Dr. Manosi Lahiri
Managing Director, ML Infomap
The MICA Rural Market Ratings (MRMR) has been developed by the Mudra Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad (MICA) in association with ML Infomap Pvt. Ltd., New Delhi. MICA is the premier institute for training communications professionals and ML Infomap is a specialist IT consulting company, with several digital map products to its credit. The result of this joint effort is an exciting and outstandingly useful marketing tool. For the senior marketing executive, or media planner, or even an NGO involved in rural development work, this could be the perfect table-top multimedia guide to rural India. And all this has been delivered on one CD and presented in colorful maps using digital mapping technology from MapInfo Corporation.
MICA, in its continual effort to serve the advertising and marketing community, developed a rural market index, to indicate the rural market potential of all the districts of India. This exercise was based on stringent research and analysis of forty-two variables.
An interesting aspect of the project is that instead of ending with just presenting this research, great value has been added through several interesting features. For one, the data is available only on electronic media and so can be observed and presented in several different ways just by the click of the mouse. For another, the results of this research are presented on maps. For this, ML Infomap’s proprietary product, The Standard Digital map of India TM has been used. Shaded district maps indicate the level of market potential. Since the results are seen on a map, clear patterns of market potential can be ‘seen’. Then, clicking with the information tool on a district, one can immediately see important facts relating to it. These relate to bank advances, demographics, infrastructure, and more.
But of greater interest is the fact that you can find any district by name, then zoom into it and find the distribution (that is, location) of all the actual rural markets, the ‘haats’. Further, you click on a haat and you get to know on which day or days of the week the market takes place. Besides, several items of demographic data are also stored for these villages. And finally, the package includes the road and railway map of India, thus enabling one to chart a route to reach the village of one’s choice.
Installation instructions are included with the CD.10MB of hard disk space is needed to install MRMR on a computer. It runs on Windows 95 and above. The learning curve is short, if you are computer literate. Icons and buttons clearly reflect the standard functions like zoom, pan, see information, select, label, remove label, etc. There is, however, a helpful HELP system and an instructive STEP-BY-STEP learning guide, for those who want to use it. To be completely at ease and access all the information, one needs to learn all the function in a few sittings. For some, the idea of first setting a layer and then accessing its information may be new, but digital map users are familiar with this concept. Mapping technology has been used by some companies in India earlier for both planning and logistics. So what is that makes this product so different or of interest to the marketing community in India? It is my belief that this is unique product in many ways.
First of all, everything comes together in one CD. Users of mapping software know that applications packages and data sets are usually provided separately and it is not always the easiest thing to begin using the package immediately. Certainly, in my experience, specialists spend days just developing digital maps, especially for countries like India, for which few reliable digital maps are freely available. In this case, however, excellent maps are freely available. In this case, however, excellent maps are provided it symbols signifying states and districts, roads of different kinds (National Highways, State Highways, other metalled roads), railway lines and stations, towns and villages. A legend also explains these symbols.
One feature that I think will be useful for those using MRMR as a logistic and implementation tool for field staff is that at the lower left corner of the status bar, the map scale keeps changing as one zooms in and out. This implies that you can get a good idea of distances between points. Also, because the pan tool lets you move the map around, different visible sections appear on the screen, without closing and opening new screens.
MRMR is remarkably good value for money, a mere Rs.35, 000 in India. Why? Because the developers are committed to take the results of this research to a large number of end users of this package. They believe that at this price many of the smaller companies will be tempted to use this product to support their rural marketing strategies. Best of all, your investment in the product is protected if you wish to upgrade and add your internal market data to the package and customize it. ML Infomap will take the responsibility to do this for you, using the presently included data sets.
And finally, this is a product, not just applications software and data bundled together. It is well designed and packed keeping in mind ease of use and importance of presentation of place related information in maps. Quite clearly two sets of expertise, in market research and digital mapping, have worked to create a classy and savvy product. This deserves to be seen and used by anyone with interest in the forty-two thousand market villages of India.