India File

Searching for an online market in Vadnagar

Rutam Vora | Updated on January 20, 2018 Published on March 28, 2016

Loner Ketanji Thakor, Vadnagar's sole computer entrepreneur VIJAY SONEJI

In Gujarat’s ancient city, lack of enough consumers has hit the project

Known for its Buddhist monasteries from the second century, the ancient city of Vadnagar is gearing up to become one of the most advanced places in the Gujarat. And the Vadnagar taluka, consisting of 43 gram panchayats or village administrative councils, is the first among the 249 talukas in the State where the National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) will be implemented.

However, the ground situation at Malekpur Vad village - 10 kms from Vadnagar town poses several challenges. Twenty-seven year old Ketanji Dasrathji Thakor, who performs the functions of a village-level computer entrepreneur (VCE) believes, that the NOFN programme at his village can hardly generate employment opportunities for youth like him, given the weak social and financial background of the villagers.

"The aspirations are not so high. People do not travel that often, they do not buy expensive fashionable goods. So, there is very limited possibility of revenue maximisation with the use of NOFN," says Thakor adding that he would soon look for an alternate full-time profession as his current work as a VCE isn't sufficient to make a living. At Malekpur Vad with a population of around 3,500, the services that are frequently used by the villagers do not go beyond electricity bill payments, copy of income proof, caste certificates, changes in ration cards and land records. The commission for each such service ranges between ₹5 to ₹10 per.

At such low rates, a VCE struggles to make a decent earning given the internet pack costs around ₹850 per month. Currently, Thakor gets around 100-150 inquiries per month for e-gram services.

To create a need

"The possibility of robust e-commerce services is very bleak in this village, and other villages in the vicinity. The challenge is to create the need of such services, and to create the market," says Kanubhai Patel, talati (village accountant) at Malekpur Vad Gram Panchayat.

Most villages, barring a few, have population with similar social, economic and educational background. Largely dependent on agriculture and animal rearing, Vadnagar taluka's 1.3 lakh population has very less movement to bigger towns like Mehsana, Himmatnagar or Ahmedabad. This restricts their exposure to modern markets.

"The success of this project depends on the people's participation. We can get private companies to offer various services ranging from various banking services to e-commerce. But making them aware about such services is a big challenge.

"We are doing it and some big villages have shown some interest but there is a long way to go," mentions GS Momin, taluka development officer, Vadnagar.

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Published on March 28, 2016
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