Network(ing) in the upcountry.

Monday, August 18, 2008

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A recent trip to my native village taught me a new lesson in rural marketing with a live case study.
My curiosity triggered when I saw an Airtel and IFFICO branded truck standing in front of my house selling prepaid SIM cards to the farmers. My initial investigation started onsite by asking few people around the truck on what was so special about the SIM cards sold in the truck. Farmers were more than thrilled to speak about the cost benefit they were getting and customized value added services attached with the connection.
My second level investigation started once I was back in Bangalore. Like always, I Googled it to dig more information on the initiative. I found the news coverage on the JV launch, which apparently had happened just 15 days before I Googled it. I also felt bad for missing out the news when it happened which was covered in almost all the news and business portals in India.

It’s a new benchmark set by Bharti Airtel Limited, India’s leading integrated telecommunications services provider, and Indian Farmers Fertilizer Cooperative limited (IFFCO) to usher in the Second Green Revolution to benefit millions of rural consumers. The JV is called IFFCO Kisan Sanchar Ltd. (IKSL) to provide big boost to Indian agriculture and rural economy. IKSL will offer products and services, specifically designed for farmers, through IFFCO societies in villages across the country. On offer will be affordable mobile handsets bundled with Airtel mobile connection. The farmer will also get access to a unique VAS platform that will broadcast 5 free voice messages on mandi prices, farming techniques, weather forecasts, diary farming, animal husbandry, rural health initiatives and fertilizer availability etc. on a daily basis. In addition, the farmer will be able to call a dedicated helpline, manned by experts from various fields, to get answers to their specific queries. (not too sure if this is a toll free no.).

Bharti Airtel will offer competitive calling rates @ 50 paise/minute for calls between IFFCO members. This is expected to promote community building within the society and rural community at large. Bharti Airtel will also set up towers at sites provided by IFFCO societies to provide quality services to farmers.

By 2010, the rural population is likely to touch 800 million and two-thirds of those would be prospective mobile users. The platform will help make available voice advices in all local languages. The Indian farmer will be able to look forward to the benefits of mobile telephony and Internet.
Being a strong advocate of mobile as a medium to reach masses at the grass root level, here is one more reason for me to believe why mobile will overtake internet in the rural India.

Happy I Day..

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Wow! Free India is 61 years young now and I take this opportunity to wish you all a freedom from mediocrity, ignorance, bias, disregard, infidelity, distrust, office politics (inevitable), control freaks, ex GFs, painful partners, Bangalore traffic, late night deadlines and everything I have missed out here and you deserve freedom from.

Happy Independence Day!