E-Chaupal is the first private sector initiative in Agricultural Marketing. It is a business platform consisting of a set of organisational sub-system and interfaces connecting farmers to global markets.
This common structure can be leveraged to procure/produce a host of products and services for the farmer as a producer as well as a consumer.
The e-chaupal business platform consists of three layers, each at different levels of geographic aggregation.
Each of the three layers is characterized by three key elements:
- the infrastructure (physical or organizational) through which transactions take place,
- the entity (person or organisation) orchestrating the transaction, and
- the geographical coverage of the layer.
The first layer consists of the village level Kiosks with Internet access (or e-chaupal) managed by an ITC-trained local farmer (called a sanchalak) and within walking distance (1-5 kms) of each target farmer. There may be generally one e-chaupal per cluster of five villages.
The second layer consists of a bricks-and-mortar infrastructure (called hubs) –ranaged by the traditional intermediary who has local knowledge/skills (called a sanyojak in his new role) and within tractorable distance (25-30 Kms.) of the target farmer.
The ITC chose to operate the platform on the following three business principles:
- Free information and knowledge which ensures wider participation by the farmers.
- Freedom of choice in transactions (farmers after accessing information at the e-chaupal, are free to transact their own way).
- Transaction based income, stream for the sanchalak by tying his revenue stream to the transaction (on a commission basis).
The ITC has provided Internet access in rural areas in several regions of the country which enables farmers to directly negotiate the sale of their produce with ITC.
The farmers do not have to pay for the information and knowledge they get from the forum of e-chaupals.
The principle of e-chaupal is to inform, empower and compete on the basis of click and mortar capability. There are close to 7,000 e-chaupals in operation.