Big Ideas, Anyone?
Imagine an illiterate farmer in a remote village in Madhya Pradesh sitting
at a desktop wired up to the WWW through a small VSAT link powered by a small
power generator by its side and surfing away to glory, downloading invaluable
information about weather forecasts and sowing trends. Or even checking prices
for Soya beans at the nearest government-run market, or even on an International
A few years ago such a scenario would have seemed outlandish but today it's
a reality. ITC's e-choupal project covers over 15,000 villages in Madhya Pradesh,
Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh providing millions
of farmers with critical information about farming. Farmers can look at weather
forecasts, order fertilizer and herbicide, and consult an agronomist by e-mail
when their crops turn yellow. At some e-choupals they can even buy life insurance,
apply for loans and also check their kids' exam results.
While much has been written about the social benefits of ITC's e-Chaupal, the
matter of the fact is that the project was conceptualized with a pure business
focus to create farmer communities in villages to facilitate sourcing of high-quality
farm produce for the company's fast growing agribusiness.
In IT parlance, e-chaupal is an intelligent blend of applications
like CRM and supply chain management. For instance, by helping the farmer identify
and control his inputs and farming practices, and by paying more for better
quality, ITC has been able to preserve the source and improve the quality of
produce. In the commodities market, these two factors are helping ITC create
a definite competitive advantage.
ITC now plans to leverage its e-chaupal infrastructure to
sell third-party products, provide rural market research services, and in the
social sector, to provide services like health advisories and enable e-governance.
While ITC's e-chaupal project has been widely reported due to recognition received
in the international arena, there are several such smart IT initiatives within
private sector and public sector that harness the potential of technology for
social and business benefits.
Be it eSeva, the e-governance project undertaken by the AP
government to free public services of bureaucratic intervention or CONCERT,
Indian Railways' Computerized Reservation and Ticketing network, Indian enterprises
are churning out smart and intelligent IT initiatives that are not only best-in-class
globally in terms of technology deployed but also in terms of creating business
and social impact.
To recognize such groundbreaking IT initiatives in all walks of life, Network
Magazine instituted the Intelligent Enterprise Awards last year. The core objective
behind the launch of these awards is the belief that Information Technology
by itself can no longer provide a competitive edge to enterprises. With organizations
having easy access to similar technologies, they need to innovate in order to
maintain their advantage.
Such technological innovation cannot be judged simply by technology deployed
and level of investment. Even small enterprises with paltry IT budgets can blend
relatively old technologies to create intelligent solutions that generate immense
Intelligent Enterprise Awards recognize enterprises that have exploited existing
technologies in newer ways, or experimented with new ones. Also it takes into
account innovation on the process side. An organization can invent new technology
processes or tune existing ones to seek value provides it a definitive competitive
The Intelligent Enterprise Awards 2004 will be given away in nine key verticals
that include Telecom, Media & Entertainment, IT & ITeS, Energy, construction
and utilities, Banking, Financial services and Insurance, Health Sciences, Industrial
production, Government and infrastructure, and Retail & consumer products.
Nominations are invited through multiple channels and are shortlisted by Network
Magazine and Ernst & Young on the basis of pre-defined evaluation criteria.
Based on the scores awarded, finalists are shortlisted for selection by the
The selection of winners from the three finalists in each category is decided
by a Jury panel representing eminent personalities from diverse fields. The
shortlisted entries are judged on the merits of innovativeness of the application,
technology used, value and impact thereof.
The Intelligent Enterprise Awards 2004 will be presented in the month of October
at a special ceremony coinciding with Technology Senate 2004 which will be attended
by over 200 of India's top CTOs, CIOs and IT heads.
In its first year, last year, the Intelligent Enterprise Awards were given out
in four categories at an annual retreat for India's leading IT heads at Kochi.
The Award for the Most Intelligent Enterprise went to V. V. R Babu, CIO, ITC
There were three runner-up awards. One went to Gopal Shukla, CIO, Dabur for
its initiative to integrate its 1000 primary distribution channel with secondary
The second runner-up was Sanjay Govil, CIO, Eicher Motors for implementing an
employee sales portal. The final one went to M. D. Agrawal, Chief Manager-IS
Refineries, BPCL for implementing a core operations application aptly called
the Digital Nervous System.
The Awards were judged by an eminent panel consisting of Dr. Manesh Shrikant,
Honorary Dean, SP Jain Institute of Management & Research; L. C. Singh,
President and CEO of Nihilent Technologies; Pradeep Pendse, Senior Associate
Dean-Systems & E-business, Welingkar Institute of Management Studies; and
Sunil Chandiramani, Parnter, Ernst & Young.
Eicher Motors has setup an employee self service portal called EPIC to enhance
productivity and promote knowledge-sharing. Eicher Portal for Information
and Collaboration (EPIC) was initialized in 2002 by Eicher Motors, to provide
a single 'secure service point' for all information and collaboration needs
of Eicher employees and partners through the browser.
Eicher has deployed internal services (HR, IT, Finance) and external
services (customers and dealers) on a comprehensive Web-based system.
This is accessible though SMS as well as a call center to reach out to
dealerships and field service teams in remote locations. It provides customers
with an interface to know the status of their products in terms of history,
problems and resolution. It also has a knowledge management interface
to proactively provide self-serviceability to dealers, customers and field
SAP licenses and training expenses for a large number of employees would
have been prohibitive. Access for this has been enabled through EPIC,
resulting in significant cost savings. The turnaround time for key employee-centric
processes have reduced by around 40 percent.
There has been a considerable reduction in data-entry errors and administrative
costs by minimizing the need for telephone follow-ups, printed forms,
and manual data entry. And there has been a rise in employee satisfaction
due to quick, efficient resolution of HR issues and transparency of employee-centric
processes. Customer satisfaction levels have also increased as a result
of instant availability of information.
The ultimate vision is to make EPIC the single window (device-independent)
gateway for all information and collaboration requirements within the
In phase two, Eicher plans to augment the framework with catalogues/auctions
formats with complete RFQ cycle. This project is under final phase of
development and testing and builds on e procurement concepts internally
marketed as E-Source.
ITC Agricultural business division's Web-based initiative offers information,
products and services to farmers of soya, wheat, coffee, and shrimps.
It is designed to provide physical service and support through a 'choupal
sanchalak'a lead farmerwho acts as the interface between the
computer terminal and the farmers.
Farmers can access the latest local and global information on weather,
scientific farming practices, as well as market prices at the village
using e-choupal kiosks in Indian languages like Hindi, Kannada, and Telugu.
The choupals are available in states like MP, UP, AP, Karnataka, Maharashtra,
Rajasthan and Gujarat. Apart from LIC's life insurance products, FMCG
products like salt and biscuits, agricultural implements, and automobiles
are also vended through the network.
The main benefit for ITC is an enhanced relationship with the farming
community across 25,000 villages. E-choupal has also delivered a reduced
transaction cost for its agricultural commodity purchases.Farmers retain
inventory information, which helps in improving the trading decision quality,and
the company can cross-sell it'' products and services for the rural market.
ITC plans to increase e-choupal implementations from 45,000 to around
10,000 information kiosks. This will benefit farmers in 100,000 villages
For every 50 choupals, a retail hub will be set up so that villagers
can experience the products that they will order through the kiosks. The
first hub has already been commissioned in MP.