I had a fairly long chat with the Reuters Market Light executives at India Telecom 2008: little over a year after the service was launched, the SMS based Market information service for farmers in India has crossed 100,000 users, with around 91,500 subscribers in Maharashtra, and 8,500 subscribers in Punjab. The growth in Maharashtra appears to have picked up in the last two months – when they had only around 50,000 subscribers in Maharashtra. Perhaps the tie-up with the post office helped.
Thomson Reuters has aggressive expansion plans: they’re launching the service in the agriculture dependent state of Haryana in January, and then to 9 states across the country by the end of 2009. In the north, they intend to cover Harayana (January), Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, apart from Punjab where they are already present. In the west they’re targeting Gujarat, apart from Maharashtra, where they had launched; Madhya Pradesh in Central India is also a part of the plans, and the company is yet to decide between Karnataka and Andra Pradesh in the South.
RML covers 54 crops/commodities in 270 mandis. The service offers farmers weather information specific to their taluka (district) early in the morning (around 7:30am), market prices from 3 selected Mandis (crop marketplaces) and tips related to specific crops (chosen by the farmer) in the afternoon, and relevant national and international news in the evening. They have a tie-up with the Maharashtra Krishi Panan Mandal in Maharashtra, and the Punjab Mandi Board in Punjab. An example of how the service helps – timely information of the fact that Cotton was being exported from India allowed one farmer to delay sales of his cotton crop by a month; prices rose and he made a profit.
Multiple SMS’ are sent throughout the day, in the local language. Reuters is also increasing the plan offering from 3 months, to 6 and 12 month subscription plans. Click here for a larger view of what the text messages look like, in Marathi. Consumers sign up by filling up a form, or via a toll free number. Reuters has around 40 people on the ground in Punjab, for signups.
RML has a editorial team in place for selecting relevant information for specific areas, including inputs on subsidies, special crop schemes…the kind of information, according to the RML executive we spoke to, one rarely sees on TV or in newspapers. They have tweaked their service based on feedback from 400-700 customers chosen every week.
– Reuters Market Light Expands To Punjab; Only 50,000 Subs
– Bharti Airtel To Focus On Livelihood, Education & Healthcare For Rural Outreach
– Reuters Market Light Now Available in Local Post Offices across Maharashtra