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BSNL & National Fertilizers To Offer Rural Mobile Services; Beyond Pilots

Government owned telco BSNL has partnered with National Fertilizers Ltd (NFL) to launch a pilot project offering crop information services, weather forecasts, soil testing as well as health information in local languages. Economic Times reports the pilot project will be held at Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh. Last year, BSNL launched a pilot with mobile VAS provider OnMobile to offer a ‘Mandi On Mobile’ service in Uttar Pradesh in association with the state government.

This is the third such joint venture between an operator and a co-operative – Airtel launched Kisan Sanchar Ltd with Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative (IFFCO) in 2008 and RCOM formed a JV in June with Krishak Bharti to retail customised telecom products and farmer specific value added services in rural India. Airtel’s Kisan Sanchar now reaches 18 states and 15 lakh users.

A List Of Rural Apps & Services In India So Far

Tata Consultancy Services MKrishi used voice SMS to help illiterate farmers send queries and ask for advice or information. It was rolled out by TCS’ sister company Tata Indicom in April last year.

RCOM partnered with BBC News to broadcast news and weather reports In Hindi, Tamil, Urdu & Bangla to rural India. RCOM also created solutions that would aid in water level monitoring, and data gathering for milk and agri-cooperatives, fisheries, poultry, and soil analysis.

Tata partnered with Ossian to bring a service called Nano Ganesh that would automate agro and irrigation services for farmers in Sojitra village in Gujarat.

Thomson Reuters entered into a distribution deals with Biostadt India Limited and Aga Khan Foundation’s rural support program to reach farmers in Gujarat. Its premium crop information service Reuters Market Light is targeting Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra, UP, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.

It also launched a Krishi Voucher card with Idea Cellular.

Nokia tied up with EnableM, a mobile VAS firm, for an education service to help mobile users learn English.

Tata Indicom also attempted to offer a weather forecast and market prices service called Sahayak in Bijnor, Uttar Pradesh but the service’s portal is no longer up and no updates are available.

In October, Handygo Ltd, a VAS provider tied up with India Meteorological Department to provide farmers with meteorological inputs and details on sourcing bank loans as well as mandi rates through IVR and GPRS. Handygo launched its services in 21 districts of Punjab and 20 districts of Haryana and offered information in vernacular languages. Handygo also partnered with INCOIS (Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services) to offer advisory services for fishermen, delivering information on potential fishing zones, wind speed, wave height along with the weather suitable for fishing.

BSNL launched a mobile program called “Learn English” powered by EnableM in association with OnMobile Global in November.

Beyond Pilot Projects

Many of these projects launched on an ad-hoc basis haven’t reached a pan-India scale yet; are telco’s just paying lip service to rural initiatives, or there is a concrete plan for scaling these initiatives? We strongly feel that it’s time full-fledged, pan-India services are launched – there are too many rural users who need them.

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