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ITC, HUL aim for bigger rural push
The Financial Express - 08 Jun 2011

In a bid to extend its rural push, ITC has tied up with major companies Maruti Suzuki, Nokia and State Bank India (SBI) to connect with rural consumers. As part of its strategy, ITC is planning to add more products to its rural distribution channels, which include e-Choupals. At present, ITC has 6.500 e-Choupals covering 50,000 villages across the country.

On ITC's new tie-ups, S Sivakumar, divisional chief executive Agri Business, ITC, said, “Our new tie up with companies in banking and telecom sector is to leverage the e-Choupal channel to enhance awareness of these products and brands among rural consumers. This is not a joint distribution model,” After doing pilot projects with Nokia, SBI and Maruti Suzuki, ITC has now tied up with these companies. On the other hand, Hindustan Unilever (HUL) has initiated talks with leading telecom firms and banks to create a joint distribution model to reach out to a wider rural market. Recognising the growth potential of this sector, FMCG majors are extending their rural reach to drive volumes.

According to Sivakumar, ITC’s current rural focus is to add more products on its distributions channels rather than adding outlets. “Our objective is to increase consumer engagement with new products and brands leveraging Choupal Haats this year. Choupal Haat is a unique platform that meets the objectives of the participating companies and organisations, besides ITC’s FMCG, ”he added.

With ITC’s new move, rural consumers now get a chance to interact with different companies and organisations under the ITC e-Choupal umbrella, according to Sivakumar. “At Choupal Haats, they access information and awareness on various products, services, schemes available to them, trends and opportunities. They also get a chance to interact with specialists right at their doorstep,” he added. A few months ago, ITC introduced out e-Choupal Version 3.0 - a new version of e-Choupal, which will help the company, discover new anchor businesses to insulate its existing e-Choupal model from risks of reversal in government’s agri-reforms.

ITC’s e-Choupal was set up to empower farmers and raise rural incomes by leveraging digital technology and customised extension services in the year 2000.

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