This story originally appeared in our December 17, 2010 e-magazine. Click here to subscribe.
ITC’s innovative e-Choupal program expands to provide rural workers with jobs and companies with local links.
Much has been written about ITC’s successful e-Choupal program that brings the internet, and all the information encompassed, to rural farmers in India. The program has expanded to reach 38,000 villages and more than 4 million farmers through 6,500 internet kiosks.
There have been multiple iterations of the program since it started in 2000.
“e-Choupal 1.0 was majorly directed at interventions in agri-commodity sourcing as an anchor business,” said S. Sivakumar, the Chief Executive of Agri Businesses at ITC. “2.0 was centered on building a platform to market products and services into rural India that could ride on the anchor businesses built under 1.0.”
Sivakumar said that after the 2007 agriculture reforms, the program’s agri-commodity sourcing business suffered, and ITC came up with the third version of the e-Choupal program.
“We needed a new anchor business that could support further growth, and thus Rozgar Duniya was born. It is a rural employment portal built using the e-Choupal infrastructure in partnership with Monster.”
Rozgar Duniya is a partnership with Monster India to expand employment opportunities in rural areas. The Sanchalaks, who are trained to use the kiosks and house them in their residences, are now able to provide job-searching services to local farmers as well.
The program works two ways: it provides rural workers with jobs and also supplies job seekers to companies looking to reach out to those villages. Many companies wishing to expand their reach into rural areas expressed a challenge in finding local employees.
The second element of the new version was to integrate mobile telephones into the system to deepen the reach and to personalize services.
Deepen is a common word when talking about the newest iteration of e-Choupal. The program’s General Manager and Head, Shailesh Naik, uses the same word when talking about the impetus behind the job site.
“Instead of moving beyond 6,500 kiosks, we decided it was more important to deepen the relationships,” he said.
By deepening the relationships with the farmers already impacted by the program, Naik said they can also further develop the impact.
Trust, Naik said, is essential to the success of any business. “Unless you have a connect to build trust, nothing will work,” he said.
Dipika Prasad contributed to this piece.
Image courtesy of ITC.