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Empowering rural consumers in emerging markets

C. Samuel Craig (Stern School of Business, New York University, New York, New York, USA)
Susan P. Douglas (Stern School of Business, New York University, New York, New York, USA)

International Journal of Emerging Markets

ISSN: 1746-8809

Article publication date: 27 September 2011




Rural consumers in emerging market countries are among the largest and fastest growing segments of the world's population. The purpose of this paper is to examine marketing's role in tapping potential in rural areas and suggest how firms can help potential consumers develop their purchasing power, thus creating a situation that benefits both consumers and the firm.


The study is based on information on company web sites (of both multinationals and emerging market firms) and other published information regarding these firms' activities in emerging markets. This was supplemented by personal interviews conducted with marketing executives in India.


It is found that marketing strategy must be developed de novo as strategies adopted in developed markets are not adapted to rural market conditions. This must be based on a thorough understanding of consumers, particularly their multiple roles as producers and consumers. In addition, firms need to focus on finding ways to empower consumers and enhance their ability to consume, by integrating them into the value delivery system. Finally, distribution is the key element in the marketing mix and firms must spend considerably more time focusing on infrastructure development and expanding distribution to ensure product availability.

Practical implications

The paper identifies key strategic imperatives that need to be considered by firms from developed countries in designing successful strategies to reach and tap the vast potential of rural consumers in emerging markets.


The paper focuses on the role marketing can play in improving consumer income levels in rural areas of emerging market economies by integrating them into the value chain and enhancing their ability to consume.



Samuel Craig, C. and Douglas, S.P. (2011), "Empowering rural consumers in emerging markets", International Journal of Emerging Markets, Vol. 6 No. 4, pp. 382-393.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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