The ancient bullock cart as a marketing tool? Many may scoff at the idea, but the public sector Visakhpatnam Steel Plant (VSP) believes otherwise.
The VSP, a loss making company not long ago, has achieved a major turnaround in recent years.
To increase the sale of its products in rural areas, it has now decided to make 100 steel bullock carts and distribute them free to farmers.
"Each steel cart will cost around Rs 15,000. The carts will be user-friendly and more durable than the conventional wooden carts, currently in use," said Y Siva Sagar Rao, Chairman-cum-Managing Director of the VSP. The idea came from the Kolkata-based Institute for Steel Development and Growth.
While the consumption of steel in urban areas have picked up in recent years thanks due to the massive housing and infrastructure activities, in rural areas it has more or less remained stagnant.
The consumption in rural areas is abysmally low at 2 kg per capita as against 77 kg per capita in urban areas. The national steel policy envisages doubling of steel consumption capacity in rural areas by 2020.
The company has already built one prototype of the steel bullock cart, which it has been testing for months. However, since cart making is hardly the VSP's core business, it has decided to outsource the manufacturing.
Rao said that the scheme would be formally launched in two months. The first carts, weighing 235 kg each, will be supplied to farmers in Andhra Pradesh.
The feedback can be easily monitored and used in formulating the sales strategy. The steel major may carry the idea to other states, where it has sizeable sales, in the next stage.
The VSP is also building a steel village at Maddivanipalem, close to its plant, to showcase to rural folk the fact that buildings constructed on a steel framework are not necessarily costly and are often more durable. It will construct dwelling units, a school, a panchayat building and even a bridge, all of steel.
A VSP official told the Hindustan Times that the there is a misconception among rural people that steel is exorbitantly expensive. That is why they prefer alternative materials like wood for construction.
"We want to dispel the impression and create a conducive culture for steel use," he said.
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