“I am delighted to learn that ITC has decided to extend 1% discount at the ITC Choupal Saagars on the purchase of its products through digital payments. It will go a long way in boosting digital payments drive and creating a stronger and more transparent economy. I hope other companies also initiate such measures and make India a vibrant digital economy of the world” said, Shri. Ravi Shankar Prasad, Hon’ble Minister for Electronics & IT and Law & Justice.
The rural and agricultural sector forms a significant part of the Indian economy. ITC’s e-Choupal programme, which has empowered over 4 million farmers to date, had pioneered digital engagement in rural India over 2 decades ago when the Internet itself was not as widespread as it is today. Post the Government’s bold initiative to promote digital and cashless transactions, ITC leveraged its e-Choupal network to provide a further fillip to the ‘Digital India’ movement. ITC e-Choupal eco-system, which provides farmers access to information on best farming practices, price discovery, weather and crop conditions, also includes the Choupal Saagar – an integrated rural hub comprising agri collection and storage facilities and a unique rural hypermarket, offering multiple services under one roof. ITC has set up 23 Choupal Saagars across MP, UP and Maharashtra that engage with about 4.5 million rural consumers annually. Till 2016, transactions were primarily cash-based, requiring significant involvement of manpower, time and cost.
All the Choupal Saagar stores and the attached fuel stations are now equipped to facilitate cashless transactions, including through payments by debit/credit cards of all major banks. Smart Fleet, a fleet card facility provided by Bharat Petroleum for fuel purchase in cashless mode, is also available at all fuel stations operated at ITC Choupal Saagars.
Following demonetization, several initiatives were taken to encourage customers and create extensive awareness to move towards cashless transactions across ITC’s network of Choupal Saagars. As a result, cashless transactions at Choupal Saagars increased from 8% to 21% post demonetization.
Some of the key initiatives taken to promote cashless transactions include:
- Awareness mobilization through 6 lakh SMSes sent to customers, informing them of the cashless transaction facilities and encouraging digital transactions;
- Extensive campaign on digital payments undertaken through leaflets and in-store promotion in the form of banners and standees.
- Digital payment modes of Paytm and BHIM have been made available in order to offer a wider choice to consumers.
- Offer of 1% discount to customers on purchase of ITC products through cashless mode at the ITC Choupal Saagars.
- Awareness camp conducted for over 1,000 farmers at Sehore in association with Krishi Vigyan Kendra on ease of using card-swiping machines.
- Additionally, ITC also proposes to collaborate with select partners to promote a digital mindset through Choupal Haats (rural marketplaces), which will also cover women and youth, and engage with farmers at Choupal Pradarshan Khets.
In addition, ITC’s Trade Marketing and Distribution Network, which services over 2 million retail outlets across trade channels in 1,00,000 markets, made significant efforts to promote digital payment habits among its trade partners by encouraging the distributors and associates to move to cashless solutions. Through the branches, sensitization was also made on UPI (unified payments interface) to impart knowledge on cashless transaction procedures.