While big Indian metros will remain a staple for marketers and increasing a rural footprint will be critical for volumes in the long run, there is a growth opportunity that is vastly under-rated by many marketers today, which could emerge as a key growth engine for the next 10 years.
Middle India, a region made up of approximately 400 towns each with a population of 1-10 Lac, are home to 100 million Indians and today constitute up to 20 percent of the country’s FMCG consumption. In fact, only the metros and Middle India have outpaced the all-India growth story in the last eight years. Even today, Middle India leads the pack across urban and rural segments for FMCG value growth rates.
Although some companies have partially penetrated the Middle India market, many tend to overlook smaller towns, ignoring the fact that these markets are perhaps easier to penetrate due to relatively sparse competition. Considering the expected growth of population in this area, rise in incomes and aspirations and the expected influx of people from even smaller towns to Middle India, this market is expected to create huge opportunities for marketers in the coming few years.
Why do Middle India cities matter?
These cities are ready to behave like the metros of tomorrow. Of the total INR 1.4 Trillion (280 Billion USD) in FMCG sales in 2010, goods worth about INR 287 Billion (5.74 Billion USD) were consumed by the Middle India population. This number makes up more than 20 percent of the overall FMCG sales, and 30 percent of the urban FMCG sales.
Middle India is also home to 30 percent of all urban stores, comprising over 900,000 million stores today. In addition to this, the annual per capita FMCG consumption of Middle India towns touched INR 2,800 (56 USD), which exceeded the national average by INR 1,600 (32 USD). This is a significant achievement for these smaller towns, considering the fact that the metros breached the INR 2,800 (56 USD) mark as recently as 2009.
Strong and vast market market potential
Out of 81 FMCG categories tracked by Nielsen, 49 product categories across personal care, over-the-counter drugs, household care, and food outgrew the all-India rate. Over 30 categories saw growth rates faster than 1.15 times the all-India rate. The top five fastest growing categories like diapers, scourers, liquid toilet soaps, acne preparations and air fresheners, which fared strongly in the past year, performed even better in 2011, indicating continued possibility of robust growth in the near future.
Interestingly, the focus on hygiene, health, personal grooming and convenience seems to be driving the rapid growth in these towns. Middle India is also accepting evolved categories like breakfast cereals, air fresheners, acne preparations, and liquid toilet soaps. The metros took on to many of these categories in a big way just a few years ago and Middle India does not want to be left out.
These developments bode well for FMCG companies, especially in light of the fact that this market is still in a nascent stage, and is expected to grow substantially in the next five years. The rise in demand for consumer products and relatively lower penetration of FMCG companies in these towns means that competition is not as fierce in these towns as would be in larger metros. A few major players with adequate capital and wide distribution networks are already cashing in on the opportunity. The annual turnover of the top ten FMCG players from the Middle India segment rose more than 42 percent by INR 35.8 Billion (716 Million USD) in just two years between 2009 and 2011.