idearml1 Reuters Market Light, the crop information service division of Thomson Reuters group has partnered with Idea Cellular to increase the reach of its crop information service in Maharashtra and Goa circles. Idea Cellular will be distributing Krishi Vouchers, pre-paid cards with a value of Rs. 75 and a validity period of one month, at its stores and customer care points in the two states.

With the cards, farmers can pay for RML’s monthly SMS alerts service. Idea has set up the toll free short code 58090 which is handled by Reuters Market Light executives who will help them register their preferences for crops, locations etc. SMSs are sent in Marathi and English. The information on offer with the card is limited to:

  • Market prices and arrivals in 3 markets for each of the 2 crops chosen by the farmer (choice of 49 crops available).
  • A 24 hour local weather forecast relevant to the farmer’s taluka
  • Information on best practices of production for 2 crops
  • News that could impact production, placement and realization

RML already offers its standalone service in Maharashtra as well as Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Haryana. It charges Rs 175 for 3 months, Rs 350 for 6 months, Rs 650 for 1 year. A strategy report on RML’s service, delivery, plans and competitors is on Medianama.

Read: Reuters Market Light Goes To Himachal; Pan-India With Nokia; Txt vs GPRS vs Voice

Vaulting Over The Distribution Hurdle; Competitors; Sachet Pricing?

ideacard

Reuters Market Light has been essentially a premium service till now. Despite feedback from its customers as being too pricey (farmers wanted it to be around Rs. 15 per month), it was unable to reduce it due to high costs of sales and distribution.

By partnering with mobile operators such as Idea Cellular, it will be able to avoid this link in the supply chain and focus on being a content provider. The card is expected to drive RML’s reach to 8 million Idea customers. What we see is a problem, however, is RML limiting itself to Idea subscribers – more tie ups with other operators and handset makers should follow soon to ensure a broader reach. RML powers Nokia’s Life Tools, which is being rolled out pan-India and will be emulated in other ‘crop markets’, President and CEO of Nokia Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo said during Nokia World 2009.

Idea’s competitor Reliance Communications recently set up a joint venture with Krishak Bharati Cooperative Limited (Kribhco) to supply rural services similar to this. A low-priced service called Grameen VAS was launched priced at Rs.15 per month. Tata Indicom is also piloting its weather forecasts and crop prices VAS Sahayak at Bijnor, Uttar Pradesh.

If RML is to beat these value added offerings, it will have to hasten its pan-India roll out and offer more options to users. The prepaid card currently offers an amount of flexibility to users, but will take longer to gain traction because it requires more on the part of the user. Instead, offering a sign up to a generic daily SMS alert for, say, the price of one crop or the local weather, at a sachet price could make it more popular amongst rural users. Partnering with ITC’s e-Choupal or SREI Sahaj for a cross-platform integration could help it scale up.

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