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ITC sows seeds of hypermarkets in rural India
The Economic Times - 10 Sep 2004


KOLKATA: Call it the second wave of India’s retail revolution. While retail giants and mall operators are sweating it out to gain a foothold in B and C class towns, India’s first rural hypermarket has silently opened its doors. Courtesy, the tobacco to hospitality giant ITC. The latter calls this the ‘second layer’ of its e-Choupal initiative.

Spread over 5 acres of land at Sehore in Madhya Pradesh, ITC has soft-launched its first rural hypermarket about two weeks back. The initial response — footfall of about 700-800 people on weekdays and soaring to 1,000 on weekends with conversion levels of 35%.

Facts and figures that can easily put the up-market stores go green with envy.

Expectedly, ITC now plans to open about 50 such stores, spread across rural Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh over the next 12 months. Investments will hover in the range of Rs 2-4 crore for each such store.

Features and facilities at these ITC malls can overshadow those in the metros. The ITC store sells everything that a rural consumer may ask for — sarees to kurta-pyjamas to shirts (in the range of Rs 99-500), footwear, groceries, electronic durable from TVs to microwaves, cosmetics and other accessories, farm consumption products like seeds, fertilisers, pumps, generators and even tractors, motorcycles and scooters

“There is even a fuel pump for which we have tied-up with BPCL and a cafeteria. There will be a primary healthcare facility to be serviced by a private healthcare service provider and banking facilities too.

The health and banking facility will be operationalised in two months time when we will formally launch the store,” Mr S Sivakumar, CEO, International Business Division of ITC, told ET.

ITC management prefers to call the initiative the ‘second layer’ of its agri-business model, e-Choupal. “While the first layer provides the farmers necessary information about weather and prices, this hypermarket initiative will provide them another platform to sell their produce and purchase necessary farm and household goods under the same roof,” Mr Sivakumar added