In fact, 97% of rural households purchase matches on a monthly basis. Matches are a unique product because of their high, constant demand and low price point.Their ubiquitous presence provides fascinating insights into India's rural distribution networks, and offer potential ways to inform and interact with India's relatively untouched market.
The article then suggests using the matchboxes to spread public health messages
What if that space was used to relay information? Imagine the possibilities of spreading new health/educational information or advertising to 97% of rural families on a monthly basis. Simple pictorial designs would pique interest and accommodate India's vast differences in literacy rates and languages. Awareness of important topics such as the installation of chimneys to reduce smoke inhalation or cleaning and covering water containers to prevent stomach ailments could be spread to households across India, and potentially save lives
I would recommend selling the glamor of flushing toilets and chimneys and such rather than nagging in your images. But i do not know enough about rural Indians and their diseases to advise on what health images to provide them. There are some interesting studies on what does kill these people here.
However what if all you put on the boxes was games? Many people have a ludic philosophy of life. You see a love of games in maths nerds in particular. This love of games I believe adds a cognitive richness that aids intellectual development.
There is a great book called "everything bad is good for you". That claims the increase in IQ in recent decades is due to increased complexity in our culture. I have not studied the Flynn effect enough to be sure it is not caused by nutrition or even to be sure it is important. But I will assume it is and that intellectual challenges improve general cognitive abilities. I will go further out on a limb and claim that such improvements in cognitive abilities would aid rural Indians. Never having been a rural Indian this really is a big assumption.
So what intellectual challenges could fit on a matchbox and be read by an illiterate farmer? How about puzzles and games?
There are some face meltingly brilliant match puzzles here(pdf). Other then puzzles there are games like NIM, dots and boxes, chomp and loads of others you can play with matches. I would imagine if a brand of matches has a game on it that keeps the kids from bothering you this would be a popular feature.
So can you think of some way to explain a puzzle or the rules of a game on a matchbox without using text? Do you think it really could be useful to put mathematical games and puzzles on matchboxes?