Case Studies of the winning companies
ITC's electronic choupal
ITC initiated its e-choupal project to streamline its dealings with Indian farmers
in 2000. This is a project on a massive scale that ultimately aims to cover
every sixth Indian village. Each choupal covers around eight villages and 15,000
villages have been covered to date in Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra,
Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh.
This Web-based initiative of ITC offers farmers of soya, wheat, coffee, and
shrimps with all the information, products and services they need to enhance
farm productivity, improve farm-gate price realization, and cut transaction
The project was built using .NET. The first implementation of a Soya choupal
took eight months but later extensions like the Aqua choupal for aquamarine
farmers took between six and eight weeks.
Today e-choupal is a flexible, easy to deploy solution. ITC Infotech provided
an in-house team of 25 to 30 people in the initial stage and this gradually
came down to around 20 people, and finally a five-member team to maintain the
The Company, in association with the Tobacco board, had also extended the
solution to leaf tobacco farmers in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.
VVR Babu, Chief Information Officer at ITC Limited.
Given the literacy and infrastructure constraints at the village level, this
model is designed to provide physical service support through a 'choupal sanchalak'
(a lead farmer) who acts as the interface between the computer terminal and
The e-choupal portals are based on Indian languages like Hindi, Kannada, and
Telegu. Through the e-choupal portals, farmers can access the latest local and
global information on weather, scientific farming practices, and market prices
at the village itself, through e-choupal kiosks. E-choupal also facilitates
supply of high quality farm inputs as well as purchase of their produce at their
"Initially we boldly thought that we would work with DoT to upgrade rural
telephone exchanges. The department was proactive in upgrading many rural exchanges
to electronic ones. After fifteen months we found that the experience was not
totally satisfactory," said VVR Babu, Chief Information Officer at ITC
Power cuts in rural areas can run for eight to ten hours. ITC even went so far
as to provide gensets at a few locations hoping to spur DoT to doing the same.
It didn't work out and in 2001 ITC shifted its focus to using Ku Band VSATs.
Power remained a problem and it was solved by using solar panels.
- Enhanced relationship with farming community across 15,000 villages so
- Reduced transaction cost for its Agri-commodity purchases.
- Information on inventory retained by the farmers that can improve the quality
of trading decisions.
- Provided means to expand the reach to the rural markets through the cross-selling
of the company's products and services.
- The project has become a hot topic with academics. Harvard Business School
did a case study on it and 90 students came for three days to study e-choupal.
The e-choupal project has seen the implementation of around 2,500 information
kiosks and ITC has made plans to increase the kiosks to around 10,000 in order
to serve farmers in 100,000 villages by 2007.
However, it hopes to accelerate the pace of the project and complete it in another
two to three years. ITC has initiated the rural distribution initiative for
cross-selling products and services to the farming community to leverage e-Choupal.
Currently, the e-choupals in various languages for a variety of agri-products
are distinct and the content management platform is varied. In order to facilitate
the faster expansion to other products and Indian languages, these e-choupals
will be integrated through a common portal with contemporary content management
ITC also intends to add personalization so that farmers can be greeted with
information relevant to commodities that they grow.
The company will let third parties put up content that will be vetted by it.