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Training, Production, and Channel Separation in ITC's E-Choupal Network



In recent years, I.T.C. Limited (hereafter ITC) developed the “e-Choupals” for the rural areas of India. In this new business model, ITC reaches implicit agreements with some farmers (inside the network) that they can sell the products directly to ITC at the market price in the local market, but allow the farmers, both inside and outside the network, to access valuable information through the e-Choupals. In this study, we investigate ITC's incentive of offering such opportunities, especially to those farmers outside the network, and analyze the farmers’ strategic quantity decisions. We show that the implicit agreement behaves as a formal contract, regardless of the price elasticity of the local market: Once reaching an agreement with ITC, the farmers always give priority to delivering directly to ITC. The e-Choupal network leads naturally to the complete separation of selling channels, provided that ITC's capacity constraint is not tight. Surprisingly, in a variety of scenarios, ITC finds it optimal to provide the best available training to the farmers outside the network. We further show that our results are not prone to potential cheating in the mandi system, the possible exploitation via postponed payments, and the stochastic effects on the market-clearing price.