About IT and Supply Chain Management

June 2, 2010
School of Engineering, Coimbatore

A few years ago ITC initiated e-Choupal, to streamline its dealings with Indian farmers. A mega project of rural India’s, this now serves over 50,000 villages in 10 Indian states, including UP, MP, AP, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Rajasthan.
e-ChoupalNearly 7000 kiosks allow farmers to gain instant access to real-time information such as weather forecasts, scientific farming practices and market prices through a web portal in Hindi or other regional languages.

The kiosks consist of a lone computer at a farmer’s house that is linked to the Internet via a VSAT connection. Over 500 farmers within a radius of 5 km access each kiosk.

A new book, Enterprise Information Systems and Implementing IT Infrastructures: Challenges and Issues, cites the ITC case study, together with several other such studies, to highlight how Indian companies are leveraging technology today.

Prashant Nair, Vice-Chair of IT, Amrita School of Engineering, Coimbatore contributed a chapter in this book, titled Benefits of Information Technology – Implementations for Supply Chain Management: An Explorative Study of Progressive Indian Companies.

“From an IT perspective, ITC’s solution is a landmark in the rural segment,” he wrote. “The company created an IT-based integrated supply chain. The web-driven project offers scalability as well as real-time information and facilitates collaboration between various parties for the full spectrum of farmer needs.”
Book“Each e-Choupal costs nearly US $ 3000 for setup and incurs an annual maintenance cost of US $ 100-200. The host farmer or sanchalak incurs some operating expense but also gains substantial benefits from all e-Choupal transactions. After the initial launch in June 2000, e-Choupal has become one of the largest initiatives in rural India.”

The chapter also explores the use of technology in several other prominent Indian companies such as Titan Industries, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL), Mahindra and Mahindra, Pantaloon, Hindustan Unilever and L&T.

An overview of concepts and tools such as EDI, ERP, bar codes, inventory management, transportation management, and warehouse management systems is provided. Emerging technologies such as RFID, software agents and virtual supply chains are reviewed.

“Industry trends like globalization, outsourcing, customization, time-to-market, and pricing pressures have compelled enterprises to adopt efficient and effective supply chain management technologies, practices and policies,” finally stated the author. “To survive in these times, companies will find that their conventional supply chain integration will have to be expanded beyond their boundaries so as to integrate all stakeholders. Adoption of IT tools is vital for such efforts.”

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