Diversified conglomerate ITC has launched its super app Meta Market for Advanced Agricultural Services (ITCMAARS) to provide agricultural and related services to farmers on a digital platform.
The app has been launched in seven states with more than 40,000 farmers grouped into more than 200 Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs) under four value chains – wheat, paddy, soybeans and chili. But the ultimate aspiration is to bring it to 4,000 OPAs and 10 million farmers and 20 value chains.
The platform, a “phygital” ecosystem, provides farmers with personalized and hyper-local, value-added AI/ML-based crop advisories, such as the personalized “Crop Calendar” for scientific planning of crop cycles, “ Crop Doctor” for real-time crop infestation resolution. , access to inputs, links to markets, real-time soil analyses, precision agriculture, among others.
Under an aggregator model, ITC makes available related services such as pre-approved loans through partners. Over time, it will also provide insurance, among other digital rural services.
“There are around 140 million farmers in India with fragmented land holdings and we need to bring them together to be able to have impact at scale. Government intervention or policies to promote FPOs are really far-sighted and that is what we leverage,” ITC President and CEO Sanjiv Puri told a press conference.
It’s a win-win solution for farmers and ITC, which buys 4 million tonnes of grain every year and will adapt it over time. “We intend to be a willing buyer,” Puri said.
He however added, “For me, ITCMAARS will be successful when it significantly contributes to multiplying farmers’ incomes and making India’s agricultural value chains competitive,” Puri said.
ITC stock hit a new 52-week high at Rs 302.20 on BSE on Thursday and eventually closed at Rs 299.50.
Puri said demand was robust at a broader industry level in agriculture, hotels, cartons and packaging.
But for the non-cigarette FMCG business, there were inflation concerns. He said, however, that although input costs have increased, outputs have been better. “Net-net, the meaning is that there will be positive. It should work well and we should see the impact in the later part of the year,” he said.
Puri said commodity prices at the time had cooled, but it would be difficult to predict as several factors were at play.
“Alternative structure” for hotels
The ITC has been exploring an “alternative structure” for hotels for some time, but it was held back due to the Covid pandemic and its impact on the hospitality industry.
“We reiterated in the annual report and during the meeting with the investors that we will move it forward in line with the recovery momentum of the industry and there is now every indication that the industry is on a positive trajectory. done on the table,” Puri said.
On the alternative form of structure, he said some options were on the table and the board would discuss them once they decide to move forward in consultation with experts.
As part of its cost-cutting plan, ITC is exiting its lifestyle retail business. “We sold the John Players brand. Regarding Wills, we are liquidating some old inventory that is in a few stores. There are no other plans beyond that,” Puri said.
ITC entered lifestyle retail with the Wills Sport range in 2000. In 2019 it sold the John Players brand to Reliance Retail and also rebranded Wills Lifestyle as WLS.