The Indian Context
Indian farmers, especially small and marginal ones, must fight challenges on multiple fronts. When growing crops, poor soil, lack of irrigation and volatile weather are constant hurdles, made worse by climate change. Modern agricultural practices and techniques are difficult to access as are credit, high quality agri-inputs, etc.
Once crops are ready, inefficient price and weather discovery mechanisms mean that farmers cannot time harvests to get best prices. Marketing, storage, logistic infrastructure are exceedingly inadequate. The deep disconnect from the market prevents them from being able to align their crops to rapidly evolving consumer preferences.
In a pioneering move, ITC set up village internet kiosks - e-Choupals - which made real-time, up-to-date, relevant information on weather, price discovery, agri knowhow and best practices, etc readily available. The kiosks are managed by trained local farmers who help the local agricultural community to access the information in their local language.
With appropriate knowledge and services available virtually at the farm gate, farmers have been able to raise productivity, improve quality, manage risk and earn better prices. By creating a more efficient marketing channel, e-Choupal reduces transaction costs and helps farmers to adjust/fine-tune crops types and qualities to changing trends.
The largest internet-based intervention in rural India, e-Choupal has grown into an ecosystem of services that addresses diverse rural needs, from agri-extension and other farm-related offerings to retail avenues to insurance and healthcare.