Ajit Singh, a farmer in the poor northern state of Uttar Pradesh, had never seen a computer until four years ago when ITC, the Indian agribusiness-to-hotels conglomerate, installed a PC in his village, Kurthia.
Now the thin 47-year-old farmer visits the ITC station, known as an “e-choupal” after the Hindi term for “gathering place”, every day for online access to news-papers, crop prices, weather forecasts, and farming techniques. As ITC’s village manager, he passes on what he gleans to fellow farmers.
Knowing the fair market value of crops allows farmers to fetch better prices and circumvent local traders who used to dictate terms. Farmers can also sell wheat and other crops to ITC.
The result has been a big jump in crop productivity. Annual incomes in Kurthia have risen from Rs40,000- Rs50,000 ($1,000-$1,230) before e-choupal to Rs100,000- Rs120,000 now, says Mr Singh.