ITC’s International Business Division, one of India’s largest exporters of agricultural commodities, has conceived e-Choupal as a more efficient supply chain aimed at delivering value to its customers around the world on a sustainable basis.
The e-Choupal model has been specifically designed to tackle the challenges posed by the unique features of Indian agriculture, characterised by fragmented farms, weak infrastructure and the involvement of numerous intermediaries, among others.
ITC e-Choupal digital rural infrastructure comprises about 6400 computer installations, covering nearly 40,000 villages and serving over 4 million farmers. Besides digital infrastructure, e-Choupal is also being used for channelising services related to credit, insurance, health, education and entertainment. It serves as a strong foundation for linking small and marginal farmers to futures markets to facilitate farmer risk management.
More than just a village digital kiosk with a human interface, ITC e-Choupal provides access to all important information, within walking distance from the farm gate. It is supplemented through physical infrastructure - the ITC Choupal Saagar - which functions as a hub for a cluster of villages within tractorable distance. These made-to-design hubs also serve as warehouses, and as rural hypermarkets for a variety of goods.
ITC e-Choupal leverages the power of the Internet to empower the small and marginal farmer with a host of services related to know-how, best practices, timely and relevant weather information, transparent discovery of prices and much more. Over the next 7-10 years ITC plans to setup a network of 20,000 e-Choupals and over 700 Choupal Saagars, thereby extending coverage to 100,000 villages – representing one sixth of rural India.
In effect, the e-Choupal infrastructure is potentially an efficient delivery channel for rural development and an instrument for converting village populations into vibrant economic organisations.