Azadpur Mandi, one of the largest fruit and vegetable wholesale markets in Asia, is soon to go online to modernise its working and bring in greater transparency in trade transactions.
Birlasoft, the IT division of the $1.2 billion CK Birla Group, has completed the computerisation of the market whose operations are spread over an area of 90 acres in the capital's northern and southern regions.
The company was awarded the Rs15 million contract of computerising the market by the Agricultural Produce Market Committee, Azadpur, in June.
Out of the Rs 15 million, Rs 10 million was spent on creating the software - the Integrated Mandi Management System - and the remaining Rs 5 million on its maintenance for three years.
"The Delhi Agricultural Marketing Board will put in Rs.30-40 million during the first phase of automation, which would include investment in application software, hardware, networking and middleware," Birlasoft's general manager Pawan Mehra said.
On Jan 7, 2004, the Azadpur Mandi was declared a market of national importance and it is now a countrywide distribution centre where 4.5 million tonnes of fruit and vegetables are transacted every year.
According to an estimate by the Directorate of Agricultural Marketing, the value of business transacted annually is more than Rs 35 billion.
The main objectives for the computerisation of the market are reforming the administration of such a vast and widespread marketplace, reduction in manual labour and improving revenue generation.
"The computerisation of the Azadpur Mandi will be helpful as well as beneficial in many ways for the agriculturalists, traders and consumers across the country as Delhi is a major trading hub for all sorts of agricultural produce," said PK Chakraborty, senior marketing officer with the Directorate of Agricultural Marketing.
"With the help of an e-trading system, the process of auctioning of the produce will be streamlined as bidders will be able to bid from anywhere now. Not only that, it will also help in forward and backward linkages of the produce," he added.
"The use of IT ensures an efficient, speedy and transparent process for disseminating information to the common man and other stakeholders," said Birlasoft CEO Kamal Mansharamani.
"E-governance, if sincerely pursued, can facilitate emergence of out-of-box ideas and virtually revolutionise the government's administration," he added.
This will also check corrupt retail practices like the creation of artificial scarcity of a commodity to hike its price.
"With an increase in transactions, operational needs at the mandis (marketplaces) are becoming more and more complex. Higher efficiency, greater convenience and better returns are therefore required, for which e-governance is a necessary tool," added Mehra.
"The traders as well as the consumers will now be aware of how much stock is coming and at what price, thereby checking the malpractices of artificial scarcity and selling commodities at steep prices by retailers as everything will now go online," stressed Chakraborty.
The market is going to be fully computerised by early 2007 and the firm is executing a similar project for 82 other markets under the Uttar Pradesh Agriculture Marketing Board.
The project for development and implementation of the web-based Integrated Mandi Management System is based on Java and IBM products.
Listing this project as an exemplary initiative in e-governance, Chakraborty said: "This will be an example in itself when the mandi goes fully online, benefiting millions.
"India is an agricultural country but today the world knows India by its IT skills, which should also be used for the enhancement of agriculture."