Rural startups innovate for success
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Growth in the rural segment has been huge and largely untapped and the startups here do not face the kind of expectations city-centric ventures face from investors


Though there is some turbulence in the startup scenario in metros, those targeting the rural segment seem to be growing at a steady pace.


Two key reasons being attributed for this growth is that the market is huge and largely untapped and the fact that rural segment has been by and large been kept away from the hype and expectations that was built in the metro-centric startups.


There definitely also exists other challenges in terms of language and cultural fronts due to the multi-diverse nature of India. But players in this segment have braved this to record a steady increase in business through innovation.


"The rural market is massive -- over 65 per cent of Indians live in rural areas, spread over six lakh villages. The market is fragmented and therein lies the opportunity, because it is difficult to work these markets," says Ramachandaran Ramanathan, founder and CEO, Inthree, one of the companies that is targeting this segment.


Thus adopting non-traditional methods of reaching the target customer needs to be implemented. "We work with non-traditional channels and 'influencers' in the rural markets, which helps us understand customer preferences and behaviour and tailor our methods to suit them. We work in local language only," says Ramanathan.


As online media is almost irrelevant while trying to address the rural populace, the most important differentiating factor to success has been unique the channels companies have tried to capture mind and space share.


"It is not enough to have a website, access to the products needs to be made by popular shopping locales and point of contact to make it work," says Sridhar Gundaiah, founder and CEO of StoreKing which harnessed the power of vernacular to introduce over one million villagers to the world of online shopping in the last three years.


Another example is Flinnt.com, a funded company in the education segment, which has exploited this sector extremely well not simply by virtue of its offerings but also by adopting the methodology that addresses the existing lacuna.


"The market is as big as the tier I cities market, prima facie it looks fragmented but if you scratch on the surface, similarities being to emerge. Also the increasing availability of smartphones like Micromax series and the extended Indian language support being provided by Samsung and other service providers has done away with the problem of Indian language support," says Harish Iyer, founder and CEO, Flinnt.com.


Other startups are using other options including governments and NGOs whose access is leveraged to ensure that their solution reach the people that need it the most. Orders and expansion hence depend on the bandwidth of these collaborating agencies with regard to cash flow, policies and manpower.


TechGig.com Bureau