(GIST OF KURUKSHETRA) Leveraging ICT in Rural Marketing
Leveraging ICT in Rural Marketing
- Given that majority of India’s rural population is involved in agricultural activities, one of the two major components of rural marketing in the country is enabling the sale of agricultural products in urban areas.
- Understanding contemporary consumption patterns will be instrumental in meeting the needs of urban consumers and farmers must be equipped to understand these patterns, especially in their own areas.
- Information and communication technology can be effectively deployed to enhance their understanding of popular food types and the ways in which they can alter their farms to produce such food types.
- The MNFC app, developed by National Remote Sensing Centre, ISRO, uses satellites to collect field data for crop assessment under the FASAL project of the Ministry of Agriculture.
- Information thus collected on crop type, conditions, sowing date, soil type are instrumental in furthering our understanding of India’s farming sector and in creating a national geospatial database of crops.
- Other mobile applications provide information on hailstorms, government schemes and advisories, and digitise published magazines while others cover the domains of horticulture and animal husbandry.
Information and communication technology has enabled farmers to access all relevant information at the click of a button. There is tremendous potential in these systems: they give farmers more agency over their crops and produce, allow them to choose the market they want to sell at and strengthen them against the pitfalls of adverse weather events by warning them and allowing them to make suitable preparations to minimise losses.
- In the near future, these systems can be leveraged to bring cutting-edge technologies to farmers especially since climate change threatens many existing agricultural practices.
Bringing Rural India into the Mainstream:
- This aspect demands a deep understanding of the diverse social, economic and cultural fabric of rural India. The rapid pace of internet penetration has introduced the rural populace to exciting new innovations and products now available in urban markets and they, too, aspire to such lifestyles.
- First, rural Indians are realising the importance of education in upward social and economic mobility. Farming families are eager to educate their children to open alternative career options for them. Therefore, education— especially online education— has tremendous potential in rural India. Ed-tech undoes the structural and circumstantial barriers that otherwise prevent children from attending schools like distance, safety, hygiene and erratic presence of teachers.
- At the same time, ed-tech also enables students to decide their level of education and engage with topics at their own comfort level, without having to adhere to general standards that they find unsuitable to themselves. Ed-tech platforms must, however, make their content available in vernacular languages and attune it to the social mores of rural society.
- The second sector with potential is healthcare. In light of the pandemic, local communities across the world are prioritising healthcare and provision of health services. In rural India, too, there is tremendous potential to market for expanding formal health services, establishing allopathic medicine hospitals and educating the populace on good health practices and disease prevention. Digital health, similarly, has special scope since it removes the constraints on healthcare professionals to be physically present in order to provide quality healthcare services.
- The third sector with unparalleled potential is e-commerce, a major driver of global growth and consumption. The resilience of e-commerce was put on display during the most difficult months of the pandemic through which e-commerce companies continued to serve communities with essential items despite global lockdowns and shuttered factories. To bring India’s rural hinterland apace with global growth, the expansion of e-commerce platforms in these areas is undeniably important.
It effectively fulfils the gap between the wants of the rural communities— especially those they cannot meet locally. E-commerce also offers, reverse benefit: it can bring goods produced in rural economies—handloom products, region specific textiles and artisanal specialties— to consumers across the country, and indeed across the globe. The government’s One District One Product (ODOP) scheme aims to build this supply chain of unique products of India’s districts and e-commerce has a central role in bridging the supply and demand.
- Finally, technology itself holds immense opportunities for expansion in rural India. In addition to dispensing information, providing services and connecting rural manufacturers and markets to the national supply chain, ICT can provide employment to millions of rural youths who are seeking to diversify their family income. BPOs are one such form of employment generation. Companies can benefit from moving away from urban centres and into rural areas where ambitious and skilled young persons can make for qualified employees. By taking the employment opportunity to rural areas, companies will also encourage female labour force participation which remains low in the country.
ICT is also indispensable in modern warehousing facilities which are, in turn, increasingly indispensable in India (owing to the growing prominence of e-commerce). They can be a potential source of mass employment. Decentralising storage from major cities and towards tier-ill and IV cities and villages will reduce time of delivery, increase efficiency and allow millions more Indians to be serviced by e-commerce.