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ITC plans personalised crop management services via e-Choupal 3.0
The Hindu Business Line - 15 Feb 2012

A virtual freeze on the expansion of e-Choupals since 2007 seems to have encouraged ITC to discover new anchor businesses to insulate its existing e-Choupal model and garner additional sources of revenues.

The rolling back of certain reforms in APMC (Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee) and Essential Commodities Act by the Government in 2007, in its bid to contain wholesale price inflation, had brought a virtual halt in the expansion plans of e-Choupals in the country, said Mr S. Sivakumar, Chief Executive-Agri Businesses, ITC Ltd.

e-Choupal originated with the idea of making Indian agriculture self-sufficient by leveraging digital technology and customised extension services to empower farmers and raise rural incomes.

“The e-Choupal initiative was launched in 2000 and by 2007 we had 6,500 e-Choupals empowering four million farmers in 40,000 villages. However, in 2007, Government re-imposed restrictions on commodity sourcing. So further expansion of e-Choupals came to a halt,” Mr Sivakumar told Business Line.

Personalised services

ITC plans to broad-base the e-Choupal model to discover new anchor businesses to insulate its existing e-Choupal model from risks of reversal in Government's agri reforms. The company is in the process of rolling out e-Choupal's Version 3.0, under which it plans to offer personalised crop management advisory services to individual farmers.

“The version 3.0 will not displace the Version 1 and 2 of e-Choupal, instead it will be built on the foundation of the earlier versions. Through version 3.0, we want to broad base the anchor of e-Choupal beyond commodities sourcing. We are gearing up e-Choupals as rural employment exchanges, which will connect the rural youth with jobs through our ‘Rozgaarduniya' initiative,” Mr Sivakumar said.

This would eventually also help provide skills to increase the employability of rural youth. This apart, the company would also look at providing marketing services activity through ‘Choupal Haat'. “Some of the concepts have already scaled up while some are in the pilot stage,” he said.

By personalising its relationship with farmers under e-Choupal's version 3.0, the company would be able to increase its reach by encompassing more number of farmers within the existing network area.

“These concepts are built keeping in mind ITC's triple bottomline, therefore sustainability is in built in the system,” he pointed out.

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