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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Rural Management


Rural Management


Ccountry representative, WaterAid and a graduate from the Institute of Rural Management in Anand (IRMA), talks about the growth opportunities in rural management


Rural management is a relatively new subject and has been introduced in response to the need to make the development of India's rural sector more professional. The demand for professionally trained rural managers comes mainly from co-operatives, nongovernment organisations, government development agencies, international development organisations and funding agencies. 


   The majority of students graduating from rural management institutes like IRMA and others spend a lot on their education, and want jobs that can cover the same.There was a marginalisation of cooperatives and a subsequent decline in work opportunities in this sector. There has also been a decline in avenues for reasonably paid and challenging social development work opportunities in non-government organisations. 
   People who can market products, operate finance and credit and disseminate technology in rural markets in India - represent a growing trend. However, with C K Prahlad's now famous book 'Bottom of Pyramid' on the untapped profits at the poverty levels, interest has once again returned to rural management and its application for building and capturing markets in rural areas. 
   Rural Management graduates are, therefore, absorbed in a variety of organisations ranging from nonprofit organisations and research institutes to profit making corporates trying to enter the rural markets. 


There are two distinct categories of growth areas for rural managers - corporate and market research, and not-for-profit institutions. For corporate - the growth potential lies in understanding the rural economy and strategising procurement to marketing, integrated strategies for multinational products as well as medium sized corporations. Agriculture, consumer goods, finance and agricultural product sales, marketing and after sales services, have been the traditional arena. 
   Not-for-profit institutions can be categorised as cooperatives, NGOs, government development agencies, and national and international donors engaged in promoting rural development. 
   There is also a recent trend of self help groups (SHG) based marketing strategies that are attracting the interest of the large consumer goods industry as well as venture capitalists. They see profits from the elimination of middlemen (wholesalers and retailers) in the supply chain, efficiency of scale of operations and from credit operations. 
   Growth may lie in the following areas of corporate rural markets - FMCG and consumer goods (soaps to cell phones marketing), infrastructure development (construction, mining and SEZs), social services (health care and education), marketing of education and health services through government systems and NGOs, agriculture marketing and credit and market research and consultancy. 
   Growth in rural and social development may come from expansion of health and education-based programmes and projects, gender, social and economic research work, disaster mitigation and preparedness and providing management training, support and research facilities to people committed to rural development. 


What is important is knowledge of rural marketing, work experience in FMCG goods or in NGO work related to micro credit. Recruiters look for hard working young people who can live in difficult conditions, pick up local languages and are people-friendly in outlook. Basic skills in computing, in taking economic decisions relating to costs and pricing, is a clear advantage. 


   Rural marketing for corporate products will pay less than the urban sector. Companies will reimburse in-kind for various expenses. In charity work and NGOs, if you work with local NGOs, your salaries will be benchmarked with the local staff and will be low. If you work in research, fund raising, reporting and documentation roles, you will get at least a 50% increase on local salaries. 
   If you work for reputed national and international NGOs, your salaries will be on par or higher than what the corporate market will pay for freshers in rural marketing and much lower than the corporate sector for higher grades. 
   However, get an experience of rural markets even if it is at a lower starting salary.Enter the job market with a good educational qualification (perhaps an MBA), as it will matter later on in your career. Also remember that your employer's credibility and compatibility matters a lot in rural jobs. Further, be sure that you can work and live with your boss and colleagues. 




Sunil Sharma


Dil Se Desi Group


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