ICT has potential to make significant inroads in a traditional agrarian economy like India. Indian agro-sector has been exploiting the benefits to ICT. Innovative ICT application platforms are being created by private sector players in conjunction with local farmers. One such private initiative has been by ITC Ltd in the state of Madhya Pradesh. It has helped the farmers in many ways, such as developing of local leadership, shared ownership of the assets created in this initiative, access to the latest knowledge for the agro-sector, sustainable income levels and skill development for productivity improvement. This initiative from ITC has become a benchmark today in the ICT initiatives in agro-sector. Several best practices can be learned from this initiative, namely: Â· ease of replicability and scalability Â· customization to meet the specific local needs and Â· organizational commitment. E-CHOUPAL CONCEPT e-choupal is a Hindi word which means â€œvillage meeting placeâ€. Market is a meeting place where vendors and customers come together to do transactions. e-choupal is a virtual market place where farmers can transact directly with a processor and can realize better price for their produce. e-choupal has the advantages of the market but spans very large varieties of vendors and customers. Geographical distances do not restrict participation in the e-choupal. The main disadvantage of conventional market is that information asymmetry is inherent in the market where as e-choupal provides for transparent transactions. This enables the participation of smaller as well as larger players. Elimination of some layers of intermediaries allows for larger share of profits to reach the lower end of value chain. The main attractiveness of e-choupal is that it can be used for connecting large producers/small producers and small users/large users, thereby eliminating the need for hierarchy of brokers. Internet is used as a low transaction cost backbone for communication. Physical delivery of produce to the processor is still done through the existing intermediaries. e-choupal does not attempt total elimination of intermediaries, as intermediaries are indispensable in economy like India where intermediaries are adding value to the every step of value chain at a low cost. Intermediaries have the expertise in storage, transportation, quality assessment and counter party risk reduction, which are difficult to replicate. e-Choupal provides farmers with all the market information and this helps them to become market oriented. In e-choupal intermediaries are leveraged but they are disintermediated from the market information flowing to the farmers. The success of e-choupal has heralded a new era in the Indian agro-sector. The work needs to be carried forward and replicated in the other untapped areas. Creating business channels that can create a win-win situation both business and farming community has enormous economies of scope. Once a channel is created it could be used for many products and services as shown in this case study. The main reasons for the success of the platform have been the involvement of local farmers and maintenance of the rural IT network by the corporate entity. Questions to be answered: Â· What is the role of ICT in creating a successful market in Rural India? Â· Explain the concept of E-choupal and its impact?
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