Ive been doing a lot of work in villages in India and what strikes me most is their resistance to change. It has been our experience in understanding the process of change and development in rural areas, that the uphill task is not in reaching them with enablers or tools and technologies for change, as much as it is in getting them to adopt them meaningfully.
The idea of the e-choupals was to allow [ITC] to buy more directly from farmers; e-choupals allow farmers to check prices the night before, and then decide whether they want to sell directly to the company the next day.
E-choupal allows the farmers to check both futures prices across the globe and local prices before going to market. It gives them access to local weather conditions, soil-testing techniques and other expert knowledge that will increase their productivity. Non-profit organizations have tried similar initiatives but none have achieved anywhere near the scale that e-choupals have. There are now 1,700 in this state, Madhya Pradesh, and 3,000 total in India. They are serving 18,000 villages, reaching up to 1.8 million farmers.
The business model is simple eliminate the middleman, who normally eats into profits for farmers and the company. As a result, give the farmer a better price for his produce, and at the same time, increase the value for the company for steady and cheaper sourcing of produce.
This makes it more sustainable than many other change programs which start with lofty goals of uplifting the poor, because it enables access to information, thereby creating better purchasing power, and as a result has begun to shape aspirations - all essential ingredients laid out by C.K. Prahalad in his book The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits.
Dina Mehta is a qualitative research consultant for the last 15 years, based in Mumbai, India. Her thoughts, musings and endeavors can be found at her weblog - Conversations with Dina.
On Ryze you ought to check out this guy called Viplav - http://www.ryze.com/go/ViplavComm
He's working on something interesting in Voter Relationship Management. I'll be posting an entry about him soon once I've heard more details from him.
thanks for the pointer Rohit ... i did see your post on it too.