If there’s one part of India’s economy that’s been relatively unscathed by the devastating impact of Covid-19 it’s the vast rural hinterlands. And the country’s biggest fuel retailers are sitting up and taking notice.
Stay-at-home orders first imposed from March last year had a disproportionate impact on India’s teeming cities, but in small towns and villages people mostly went about their business with fewer restrictions. A bumper agricultural crop and a splurge in government spending to pull the economy out of a slump is also expected to put more money into the hands of rural farmers and laborers.
The increasing economic importance of India’s hinterlands is influencing business expansion plans and accelerating a trend of more service stations being opened in the countryside. Bharat Petroleum Corp. and Hindustan Petroleum Corp. — two of the three biggest fuel retailers — both said they planned to raise the proportion of outlets they have in rural areas this year.
“While the first-level cities are getting saturated, demand is coming up in rural areas,” Hindustan Petroleum Chairman Mukesh Kumar Surana said.