Rural and small towns, the next big opportunity for Indian retail?


India’s over 600,000 villages and a rural population of over 700 million present a very unique and challenge opportunity for various organizations. The fact that this population has completely different needs, wants and desires compared to the urban populace makes the situation even tougher to play in.

India’s rural sector has always been an enigma for organizations across the board. They have tried various ways and means of reaching the rural population. Some have been successful while others haven’t.

big bazaar

India’s retail sector has for quite a few years been one of the sunshine sectors of our industry. Future Group, Reliance, Aditya Birla Group, Goenka, a number of big players have established themselves in this field in formats as varied as supermarkets and cash and carry stores. But problems ranging from poor supply chain, high infrastructure costs, lack of positioning and loyalty have proved as obstacles in their growth path.

Now, many of them are turning their glances to the rural areas for expansions.

  • Shoppers Stop is planning to open over 12 stores in smaller cities by the year end at an investment of about 120 crore
  • Future Group is planning to enter 10 – 12 towns every year
  • Metro Cash and Carry and Easy Day are looking to expand their cash and curry business first to smaller towns
  • Wills Lifestyle and Spice Hotspot are targeting these smaller cities and towns as a very important part of their strategy

Wondering how come this change? I analysed a number of factors / reasons responsible for this.

One of the most important factors is the changing demographic dividend -  Increasing disposable incomes, better standards of living and reduction of gender and race divides is proving to be increasingly beneficial.

With increasing influx of TV, new technologies, media and Internet, the rural population is getting all kinds of information in the nick of time. This has been instrumental in helping them open their eyes to the outside world and in knowing what’s good and what’s bad.

This has also helped the rural populace to better realise their agricultural produce and get the right price for it. Eg: Reliance Fresh is sourcing the vegetables directly from the farmers for its stores thereby removing the need of middlemen. Low land availability and rising prices has also made many retailers look to smaller towns for their operations.

Increasing customization and decreasing the stock of luxury products is the strategy which retailers are using for rural areas.

In Rakesh Biyani, CEO, Retail, Future Group’s words –

“Sales per sq ft may be lower than the cities, but then the costs are lower too”

Do you think our retailers can succeed in the smaller towns and rural areas?

  1. Spice Not Hot says

    Better to buy of bargain then above MRP from these big retail stores, they are never going to employ a single person on whose land they build up there buildings, even in Metro cities Big Bazaar is doing the same thing and stocking low quality products, taking money from people and never returning the money to them.

    Other than this Mobile retail stores like Spice Hotspot has been doing differential pricing for years now and selling some mobile phones above market prices for years now.

  2. sunanda says

    Definitely small towns and tier 2 and tier 3 cities are the best market for retail in India. One of the best retail business opportunity in India in Yoga Studio. You can find detail @

  3. avijitchatterjee says

    i want to know scope about bigbazar in future,,,,it is brilliant idea for start business in small towns

  4. liju philip says

    time for retail to penetrate the rural areas. not only are the urban areas saturated but also the real estate pricing has become ridiculously high.

    the people in rural areas deserve more than what they are getting now and only the private players can do something about it. trust the govt to do something for the rural areas is hopeless.

    1. Aseem Rastogi says

      And I am sure the entry of these retail players in the rural sector would bring some exciting changes..

  5. Yaamini says

    I am sure retailers can succeed in smaller towns and rural areas. Firstly because nowadays the standard of living has improved and secondly as aseem pointed out land availabilty is more and cheaper in rural areas.

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