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e-Choupal is an initiative of ITC Limited, a conglomerate in India, to link directly with rural farmers via the Internet for procurement of agricultural and aquaculture products like soybeans, wheat, coffee, and prawns. e-Choupal tackles the challenges posed by Indian agriculture, characterized by fragmented farms, weak infrastructure and the involvement of intermediaries. The programme installs computers with Internet access in rural areas of India to offer farmers up-to-date marketing and agricultural information.
Effects of e-Choupal
ITC Limited has provided computers and Internet access in rural areas across several agricultural regions of the country, where the farmers can directly negotiate the sale of their produce with ITC Limited. Online access enables farmers to obtain information on mandi prices, and good farming practices, and to place orders for agricultural inputs like seeds and fertilizers. This helps farmers improve the quality of their products, and helps in obtaining a better price.
Each ITC Limited kiosk with Internet access is run by a sanchalak — a trained farmer. The computer is housed in the sanchalak's house and is linked to the Internet via phone lines or by a VSAT connection. Each installation serves an average of 600 farmers in the surrounding ten villages within about a 5 km radius. The sanchalak bears some operating cost but in return earns a service fee for the e-transactions done through his e-Choupal. The warehouse hub is managed by the same traditional middle-men, now called samyojaks, but with no exploitative power due to the reorganisation. These middlemen make up for the lack of infrastructure and fulfill critical jobs like cash disbursement, quantity aggregation and transportation.
Since the introduction of e-Choupal services, farmers have seen a rise in their income levels because of a rise in yields, improvement in quality of output, and a fall in transaction costs. Even small farmers have gained from the initiative. Farmers can get real-time information despite their physical distance from the mandis. The system saves procurement costs for ITC Limited. The farmers do not pay for the information and knowledge they get from e-Choupals; the principle is to inform, empower and compete. e-market place for spot transactions and support services to futures exchange
There are 6,500 e-Choupals in operation in 40,000 villages in 10 states, affecting around 4 million farmers. ITC plans to scale up to 20,000 e-Choupals by 2012 covering 100,000 villages in 15 states, servicing 15 million farmers.
- "ITC : e-Choupal : Let's put India first". Itcportal.com. Retrieved 2011-09-29.
- Bhatia, Tej K. 2007. Advertising and marketing in rural India. Delhi: Macmillan India
- Chapter 11 of this book deals with the economic and developmental impact of e-Choupal.
- Goyal, Aparajita. 2010. Information, Direct Access to Farmers, and Rural Market Performance in Central India. American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, Vol. 2, No. 3, pages 22–45.