By the end of March, ITC e-Choupal, in association with Delhi based rural marketing agency Impact Communications, will launch Choupal Mahotsav, a rural marketing initiative, in Uttar Pradesh.
For the record, launched in June 2000, ITC's e-Choupal offers a wide spectrum of services including access to real time information on prices of farm commodities, weather forecast and best practices in farming. After weighing all pros and cons, farmers can either choose to sell their crops to ITC or give them away at the mandi (food grain market).
ITC Choupal Saagar is an integrated facility consisting a farm produce warehouse, electronic weigh bridge, farmer training centre, retail hypermarket, food court, fuel station and bank - all within the same campus. This one stop rural services hub serves as a centre of economic activity, serving several villages in the vicinity.
The activation programme will happen twice a year, coinciding with the two harvest seasons of Rabi in March and Kharif in November.
The platform will also provide opportunities for marketers to interact with, engage and above all, showcase their products and activities targeted at rural consumers. The participating brands include Superia, Vivel, Monsanto, TVS Motors, Bharat Petroleum, JCB, Tata Magic, Tata Tea, ACC Cement and Texmo Pumps.
The first phase of the rural activation programme, to be conducted during March 26-April 18 (every Friday and weekends), is designed to leverage key areas of interest and relevance to rural communities by providing a mix of information (on various products), entertainment and shopping.
A spokesperson at ITC shares that in most of the cases, 'melas' or fairs are organised around religious observances. "People living in rural areas do not have many options available for entertainment. So we decided to keep entertaining activities for men, women and children," he says.
The activation will see magic shows, puppet shows, cultural folk shows, interactive games, beauty care sessions and health camps to entertain the entire family. Certain sessions will be conducted by experts. For instance, a career counselling session will be organised to understand and channel the aspirations of young minds belonging to rural families.
Sanjay Kaul, chief executive officer, Impact Communications, says, "We have planned the activities in such a way that every member of a family will be able to find something engaging. Also, with the initiative, many brands will be available under one roof, offering various discounts and schemes for the rural audience."
Currently, pre-activation publicity is being carried out across these villages by handing out leaflets, putting up posters, banner activities and door to door invites. More than 1,00,000 rural consumers from more than 2,000 catchment villages are expected to attend the rural interactive platform.
e-Choupal services today reach out to more than four million farmers growing a range of crops including soyabean, coffee, wheat, rice, pulses and shrimp in more than 40,000 villages through 6,500 kiosks across 10 states, including Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Maharashtra.
The problems encountered while setting up and managing these are primarily of infrastructural inadequacies, including power supply, telecom connectivity and bandwidth, apart from the challenge of imparting skills to the first time Internet users in remote and inaccessible areas of rural India.