June 2004

Promoting local content in global market

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Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) have enabled various information or content to be placed over internet in order to share it all over the world, thus opening the doors for content globalisation. Today, huge information is available over the internet in text or document form like market prices, poverty alleviation government schemes, hospital, weather, educational institutes directory, telephone directory and much more. While urban netizens increasingly upload content available with them due to greater awareness on part of urban centric organisations, what is still ignored or not available is local content available with and for rural communities.

Local content is invariably available in the form of indigenous knowledge that has been inherited by the community over centuries. One important aspect of this indigenous knowledge is the content about the various products that the rural communities produce. These products are part of the our village economy that used to have various industrious facets and one of the important elements was rural artisans, their creative space and economics associated with it. The products that are produced by rural producers vary from handicrafts, handloom to sericulture. Sharing this information with the global community is the first step towards introducing an effective e-Commerce solution in rural areas. This article discusses how an e-Commerce solution can act as a medium for sharing local content with the global community and also discusses the advantages and challenges associated with the collection and sharing of such content.

Domain description

The people in rural areas are mostly involved in works related to farming, food processing, handlooms and handicrafts and other cottage industries. These people are ver killed in producing high quality decorative items, cosmetic items, edible items and various utility items. These products reflect the local culture, tradition and indigenous knowledge handed down over centuries and are generally produced from the raw material that is easily available in the area. For example, in India, a wide range of products is available, from north to south and east to west. The varieties include products created using locally available raw materials like bamboo, silk, seashell, coconut etc. The products developed by these people are generally sold in the local market to the people mainly belonging to the same or surrounding locality or sometimes even to the visiting tourists. To sell the products to remote or urban markets, the producer has to depend on the middlemen. The middlemen generally collect the products and also information about these products (such as how it is made, how it can be used, how it should be maintained etc.) from these producers and market it in urban centers. In return, the rural producers get a very meager amount, in comparison to the profit they actually make out of selling the product.

Many government agencies and NGOs have come forward with many strategies for the promotion of these products. They have established number of haats or markets in urban areas and sometimes exhibitions are arranged to showcase the products. But the sustained availability of such outlets with sound distribution channels is not assured.

Challenges

The present scenario is that the rural market is more or less saturated for these products due to lack of innovation which is due to limited local demand At the same time, they are unable to expand their customer base to urban and global markets, mainly because they have neither the means to reach the


markets nor do they have the salesman skills in organised manner, to articulate well in the customer's language. The middlemen and government agencies/NGOs are also able to play only a limited role, particularly in publicising the products in global markets. At the other end of the spectrum is the potential customer who has both the desire as well as the capacity to pay but who has no knowledge about even the availability of these products, let alone access to them.

It is clear that the first and foremost requirement for promoting these products is to share the information about these products. The ICTs and the Internet have opened up huge possibilities for sharing this local content with the global market. E-Commerce solutions have helped in opening global markets for remote producers. This article presents a web based application software package i.e. RuralBazar (http://RuralBazar.nic.in) which could become the means for sharing local content produced by rural communities with global consumers.

RuralBazar

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