Telecom major Bharti Airtel Limited and multi-state farmers' fertiliser cooperative Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Limited (IFFCO) today launched their rural joint venture initiative IFFCO Kisan Sanchar Ltd.. The two promoters companies say joint venture company will provide a major boost to Indian agriculture by placing the power of telecom services in the hands of the farmer so that he may access information vital for for enhancing farm productivity, including prices.
Using IFFCO's presense in vaillages throughout the country, Airtel would use IFFCO Kisan Sanchar to take its mobile telecom services in the rural hinterland.
''The telecom revolution has truly transformed India and we believe that the benefits must reach the rural population," said Sunil Bharti Mittal, chairman and managing director, Bharti Airtel Limited, while announcing this initiative, said, "As a company we are committed to taking our services to every corner of the country and the launch of IFFCO Kisan Sanchar Ltd. is a major landmark in this direction. We are delighted to partner IFFCO and are confident that our innovative telecom products and services, especially created for the farming community, will enhance their productivity and play a bigger role in India's growth story. The Indian farmer can now look forward to the benefits of mobile telephony and mobile internet through this initiative.''
Bharti Airtel will also set up towers at sites provided by IFFCO societies to provide quality services to farmers. It will also offer competitive calling rates at 50 paise / minute for calls between IFFCO members. The telecom services provider says bringing telecom services to farmers would help bring the the farming community to bond with farmers across areas.
The joint vemture company will offer products and services, specifically designed for farmers, through IFFCO-run 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 five free voice messages on mandi prices, farming techniques, weather forecasts, diary farming, animal husbandry, rural health initiatives and fertiliser 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.
''Any amount of effort is inadequate to reach every nook and corner of this country," said Dr U S Awasthi, managing director, IFFCO."Communication being the key for empowering farmers, IFFCO decided to join hands with Airtel."
He added mobile technology seemed "a god-sent opportunity for carrying" for empowering farmers. "We feel that there is a great opportunity in the telecom sector going to rural India to create new business opportunities for the cooperatives where farmers are the key stakeholders."
Says Dr Awasthi, IFFCO is an organisation of the farmers, for the farmers and by the farmers and works on the model of cooperatives. "We have been constantly endeavoring to enrich the lives of the farmers through creating and strengthening cooperative institutions, and providing them the best quality inputs in the form of fertilisers and knowledge.
IFFCO has promoted institutions such as Indian Farm Forestry Development Cooperative, IFFCO Foundation, Cooperative Rural development Trust (CORDET), and Kisan Sewa Trust to impart training, knowledge and education to the farmer at his doorstep, he discloses.
Dr. Awasthi further added, ''IFFCO Kisan Sanchar Ltd. is a unique venture to strengthen the cooperative movement in rural India, to empower the farmers through information, to boost the rural economy, and also to create rural employment."
In the first phase IFFCO Kisan Sanchar will roll out its services in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh. The second phase will see the partnership being extended to Gujarat, Maharastra, Goa, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, this year.