New Delhi, May 2: Riding high on the telecom success story, leading integrated telecommunications services provider Bharti Airtel Ltd. and fertiliser cooperative major Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Ltd (IFFCO) launched a joint venture company IFFCO Kisan Sanchar Ltd. (IKSL) to empower farmers in rural India and to strengthen the cooperative network in the country.
''The joint venture will provide the farmers free daily voice updates on mandi prices, farming techniques, weather forecast and fertiliser availability,'' Airtel Chairman and Managing Director Sunil Bharti Mittal told reporters here today.
Mr Mittal further said that ''the telecom has truly transformed India and we believe that the benefits must reach the rural population. We are delighted to partner IFFCO and are confident that our innovative telecom products and services, especially created for the farming community, will enhance their productivity play a bigger role in India's growth story.'' On the equity holding, Mr Mittal made it clear that of the three partners in this venture IFFCO will be the major stake holders while equity ratios of others two including Bharti Airtel and StarGlobal will be decided soon.
Speaking on the occasion, Dr U S Awasthi, Managing Director, IFFCO said, Synergizing on IFFCO's presence in about 98 per cent of villages throughout the country, Airtel would use IKSL as a vehicle to make its mobile telecom services reach the rural masses. This new initiative is launched with the objective of using Information Communication Technology to empower farmers in rural India and to strength the cooperative network in the country.'' IKSL will identify the needs of telecom and communication products and services which would add value to the life of farmers and retail them directly through the cast reach of cooperative societies, Dr Awasthi added.
The new joint venture, IKSL, will offer products and services, specifically designed for farmers, through IFFCO societies in villages across the country.
Bharti Airtel will offer competitive calling rates at 50 paise perinute for calls between IFFCO members, which will help promote community building within the society and rural community at large. Bharti Airtel will also set up towers at sites provides by IFFCO societies to provide quality services to farmers.
IKSL will roll out the services in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh in the first phase.
The second phase, expected to begin by May 2008, will see the partnership being extended to Gujarat, Maharastra, Goa, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala.
Bharti Airtel, a group company of Bharti Enterprises, is India's leading integrated telecom services provider with an aggregate of 64.26 million customers as on end of March 2008, consisting of 61.98 million mobile customers.
IFFCO markets its products through 39,456 member cooperative services, Marketing Federations and 158 Farmers Service Centers (FSC) spread across country.