One very eye opening fact that is emerging time and again in our research is that rural microentrepreneurs access very small markets. Our first survey found that about three quarters do not buy or sell beyond a 5 km radius and only 2% venture beyond 20 km (the ‘middle men’?).
Here’s a view from Google Earth of a region of rural Tamil Nadu that is 5 km across. It has a cluster of about 12 villages with a population roughly between 4 and 5,000, typical for most of India. That’s a really small market to be limited to.
Contrast this with a view of Chennai which has 100 times that in the same area.
Unfortunately in this first survey we did, <5 km was our smallest category.
Turns out even 5 kms is way out there for most and it’s an even more fragmented market ecosystem than I ever imagined. Most don’t leave their tiny village cluster and sell only in a couple of streets. Recently on a field visit our Micromarkets product manager asked a lady why she only sold to two streets, why not go over to the next two? “There’s someone else selling there”, she told him, “One should not disturb others. You should be satisfied with what little you can get”.