India is home to several agricultural and non-agricultural (including manufacturing) products that are region-specific and every district has products that are unique and provide livelihoods and generate income. One District One Product (ODOP), spearheaded by the Uttar Pradesh government in 2018, is an important initiative that is being adopted all over India to realise the true potential of each district.
This is intended to accelerate economic growth, generate employment and promote rural entrepreneurship and is in tune with the Prime Minister’s call to transform every district into an export hub and realise the goal of Atmanirbhar Bharat. The main philosophy behind ODOP is to select, brand and promote one product from each district of India that has a specific characteristic feature or is native to that particular region/district and to enable profitable trade in that product and generate employment.
From across 35 States/Union Territories, 707 districts have been identified by the Ministry of Food Processing Industries under the Pradhan Mantri Formalisation of Micro Food Processing Enterprises Scheme (PMFME). In the realm of implementation, ODOP is merged with the ‘Districts as Export Hub’ initiative implemented by the Director-General of Foreign Trade (DGFT), wherein a major stakeholder is the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT).
As of February 2021, the Department of Commerce, too, had identified 106 products from 103 districts across 27 States to promote the ODOP initiative. The idea of transforming districts into exports hub and bringing about a structural change in the lives of the rural population by linking the local production houses to the global supply chains is both a lofty and transformative idea. India is not the first country to implement such a scheme and while going forward with ODOP, it should take into account the experiences of various countries in making the Indian version a success.
Experiences from around the world
In the late 1950s, Japanese villages experienced youth out-migration to high-income cities due to unprofitable rice cultivation and the absence of alternative of sources of income.
To contain this, the then Mayor of Oyama Town started a New Plum and Chestnut (NPC) strategy and later this movement was transformed into Neo Personality Combination in 1965 and New Paradise Community in 1969. It became “One Village One Product (OVOP)” in 1979 and was further expanded to other rural areas of Japan.
The core principles that guided OVOP were to think locally, act globally, to be self-reliant and creative through capacity building of human resources. This model was later emulated by a few other countries with different nomenclature.
One Commune One Product (Vietnam), One Tambon One Product (Thailand), One Town One Product (the Philippines), One Mahalla One Product (Uzbekistan), One Island One Product (Oceania) and Our Village Our Pride (Afghanistan) with varying levels of success.
While it started as a movement in Japan, in Thailand it was a policy initiative that focused on capacity building in human resources at grassroots levels through community development.
In the Philippines too, it was a government-led programme that supported micros, small and medium enterprises that focused on entrepreneurship, public-private partnerships through the rediscovery of indigenous products and regional pride. This also included services and hospitality that highlighted traditional history and culture.
Way forward for India
The important aspect which the policy initiatives in India should thus be mindful of are : First, ownership of the initiative should lie at the centre of implementation. The stakeholders irrespective of the sector along the value chain need to be identified and provided information and awareness.
Second, the identification of stakeholders assumes great significance in realising ownership potential. In this regard, it is important to streamline other initiatives such as registration of Geographical Indications (GI), formation and development of farmer producer organisations in the agricultural sector, cluster development approaches in handloom and handicrafts.
These initiatives have effective ways of strengthening capacity building and networking among horizontal and vertical stakeholders. The Ministry of Commerce has already undertaken the mapping of ODOP products across different Central and State government schemes, programmes and legal sources such as aspirational districts, national horticultural mission, national cluster development schemes, registration as GI, and so on.
It is, thus, extremely important to recognise the synergies between different initiatives and bring them under one umbrella to realise the ownership potential must lie with the primary producers.
A glance at ODOP products listed indicates that there are several registered Geographical Indications products covering foodgrains, handicrafts, handloom and foodstuff that overlap. While there have been concerted efforts to register several projects as GI, post-GI activities such as the creation of awareness among producers and consumers about the potential of GI, registration of authorised users (which has a broad definition and include stakeholders along the value chain), brand building through the use of the individual and national logos, facilitate market access through dedicated offline and online shopping channels have not been institutionalised and streamlined.
The struggle of producers and other stakeholders of registered GIs have also been to meet the costs of such activities and here, integrating these with ODOP could be an apt solution. In this context, it is also important to dovetail certifications such as organic, silk mark, handloom mark, GI to strengthen the market access of ODOP products.
There are online platforms that are already available such as gitagged.com and shoppingkart24.com which cater to sales of GI products with traceability linked to the producer to garner the trust of consumers. Such initiatives may be replicated under ODOP as well to realise ‘vocal for local’ and to ensure the self-reliance of producers and other stakeholders along the value chain of such regional products.
In this regard, it is important to categorise the products based on their potential for value addition. There are certain high-value products with export potential such as horticultural products. There are already traceability systems in place spearheaded by APEDA and ODOP-GI integration would augur well to augment the earnings of the farmers. For non-agricultural products too, especially handlooms, there is already a Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping of weavers under the Handloom Census.
It would be important and easier to link traceability through such use of technology. It should also be kept in mind that capacity building among producers — farmers, weavers, artisans — on the interface with technology is extremely important and should be prioritised. This would enable them to have easier market access and overcome asymmetries in information.
There also exist certain products which might not be highly profitable but play important social and environmental functions such as the protection of biodiversity and livelihoods. These products too need hand-holding and require different kinds of brand building. There is a need to highlight such characteristics among appropriate consumer segments thereby targeting those who are willing to pay additionally for such unique products.
For example, most of the registered GI rice varieties and certain agricultural products from the North-East are naturally organic which are also identified under ODOP. Thus, it is important to highlight the market potential of such qualities of these products not only for the export market but also the domestic market. Domestic market focus is equally important to protect producers from the volatility of export markets.
It is also important to comply with sanitary and phytosanitary conditions both for domestic and export markets such that there are no ambiguities regarding the quality and reputation of the product. Thus, ODOP offers a transformative opportunity to integrate, strengthen and streamline regional products which have great significance not only in the realm of the economy (in terms of employment, value generation and trade) but also in the socio-cultural realm.
The writers are Research Associate and Assistant Professor, respectively, at Council for Social Development (an ICSSR Institute), Hyderabad