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ITC turns aggregator with e-Choupal 4.0 to boost farm income

Ishita Ayan Dutt / Kolkata 09 Jun 17 | 07:16 AM

Farming provides livelihood to about 50 per cent of the workforce in the country. The government wants to double farmers’ income by 2022. ITC is trying to help this by attracting the next generation of farmers to sustainable activities as an aggregator.


Diversified conglomerate ITC plans to provide agricultural services through its showcase project, e-Choupal, which leverages information technology to empower farmers.

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“This transformative fourth-generation model, e-Choupal 4.0, will be an aggregator of agricultural services," said S Sivakumar, group head, agri and IT businesses, ITC.  


He added, “Whatever has been done through various stages of e-Choupal over the years can be extended to a digital eco-system. The primary objective is to create more value through a model that has products and services."


ITC plans to launch e-Choupal 4.0 by the last quarter of 2018, but prototypes are already being tested. “We will expand the model to larger geographies depending on sourcing needs for new agricultural products," Sivakumar said.


The digital e-Choupal will offer a range of farm-focused services such as crop management and farm mechanisation, as well as health care, banking, and insurance. 


Each service would be priced. The platform could also be leveraged to provide a delivery system for associated products. 


“Eventually, the model can provide services, riding on the available infrastructure provided by the e-Choupal network," Sivakumar said.


The e-Choupal has gone through various stages of evolution. From providing critical information to farmers to better price discovery, the network has helped boost farm productivity. It also provides agri-sourcing capabilities to ITC’s foods business. 

 

“We realised if we could use the platform to buy agricultural produce then we could also use it for reverse flow of goods and services," Sivakumar said.


So the eco-system developed under the e-Choupal was offered as a service and rural marketing platforms called Choupal Haats were created to enable consumer engagement and activation. “Today, more than 160 companies ride the e-Choupal network," Sivakumar said.


But in the fourth generation, the model will enter a transformational phase. 


“With rapid penetration of smartphones and gradual reduction in bandwidth costs, it was time to be ready for a digital economy," said Sivakumar. “The larger goal was to support the government’s vision of doubling farmers’ income by 2022."


Sivakumar hopes to get on board the next generation of educated farmers with e-Choupal 4.0. 


He said, “Agriculture provides livelihoods to 50 per cent of the country’s workforce. More job opportunities need to open up; it is also critical to ensure that the next generations of educated farmers are attracted to sustainable farming activities. The best way to do that is to provide an ecosystem for agricultural services start-ups."  


Sivakumar said the private sector could play a vital role in this. “We can supplement the government’s initiatives by providing a modern platform for sustainable agricultural services and promote consumption in a shared economy."

 

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