In this blog, I talked about learning the social and cultural etiquette when marketing new or advanced high tech products or services into a foreign market. So how can Product Management better understand these social and cultural influences, as well as the needs specific to a new, foreign market where data is limited? Take a look at how a couple of strong brands approached one segment in a developing market with high growth expectations by 2020.
In the mobile market, developing markets will offer the greatest growth opportunities as developed markets near saturation. According to the GSMA’s (Groupe Speciale mobile Association) 2017 Mobile Economy report, the mobile market in India “will be the primary driver” of mobile subscription growth by 2020. Although the mobile usage in urban areas of developing countries is comparable for both men and women, often the rural market is not. For example, women in rural India are limited in ownership and access to mobile phones/tablets and the wealth of available on-line information by social and economic barriers.
One of GSMA’s initiatives is Women Empowerment and focuses on minimizing the gender gap in mobile internet access. Empowerment may be gained through greater connection and access to health, education and other information available on-line. The GSMA Connected Women program must overcome the mobile phone ownership and usage barriers for women in low and middle income markets.
UPDATE: GSMA’s 10 year celebration of the Connected Women Programme resulted in over 45 million Women subscribers who benefited from their female focused offerings such mobile money for female microfinance customers.
GSMA estimates that “closing the gender gap in low- and middle-income countries over the period 2019 to 2023 represents a $140bn revenue opportunity for the mobile industry.”
Two worldwide brands have taken a refreshing tact to gain information on this untapped segment of women living in rural India.
In 2015, Google India and Tata Trust began a digital literacy initiative for the under-served market of rural women living in India. The initiative provides a bicycle, a mobile or tablet and training to local women who then ride the bike to the surrounding villages to share and educate other local women for greater e-literacy. In 2016, Tata Trusts advised that almost 100,000 women had been trained under the program. In 2016, this “Saathis” initiative expanded to include four more states in India for a total of 13 states.
The Indian Express published an article that I highly recommend about how this program is transforming communities. The article highlighted that, although women had heard the terms smart phone and internet, they have little knowledge of the benefits to them due to limited access. According to the article, women in rural villages who have recently experienced internet access through this program, “are now very comfortable using applications like Mail, Gallery, Calculator, Whatsapp and Chrome.”
By educating rural women on the benefits and services offered through access to the internet via mobile phones or tablets, the initiative tries to overcome the barriers to women’s phone ownership and usage while driving demand for health, education and entertainment for women.
UPDATE: According to an article in livemint.com, “in Punjab, the programme will cover around 5,000 villages….
“In Odisha, the programme has kicked off … and will cover 16,000-plus villages...”
“The programme has spanned the length and breadth of the country, covering 20 states.”
“About 70,000 fully trained Internet Saathis are using the internet to drive positive change in their communities, which in turn have benefited over 26 million women...”
“Over time, women start to become more confident, becoming a key source of information for their village, and also help empower the next generation. About 70% of Saathis believe they are seen as a source of information in their village.”
Through this program, not only is Google and Tata educating the consumer, learning the local mobile needs of women in rural India and developing an untapped market, their brands are enjoying the good will benefits for their efforts at empowering women in developing markets. Now that is one smart marketing strategy and tactic that may ensure a win-win outcome for all.