rural consumers’ unique needs. Defining the right value proposition is not as simple as stripping out costs or features to make a cheaper product.
  • Given rural female consumers’ evolving requirements and aspirations, companies must look beyond pricing as a long-term source of differentiation and clarify the product’s emotional and functional benefits, including value for money, quality and the opportunity for female consumers to elevate their social standing or gain important benefits such as increased convenience, comfort or freed-up time.

  1. Our research shows that female consumers in rural India are strongly brand conscious, and that this powerfully influences their purchase decisions. 69 percent of all the women in our study—working and nonworking—answered they buy branded products.
  • When asked for their reasons for buying branded products, 60 percent of the working women in our study and 67 percent of the nonworking women cited trustworthiness and reliability as their reasons.
  • What companies should do?
  • The lesson here for companies is to focus on not only delivering superior product functionality and after-sales service but also communicating those brand strengths to potential customers.
  • To do so, executives need to recognize that rural women in India have high expectations of branded products.
  • Businesses must also generate positive word of mouth about their offerings, in the right ways.
  • This effort starts with identifying the most relevant influencers for a particular product or service for the targeted female rural consumers and then establishing a dialogue with those influencers to inspire trust and loyalty.
  • In identifying the right influencers, companies must remember that the nature of influence is changing in rural India. In some places, traditional influencers (such as the heads of villages) are giving way to newer influencers, such as family members, educated youth, friends and individuals with specific expertise (like electricians who can advise women on consumer durables).

  1. With planned purchases, 84 percent of our survey respondents said they buy such products from shops located in nearby towns, cities or district headquarters.
  • For rural women making a planned purchase, value for the money paid is the most critical factor, according to 84 percent of our respondents.
  • But, 25 percent of the women we surveyed also said they’re willing to spend more for superior products, provided those offerings have additional functionality.
  • In fact, product or service quality came in second place among the most important factors influencing purchase decisions.
  • What companies should do?
  • In light of these findings, companies would do well to design their point-of-sale product range in nearby centers to appeal to both urban and rural consumers shopping there. They need to coach point-of-sale representatives on rural women’s purchase-related needs, such as how to emphasize an offering’s functionality, demonstrate key features and help shoppers compare products’ features and pricing.
  • They can benefit by enhancing the in-store experience, given that rural women enjoy shopping and that many view it as a leisure activity.
  • Store format—including location, size and layout—matters to these consumers.


  1. For impulse buys, 76 percent of our survey respondents said they make such purchases in their own village or in a nearby village. But interestingly, 20 percent reported ordering such products over the Internet.
  • For impulse buys, companies can drive product trial by designing low-value, smaller-packaging options.
  • Brands can also benefit by making desirable impulse offerings available for online purchase and ensuring that the ordering process is convenient and easy for rural consumers.
  • While rural women’s awareness of online purchasing is on the rise, many lack confidence in buying over the Internet.
  • Companies can overcome such challenges by educating women consumers about digital channels and by offering safe transactions, multiple payment options and doorstep delivery


  1. Eighty four percent of the women consumers unsatisfied with a shopping experience cited poor performance (including insufficient quality or short product life) as the reason for their dissatisfaction.
  • Product breakdowns combined with unpleasant sales experiences can swiftly erode customers’ trust in a company and its offerings. And once broken, trust is extremely difficult to rebuild.
  • What companies should do?
  • Many rural women shy away from logging formal complaints with companies if they have a dissatisfying post-purchase experience with a product or service.
  • Thus, companies should proactively reach out to customers to seek post-purchase feedback and to resolve any complaints swiftly and effectively before customers start spreading negative word of mouth.
  • Providing training to help customers get maximum value from their purchases constitutes another powerful strategy that enables companies to differentiate themselves through high-quality after-sales service


  1. Sixty three percent of the working women in rural India and 66 percent of the nonworking women in our survey said that in the past year, they have told people around them about a bad experience they had had with a company’s marketing or sales practices.
  • Others had switched brands or had decided to stop buying from the offending company.
  • What companies should do?
  • To avoid the damage that negative word of mouth can inflict on their brand, companies need to ensure that their rural female customers are delighted with their purchases, not merely satisfied.
  • Delighted customers will likely become repeat buyers and may even skip the pre-purchase stages entirely with subsequent buys—reducing the company’s risk of losing them during any of the earlier stages.
  • These loyal customers can also become informed advisors who persuade friends and family members to become customers by explaining why the offering is better than alternatives.
  • With these points in mind, companies need to listen to their female customers across all touch points, to understand what is making them happy about the products or services they have purchased and what may be making them unhappy.


  1. Companies must understand how Indian women rural consumers  “travel” through each stage of the purchase journey and then meet several key imperatives at each stage:
  • Need recognition. Build innovative marketing campaigns to tap into opportunities to replace female rural consumers’ existing goods. Invest in tools and technologies to glean insights into these consumers’ needs and design offerings relevant to those needs.
  • Build a go-to-market model for integrating company activities and offerings in local rural communities, such as female offline social networks and rural retail partners.
  • Emphasize product functionality, features and the benefits they provide and value for the money. Build brand image by conveying product attributes.
  • Recognize that rural women in India have high expectations of branded products and are not willing to accept substandard offerings. Understand the hierarchy of female consumer needs that a product category can satisfy. Build solutions that deliver consistently on key product attributes and service expectations.
  • Design point-of-sale product ranges to reflect rural shoppers’ interests, including offering affordable entry-level price points. Coach point-of-sale representatives on understanding and meeting rural women’s needs and expectations about the purchase experience. Help rural women gain trust and skill with online purchasing. Offer low-value packaging options to encourage product trial.
  • Product/service use. Develop robust products that deliver high performance consistently. Proactively seek feedback from customers who have bought, and swiftly and effectively address any dissatisfaction.
  • Advocacy or exit. Set up agile and responsible customer-grievance resolution systems. Build relationships with brand advocates to foster maximum positive word of mouth.

  1. To win and keep rural female consumers in India throughout the entire purchase journey, companies must excel on four fronts:
  • Offering reliable products and services—by ensuring that products hold up to consumers’ use of them
  • Building networks founded on trust—including integrating their brand into local rural communities and fostering female entrepreneurship
  • Emphasizing value for money—by helping women consumers understand and compare features and benefits as well as price of different offerings
  • Engaging with key retail partners—by understanding who exerts the most influence with what kinds of purchases and helping them create compelling purchase experiences for women consumers.