A flourishing, scaleable e-commerce business in Bujdha village, near Udaipur, provides a glimpse of how rural India could connect to a globalised world.Sunday, January 6th, 2008
I spent two interesting days visiting the villages around Udaipur, and especially the Ubeswar area. My local host, Dr O.S.Rathore( former Principal of Agriculture College, Udaipur), took me to village Bujdha, which has a population of 4500, of whom over 1000 are tribals.
The highlight of this trip was my meeting with a gentleman called Vardi Chand, who has created a remarkable business around Vermi-compost and organic farming.
Until a few years ago, Vardi Chand was a salaried employee earning Rs 3000/- p.m. Today, he has transformed into a new-age businessman producing 20 tonnes of organic manure each month, and selling them via internet, to customers spread across the country. Besides this, he raises and sells organically-produced wheat and vegetables to hotels who value this.
It was fascinating to see how Vardi Chand, with some help from his son, actually runs a website www.organicfarmingindia.com out of this small village. By using this site for e-commerce, he converts the dung produced by his 40 cows into marketable organic manure, that earns him over Rs 4 lakhs p.a..
Can there be a better example of bridging the digital divide?
The internet truly symbolizes the global, connected world. Likewise, the current fad for organic foods could be dismissed as the fancy of the rich. What on earth could either of these two symbols have to do with poor farmers in India who have more-pressing, survival issues to address. The deteriorating state of the poor Indian farmer, and the globalising world have often been considered by observers to be opposing trends.
But, does it have to be that way? Can the two trends work with, and support each other, rather than be antagonistic?
The Vardi Chand example shows that the Digital Divide can indeed be bridged. As organic food sales($40 billion in 2006, and currently account for 1–2% of total food sales worldwide) grow rapidly, in both developed and developing markets, it is likely that farmers in India can draw inspiration from him, and reach out to national and global markets.