Rural India is often referred to as the world's largest, untapped market by management experts. Based on this understanding, rural marketing, one of the subjects of study for management students, deals with how to sell a product in rural markets. But students of the St. Aloysius Institute of Management and Information are working on how to turn this approach around. Instead of learning how to sell fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) in rural markets, these students are trying to understand how products produced in rural areas can be sold in urban markets.

In pursuit of this goal, they have organised Milan 2010, an exhibition-cum-sale of rural products, which began on the college campus here on Thursday and is scheduled to end on Saturday.

Gurudarshan, a second-year MBA student of the institute, told The Hindu on Friday that there were some extremely talented artisans in rural areas, who had not got the required recognition. “So, we decided to bring these rural artisans to the urban markets and observe the market patterns in that situation,” he said. By observing the reactions of consumers, students hope to learn valuable lessons in consumer preferences and understand the impediments to rural marketing. The 30 marketing students will submit a project, “Insight into customer demand and knowledge about latest trends towards artisans' products”, to the institute.

While there were only around 15 stalls in the inaugural edition of Milan last year, the current edition has nearly three times the number of stalls. “We started from the cramped auditorium on our campus. But with the overwhelming response we got this year, we have shifted to the parking lot. At this rate, we may have to shift to the football field next year,” said Abhignan, a student.

The exhibition has several stalls of interest. The Pilikula Nisargadhama Society is present in full force with a display of products ranging from pickles and jams to handicrafts and pottery. The stall put up by a group from Kanyakumari (Tamil Nadu) looks most interesting with various toys, bags and teaching aids made of palm leaves.

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