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How Rural Millennials Are Choosing Their Smartphone

It is worth highlighting that Tier II & III cities of India are bringing an ever-increasing number of people on the smartphone platform.

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The Indian market is one of the fastest-growing smartphone markets worldwide. As per the imobi research, 90% of India will own a mobile phone by 2022, and 60% will use a smartphone by 2025. A distinctive feature of these trends is that it is not just restricted to metro cities only. It is worth highlighting that Tier II & III cities of India are bringing an ever-increasing number of people on the smartphone platform. Spread across all demographics, India, like most countries, is also moving away from traditional means of content consumption to more convenient and one-to-one interactions made accessible by mobile phone. Further, for gaming, video-viewing, social media, and shopping, mobile is now the primary screen for users.

In a nutshell, the consumption trend is triggered by factors such as affordable 4G smartphones, data plans and awareness programmes that are bridging the digital divide eventually sewing rural India in the Digital India journey. Here are some observations that are driving smartphone penetration across rural India:

Rural millennials bringing a seismic shift in purchasing decision

According to Kantar IMRB report, the millennial population of India is around 450 million, out of which around 300 million millennials (67% of the total population) live in Rural India. As per the research, the desire to improve their economic status is a key driver for rural millennials irrespective of their gender. The segment with higher aspirations, increasing purchasing power, evolving consumption patterns, and access to the world through Internet have emerged as the fulcrum of rural India that currently controls the rural economy as shoppers, makers and particularly as trend-setters.

Today, the smartphone penetration in rural and semi-urban demographics has witnessed a significant shift with an increase in user base to 40-50 % from 29 % five years ago. This trend is also attributed to the smartphone wave sweeping across the rural markets instigated with factors such as affordable device ecosystem, innovative and trendy features and most importantly, the aspirations of rural millennials.

Sneak peek into the mindset of rural millennials

The 300 million rural millennials which represent 36% of the Indian rural population are at the helm of defining the smartphone purchase decisions across the region. Rather than aimlessly following brands and names, these millennials, who are mindful and brand cognizant is settling on choices that elevate their social status comprising quality, latest and trendy features while affordability being the heart of the purchasing decision.

As far as psychographics is concerned, this fragment is further partitioned into minimalists and aspirers. Minimalists, the first category, are the individuals who own feature phones and are keen to move up to an entry-level smartphone. Today, India is home to 450 Million feature phone users and as the technology is spreading its wing this segment is expected to witness a transition to an entry-level smartphone.

On the other hand, the second category is of the aspirers- individuals who are eager to adopt innovation and shift to an upgraded smartphone model offering high-end features and is the latest and trendy technology in the market. The aspirers essentially look forward to features such as face unlock, fingerprint sensor, AI dual camera and Waterdrop HD display, etc. which makes them socially advance and add a style statement to their persona.

Localized marketing approach- A key to success

A ‘one size fits all’ strategy is a recipe for failure, brands must create personal connections and interaction opportunities that seamlessly help integrate experiences of rural millennials in their everyday life. Distribution strength, deep market penetration and understanding the consumers’ aspirations etc through intense market research while assuring a strong service promise are the key tenets for winning this consumer. Locally relevant and targeted outreach along with a compelling proposition of an affordable price point combined with futuristic features is what rural millennials aspire to own.

Another most important aspect of this market segment is making the populace comfortable with these new technologies. The power of today’s technology, the new thrust areas and the opportunities of growth that it offers are key aspects that require an awareness and education drive. Brands that take this mantle of responsibility stand out and builds consideration.

Apart from this, with likes of Facebook and Instagram still going strong, rural millennials are switching to newer networking platform for different experiences and content. Platforms like TikTok and Helo are popular in the segment and with the mantra that every user can be a creator from their smartphone, these digital touchpoints are becoming addictive and highly entertaining eventually providing leverage for brands to tap these rural millennials.

Concerning this, itel is the perfect example as the brand has positioned its leadership in the segment with its differentiated product portfolio, robust distribution network & post-sale experience backed by customized marketing approach establishing an emotional and cultural connection with its users .


The rural market is being developed by an increase in purchasing power, changing consumption pattern and increased access to communication technology. Rural millennials look forward to the product offerings that elevates their social status comprising quality, latest and trendy features while affordability being the heart of the purchasing decision. To cater to the demand, marketers must tune their strategies as per the aspirations of rural consumers.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Tags assigned to this article:
rural india Smartphones users India rural millennials

Arijeet Talapatra

CEO, Transsion India

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