An ICT developer is likely to face the following problems in making solutions for rural markets: 1. Infrastructure 2. APMC Monopoly 3. Apps and Websites 4. Urban Bias 5. Understanding the Customer 6. Lack of Manpower 7. Marketing + Technology Skills.

While ICTs have the potential to change much in rural areas, companies will have to over­come their traditional approaches and think of completely new ways of doing business. That’s because the usual approach will work only in limited ways in rural areas.

The availability of basic public goods through IT interventions enhances market development in remote areas. Several rural marketing IT initiatives have in fact, contributed to rural develop­ment in many areas of India. Since government policy has more or less failed in rural areas, the idea that ‘making markets work for the poor’ has led to the private sector building institutions to support markets and consequently, development. Improving market access for farmers, manag­ing market related risks and reducing them, develops markets for consumer goods also.

1. Infrastructure:

Issues such as unavailability of electricity, lack of equipment, high level of illiteracy, lack of broad­band services, user acceptance and local content have to be addressed before the full potential of ICTs role in rural development can be tapped. Further, ICT can only help in providing connectiv­ity; unless backed by investments in roads, transport, storage and grading facilities, farmers have little option but to sell their produce at whatever rates they can get at the local mandis.

Even when information about market rates is available, agents may exploit the situation by delaying their offers since they know that farmers have no facilities to store their goods. Hence, investment in ICT infrastructure is not enough and must be matched by investments in all other facilities.

2. APMC Monopoly:

The laws restrict movement of goods and impose mandi fees. This is a major hindrance in online trading of raw agricultural produce. Unless laws are changed, ICT interventions will only provide information and be of limited use to the farmer, who wants help in selling his goods.

3. Apps and Websites:

Many websites and apps meant for rural areas merely provide information. This has limited use and that prevents them from becoming popular. For instance, providing market informa­tion to farmers is fine, but if he is indebted and has to sell to the local agent, information on an app or website would be pretty much useless. For example, of EID Parry was set up as an agriculture portal but is now defunct; many others get little traction.

4. Urban Bias:

A major problem in application of IT in rural areas is that the apps and the content are writ­ten or designed by people who have no idea about rural life. They are urban-trained, urban- exposed engineers who have not lived in rural areas. Villages for them are usually idyllic holiday places if not dirty, mosquito-infested and lacking basic facilities. That is the reason that many ICT systems and apps have an urban bias.

An app for finding a restaurant or meal delivery, for instance, may work in a city but is useless to rural folk. Some companies have tried to get over their urban bias by translating content in local languages but if the content does not relate to rural life in some way, it will not get the patronage in villages.

5. Understanding the Customer:

While engineers come up with clever apps, their lack of marketing orientation stands in the way of getting a large base of customers. All ICT intervention has to be developed in close col­laboration with the local people, but many technology companies lack these skills.

Further, to be acceptable, any ICT intervention has to solve at least one rural problem, but this requires a deep understanding of the areas and the people. It calls for different approaches in market research. Thus companies have to commit their highly trained manpower in rural areas for longer times to understand the customers there.

6. Lack of Manpower:

Rural areas lack trained managers, doctors and engineers, nor are they willing to spend long periods of time in villages. This creates a severe shortcoming for companies. Some companies get over this by working with local people and provide training to them which enables them to provide products or service. But for a long term intervention, companies have to deploy trained people.

7. Marketing + Technology Skills:

Companies usually have people who know everything about technology but nothing about rural customers or people who work in rural areas but are not tech-inclined. For rural market­ing, companies have to develop a cadre of marketing + technology people who can recognize rural problems and find ways of solving them through technology.