logo-echoupalIn its annual report, BSE listed ITC Ltd has noted that with Government intervention over the past year – like a ban on exports, stock controls and subsidization of prices, ITC had to exit trading in several commodities, and consequently, restructure its e-Choupal network.

ITC launched 50 e-Choupals during the year in Tamil Nadu, supported by the Tamil version of echoupal.com “with over 250 web pages”, looking to target crops such as paddy. ITC also set up three more Choupal Sagar malls during the year, and now has 24 Choupal Sagars in three states.

e-Choupals are outlets for sourcing raw materials and selling FMCG products, set up in Rural India by ITC, in partnership with local entrepreneuts. These are backed by a digital infrastructure, and offer farmers value added services such as crop advisories, advance weather forecasts, output price discovery, direct communication tools etc.

Reuters Market Light also has a service for daily updates via SMS, and powers Nokia Life Tools with similar inputs. eChoupals claim to cover over 40,000 villages, but I wonder if all villagers have access to them. Access to information is power, and given the societal complexities of our country, I feel that personal access to such information via the mobile would be more powerful than having a “Sanchalak” in control of information. According to a press release in July, e-Choupals reached out to 1 million farmers, which isn’t much.

Do take a look at our coverage of digital initiatives targeting the rural Indian market:

— Reliance Communications Forms Rural JV With Kribhco
— Internet CSC Rollout Complete In Jharkhand, Haryana, Sikkim; Long Way To Go
— BSNL Revises Rural Kiosk Roll Out; First Kiosk Operational
— SREI Sahaj To Invest Rs 10 Billion On Kiosks; Rural Job Portal Chaakri; Mobile CSCs?
— Reuters Market Light Goes To Himachal; Pan-India With Nokia; Txt vs GPRS vs Voice