Small Technologies Fuel Big Results in the Developing World

Our goal to provide critical intelligent information in times and places where it is lacking is being realized within India's farming community.
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If you are a banker or lawyer - whether in the developed or emerging world - it is almost guaranteed that you will have access to most, if not all, relevant information to help you make important professional decisions. In fact, most professionals will readily admit to "suffering" from an information overload.

Not so for another set of professionals - the farmers in India. An estimated 200 million in number and contributing nearly $180 billion to the country's GDP, most of them have long relied on a patchy network of local middlemen, a handful of progressive farmers and local shop owners to receive decision-critical information, whose reliability, accuracy and timeliness can have a critical impact on their decision making and therefore livelihood. These are fundamental decisions, such as what price to sell the crop, where to sell (given the numerous fragmented markets), when to harvest, and when to spray pesticides to save the crop. It is no wonder that farmers in India receive as little as 25% of the final price of their produce and billions of dollars are lost due to crop wastage.

That was until three years ago. Today, a farmer can get daily market prices of the crops he grows from his choice of markets, news that may affect prices of his chosen crop, a localized weather forecast, electricity schedule for his local district, and advisory information on how to improve his productivity. All of this vital information is easily received daily via short message service on mobile phones, over any telecom operator or handset - per individual preference of crops, markets, region, and language.

There are now millions of farmers across 15,000 villages who have experienced this revolutionary and pioneering service from Thomson Reuters called Reuters Market Light (RML). To date, several hundred thousand farmers have paid $10 to buy the service for 6 months.

RML provides a highly personalized professional information service to the farming community in India covering over 250 crop types, 1000 markets, and 3000 weather locations across 13 Indian states in 8 local languages. RML's personalized services remove the dependence on middlemen and word-of-mouth data, so the choice on where and when to sell their commodities and how to improve their productivity shifts to the farmers' hands. By extension, farmers, armed with better decision-making abilities, can increase their margins, which have resulted in an unprecedented financial and emotional impact on the farming community.

RML Subscriber Gurmukh Singh from Punjab explains how RML has benefitted him. "Using RML weather information to plan my crop irrigation, I irrigated my crop only twice as compared to other farmers who irrigated their crop 4-5 times. I saved diesel and water. I also stocked Mentha oil on RML information and gained when the prices went up." Ramchandra-Bhutekar, another RML subscriber from Maharashtra adds, "I wanted to sell my maize produce when the market rate was INR 800. RML SMS informed me about the bird flu incidence in West Bengal. Based on this I sold my produce immediately and made a profit of nearly INR 30,000."

The social impact of RML is not just visible in the positive financial and emotional impact on the farmers who have bought the service. In addition, RML has also attracted hordes of other players and partners to this service thereby creating a significant multiplier effect for the overall farming population. Given the unprecedented positive impact, it is expected the service might have created over $2-3 billion in new wealth for farmers. Another social benefit has been the creation of jobs. RML has a workforce of several hundred villagers with the majority from the same rural localities as the agriculture markets.

Our goal to provide critical intelligent information in times and places where it is lacking is being realized within India's farming community. RML has become a guiding light, a social innovation ecosystem fostering sustainable business practices and economic development. Building on RML's success, it is our aim to accelerate the positive impact of this business to other parts of the world - and through the power of information - to contribute in making the communities in which RML operates better places to live. To learn more about Reuters Market Light, please see the video at the Thomson Reuters YouTube page.

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