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e-choupal to cast the rural Net wide
Business-standard.com - 02 Jun 2005

The ITC e-choupal network aims to cover over 100,000 Indian villages, representing a sixth of rural India and linking up more than 10 million farmers, over the next decade.

ITC today won the 'Corporate Social Responsibility Award 2004' from The Energy and Resources Institute (Teri) for its e-choupal initiative. The award is designed to encourage social responsibility processes within the corporate sector.

ITC e-choupal, an information technology-based intervention in rural India, has already received several national and international awards as a transformation model for rural India. ITC e-choupal has earlier won the 'World business award' instituted in support of the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals and also the Wharton-Infosys 'Enterprise business transformation award 2004' for the Asia-Pacific region.

The curriculum of the Harvard Business School now includes a case study on the ITC e-choupal movement and how it is transforming Indian agriculture. ITC, as one of the first Indian companies to pioneer the concept of triple bottomline reporting, covering not only economic dimensions, but also the environmental and social dimensions of business.

ITC said in a relase that its sustainability report was the only one in India certified to be fully in accordance with global reporting initiative (GRI) guidelines. The ITC e-choupal network empowers over 3.1 million farmers at present, enabling them to readily access crop-specific, customised and comprehensive information in their native language via vernacular websites, on each agricultural crop that ITC deals in and even to marginal farmers.

Farmers can access prevailing Indian and international prices and price trends for crops, along with expert knowledge on best farming practices and micro-level weather forecast. This improves decision-making ability at the rural level, helping align agricultural production better to market demand and upgrade quality and productivity.

The e-choupal model also helps aggregate demand and creates a virtual producers' co-operative, which in turn allows access to higher quality farm inputs at lower costs. The ITC e-choupal network has also created a two-way direct marketing channel for rural India, eliminating wasteful intermediation and multiple handling. The reduces transaction costs and improve logistical efficiency.