Jewellery for the masses

Gold prices may be soaring, but so is demand in rural India for the precious metal

Ajit Solanki/AP

Forget the middle classes—savvy marketers in India are targeting the rural masses. No one has done it better than the Tata group company (maker of the $2,500 Nano car), whose jewellery division, Titan Industries, has set its sights on rural towns with its GoldPlus line. “Thirty per cent of the GoldPlus income in 2009 came from people who we have reached in these small villages, up from 1.5 per cent in 2006,” a company executive told the Financial Times.

When GoldPlus was launched in 2005, it embarked on an ambitious marketing campaign to unite the fragmented village market—more than 70 per cent of India’s 1.2 billion population lives in villages of less than 5,000 people. GoldPlus employees toured the country in a bus called the Gold Chariot, set up 30 showrooms in six small states, and even infiltrated weddings to lure consumers away from their local jeweller—the traditional source of gold in the community.

Villagers are particularly interested in the affordable designer jewellery that was not previously available in their small towns. “People are getting to be smart consumers,” says Kiran Pasricha, the deputy director general of the Confederation of Indian Industry, a business lobby group.

It’s not just Titan’s marketing that’s notable, Pasricha told Maclean’s, it’s how the company has refocused its business on the rural market and all the untapped potential there. “What is interesting is that a lot of industry is being boosted by rural demand today,” says Pasricha. “Companies are doing well because they are keeping the rural market in mind when they are creating new products.”

And though the price of gold is soaring—hitting an all-time high last week of over US$1,260 an ounce—Pasricha says it’s unlikely to quell the growing appetite for it. “We wear a lot of gold: gold bangles, gold earrings, gold chains,” she says. “And if you have to go out you wear heavier gold. It’s just as simple as that.”