The penetration of digital media and mobile phones in rural hinterlands of India has broken all myths of a smart marketing mind. 36% India’s mobile internet users reside in rural markets. Small farmers (which account to a population of 200 million) in India have found the right ways to use digital media to do business and to solve their problems. Rural Entrepreneurship in India is changing with digital media says Reema Sathe of Happy Roots, winner at the Digital Women Awards 2017.

Whatsapp has become the new normal to trade and to seek crop or soil related consultation for farmers across Maharashtra. Happy Roots is a part of 04 such whatsapp groups where news, consultations, idea exchange and market linkages happen over a thread of messages.

Whatsapp has become the new normal to trade and to seek crop or soil related consultation for farmers across Maharashtra

We have about 10 – 20 messages in our Facebook message box everyday from farmers across the country, reaching out to us to collaborate. Though there are messages from farmers across the country, we recently had farmers reaching out to us from Myanmar and Tibet. Dhundup Tsering, a farmer from Tibet reached out to us on Facebook to collaborate on making value added products from Buckwheat. He read about our Buckwheat farming project in Ahmednagar and wanted his community to benefit from similar initiative too.

we recently had farmers reaching out to us from Myanmar and Tibet

I recently travelled to Rajasthan to meet the camel herders of Kumbalgarh and Jaisalmer. One camel herder came up to me and asked – “Madam aap Happy Roots se hai na? Mein aapka kaam facebook pe follow karta hu” (Madam are you from Happy roots? I follow your work on Facebook).

Reema Sathe on Happy Roots
Conversations on whatsapp in Marathi discussing crop attacks, solutions and other agricultural details. Picture by Reema Sathe

I have plenty of examples where farmers from UP, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh have found us on the internet and sent us emails to join our network. All this is just the tip of the iceberg. These examples show that our rural communities are as savvy as urbaners, in using digital media and internet; and if trained and given access to right platforms can benefit in multiple ways. Imagine if a small farmer doesn’t have to travel several kilometers to understand the market rates of his produce, or can understand the process of elongating shelf life for the produce by watching a video or farmers can be directly connected to bulk buyers or food and beverage manufacturers to sell their produce eliminating the need for middlemen. The possibilities are endless. Apart from the business usage, mobile internet is also used by our rural women’s co-operative to manage their micro-finance, insurance and for broadcasting news related to health campaigns, gram panchayat meetings and other events or gatherings which could be relevant for the community.

One camel herder came up to me and asked – “Madam aap Happy Roots se hai na? Mein aapka kaam facebook pe follow karta hu”

Digital media can become instrumental in changing the social fabric and rural economy of the country. We need different companies, non-profits and farmer bodies to come together and make use of this wonderful channel to create growth, where it is needed the most.

 

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