Indra Sharma writes about ITC’s Choupal Sagar, which was recently opened in Madhya Pradesh:
Recently, ITC has launched the first rural mall-Choupal Sagar at Rafiqganj that is a little village about four kilometres from Sehore town in Madhya Pradesh. In continuation with its project e-Choupal, Chaupal Sagar is the first rural mall in the country andt stands on an eight-acre plot with a shopping area of 7,000 square feet.
The farmers can buy soaps, detergents and toothpaste, almost everything they need for the family including TVs, DVD players, pressure cookers, room heaters, watches, sewing machines and grinders and, of course, cigarettes. Motorbikes or even tractors are also available. The company is marketing a new range of clothings and shoes too for the rural customers. And the plans are very ambitious. Starting in the first week of October, the daily sale is already between Rs 70,000 to 80,000- not bad as a business proposition too.
The idea is to create a one-stop destination for farmers. The farmer, with his family, drives into Chaupal Sagar in a tractor trolley laden with the produce from his field, he proposes to sell. His grain weighed on the digital weighing machine, he drives on to the godown where the produce is unloaded. Meanwhile, his kids can enjoy the swings and video games and his wife may like to move around and select the items she needs for the household. As soon as the farmer gets his cash, they make the required purchases and drive back by evening. They can, for a change, have their lunch in the cafeteria. If he intends to, he can even carry fertilisers and pesticides and get a diesel fill for his tractor.
The shopping area is only a part of the vast Chaupal Sagar. At the back of the mall is a godown where ten thousand tonnes of grain can be stored. Then, the entertainment area with video games and swings. A diesel pump, a cafeteria and a soil-testing laboratory are also coming up and so is a sale point for fertilisers, pesticides and other agro-inputs. A bank, an insurance company office and a training centre for farmers will complete the set-up. If he needs to, the farmer can consult a doctor who will be available on the premises. Is it not the beginning of the great change the villages will be undergoing in months and years to come?