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ITC holds out mall hope for villagers
The Telegraph - 04 Jul 2005

SAMBIT SAHA

Swanky malls and hypermarts have changed the way urban India shops today. However, millions of rural people still depend on kirana shops. But not any more. If ITC is ready to walk the talk, miniature malls will dot the rural landscape of our country. The Calcutta-based conglomerate has already introduced the model in a little-known place in Madhya Pradesh. It now wants to ramp up the number to 30 in the next 12-18 months.

Spread out over 7,000 square feet, Choupal Sagar - as the hypermarket is called - has created ripples with new shopping experience for rural consumers. The model is unique as the place will double up as a shopping centre and a farmer facilitation unit providing facilities like training, soil testing, health clinics, cafeteria, bank, investment counters and fuel stations.

The company will spend about Rs 5 crore on each of these establishments. The rural malls are linked to its e-choupal network. So far, it has set up 5,200 e-choupals for over 3 million villagers living in 31,000 villages. The e-choupal network has been set up in Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Maharastra, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. The first hypermart in Madhya Pradesh is connected to an e-choupal.

A farmer, who comes to sell his agricultural produce through the e-choupal also has the option to buy almost anything he wants. The rural mall sells everything from fertilisers and hair oil to mixer-grinders and tractors. To make sure that farmers keep coming to the mall even when they do not have to sell any produce, support services are in place like health clinics, cafeteria, bank, and investment counters.