Final Documentation

E-choupals: Web-based information & procurement tools for Indian farmers, ITC, 2003

    Description
    This "What Works" case study is part of the World Resource Institute's Digital Dividend project to examine promising approaches to delivering products and services to the poor through information and communications technologies. This study analyzes ITC's e-choupal initiative for soy; efforts in other cropping systems (coffee, wheat, and shrimp aquaculture), while differeing in detail, reflect the same general approach.

    ITC's International Business Division initiated the e-choupal project to help alleviate rural isolation, create more transparency for farmers, and improve their productivity and incomes. The project places computers with Internet access in rural farming villages that serve as a social gathering place for information exchange and as an e-commerce hub. What began as an effort to re-engineer the procurement process for soy, tobacco, wheat, shrimp, and other cropping systems in rural India has created a highly profitable distribution and product design channel for the company; an e-commerce platform and low-cost fulfillment system focused on the needs of rural India. The e-Choupal system has also catalyzed rural transformation.

    Summary of results
    The e-choupal system gives farmers options, control over their choices, a higher profit margin on their crops, and access to information that helps them improve productivity. By providing a transparent process and training and empowering local people as key participants in the system, ITC increases trust and fairness. In addition, more efficient production and the potential to improve crop quality contribute to making Indian agriculture more competitive.

    The e-choupal model demonstrates that a large corporation can play a major role in recognizing markets and increasing the efficiency of an agricultural system, while doing so in ways that benefit farmers and rural communities as well as shareholders.

    The study also demonstrates the role information technology can play. In this case it is provided and maintained by a corporation, but used by local farmers to ensure transparency, increase access to information, and transform rural areas. Critical factors in the apparent success of the venture are ITC's extensive knowledge of agriculture; the effort it has made to retain many aspects of the existing production system, including maintenance of local partners; the company's commitment to transparency, and the respect and fairness with which both farmers and local partners are treated.