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E- CHOUPAL

A powerful illustration of corporate strategy linking business purpose to larger societal purpose, e-Choupal leverages the Internet to empower small and marginal farmers ± who constitute a majority of the 75% of the population below the poverty line. By providing them with farming know-how and services, timely and relevant weather information, transparent price discovery and access to wider markets, e-Choupal enabled economic capacity to proliferate at the base of the rural economy. Today 4 million farmers use e-Choupal to advantage ± bargaining as virtual buyers¶ co-operatives, adopting best practices, matching up to food safety norms. Being linked to futures markets is helping small farmers to better manage risk. e-Choupal has been specially cited in the Government of India¶s Economic Survey of 2006-07, for its transformational impact on rural lives. ITC¶s strategic intent is to develop e-Choupal as a significant two-way multidimensional delivery channel, efficiently carrying goods and services out of and into rural India. By progressively linking the digital infrastructure to a physical network of rural business hubs and agro-extension services, ITC is transforming the way farmers do business, and the way rural markets work. The network of 6,500 e-Choupal centres spread across 40,000 villages has emerged as the gateway of an expanding spectrum of commodities leaving farms ± wheat, rice, pulses, soya, maize, spices, coffee, aqua-products. The reverse flow carries FMCG, durables, automotives and banking services back to villages. ITC has continued to build new infrastructure by supplementing the farmgate presence of e-Choupal with new physical infrastructure ± rural marketing hubs called Choupal Saagars, positioned within tractorable distance of 30 e-Choupal centres and their user communities. The e-Choupal ± Choupal Saagar hub and spoke combination is unprecedented grassroots click and mortar infrastructure transporting rural local economies to a new level of productivity and consumption. Choupal Saagars offer a combination Made-to-design agri-business hubs, they function as: 1. 2. 3. of services to rural India.

ITC agri-sourcing centres providing farmers a transparent best price sales window, shopping centres bringing a range of products comparable to urban levels of choice, and facilitation centres delivering a host of farm-related services ± training, soil testing, product quality certification, medical and clinical services, cafeteria and fuel station.

24 Choupal Saagar hubs are already in operation in 3 states, to grow to 100 by 2010.

Mission Sunehra Kal, ITC¶s rural capacity building programme, now active in 11 States, empowers rural communities to adopt sustainable changes that make them economically competitive and socially secure. In the rural communities where the mission has put down roots there is a new spirit of optimism and confidence. People have augmented and diversified their livelihoods. Education for children, employment for women, sanitation and family health have taken on a new urgency. Every family and every farm has resources to build a better future. Stagnation and deterioration have given way to change and improvement. To accomplish this change, ITC targets four problems, which it believes are the fundamental obstacles to productivity and growth in the farm sector : 1. 2. 3. 4. Loss of productivity through soil erosion caused by intensification of land use and decline of water tables and forest resources. Dependence on out-moded farm practices and inferior inputs. Loss and disruption of farm incomes and non-availability of alternative livelihoods. Inadequate access to primary education and healthcare.

ITC enables farmers to implement solutions that are sustainable because they are 1. 2. 3. mutually reinforcing, based on knowledge transfer and co-operative application of technology, dependent on mobilisation and optimisation of local resources.

The delivery model mobilises a four-way partnership between village communities, specialist NGOs, the Government and ITC, bringing to every initiative the best relevant management and technical expertise. ITC has also worked with State Governments in pioneering public-private partnerships. In Andhra Pradesh, 3,596 hectares of wasteland have been developed so far through a collaboration with the State Government¶s rural poverty reduction project, Indira Kranthi Padham, and its Comprehensive Land Development programme. ITC has also signed a landmark agreement with the Government of Rajasthan to bring 5,000 hectares under soil and moisture conservation in the drought-prone Bhilwara district. By augmenting water resources and forest cover and fostering organic soil management, ITC has enhanced farm productivity. It has simultaneously opened up new avenues of non-farm income and employment to reduce pressure on land.