Not many know that malls exist in villages too and they are growing faster in numbers than the urban ones. These rural malls are posh, sleek and are driven by state-of-the-art technology akin to urban malls. But in some respect they are far more utilitarian than the urban ones.
A villager can buy branded t-shirts, pairs of jeans, washing power or mobile phone or a DVD player; refill diesel in his tractor and take more for his pump sets, carry an LPG cylinder home, buy seeds and fertilizers and even interact with agronomists to improve agriculture.
Uttar Pradesh (UP) alone has 150 of them of different players—mainly DCM Sriram’s Hariyali, ITC Ltd’s ‘Chaupal Sagar’, Triveni group’s Triveni Khushali Bazaar and Rohtas group’s Khushali Krishi Kendra.
So if one ever passes buy one of these malls, that generally are near highways, then one may not miss the scene of families reaching the mall on a tractor of a bullock cart, then carting a shopping trolley laden with soaps, shampoos, groceries, garments, seeds, insecticides, fertilizers to the tractor or bullock cart to return home with goods. They also take ‘solutions’ away for their agriculture problems.
“Our malls are changing rural India—both the way villagers live as well as do agriculture,” said Rajesh Gupta, president of Hariyali Kisaan Bazar--hailed as the largest national rural chain with 302 outlets in eight states (UP, Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Uttarakhand and Andhra Pradesh).
These malls go beyond premises—the agronomists at the malls even go to fields of individual farmers and offer solutions and make suggestions related to agriculture—free of cost.
While ITC too is a big player in the market like DCM Sriram Consolidates Ltd, the other two are smaller. But all are now into agronomy consultancy too.
ITC is currently in only three states—UP, MP and Maharashtra. It has seven malls in UP. One of the officers at a Choupal Saagar said that now with malls agronomist’s knowledge inputs, the farmers are able to extract 30 to 32 quintal of rice from an acre of paddy field while the output earlier was between 20-25 quintal.
But Hariyali claims to be the pioneer as well as the biggest player in the business. “We are also unique in the sense that we also provide agronomy solutions to the farmers—to help to select crops for cultivation and the varieties, offer solutions to fight crop diseases, and how to make more money by increasing efficiency of agricultural practices and productivity through our agronomy advisory services,” said Gupta. Hariyali is flagship DSCL (DCM Sriram consolidates ltd, Delhi. These malls even buy back farm produce.
So when last year Amar Singh, 29, a small farmer from village Dakarganj, Faridpur, Bareilly (243 km north west of Lucknow) entered the mall in Bareilly he never knew that his would begin making an extra income of Rs 6,500 a year. “I have a small farm of three acre. The ‘doctors’ (this is what he calls agronomists) were there. I just started speaking to them and they reached my field. They suggested me to grow watermelons as an intercrop (a crop that is grown within the vacant rows of spaces between a main crop) among the rows of my sugarcane crop. I adopted the practice and it increased my income,” said Amar Singh.
The first Hariyali Kissan Bazaar that offers total customer offerings (TCO) including agri products, FMCG (fast moving consumer goods), consumer durables (like fridge, tv or DVD players), lifestyle and apparel etc came up in UP’s Shahjahanpur district 168 km north west of Lucknow.
So with a branded bottle of an anti-dandruff shampoo or a DVD player, farmers bring home solutions to farming and farm business problems they face.