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The Market Access Conundrum

Growing in the village of Ziro in Arunachal Pradesh, is wild Kiwi — a high value food product with an increasing demand. The State Horticulture Department introduced a domestic variety of the fruit 20 years ago, and it quickly gained popularity in the region. Tage Rita Takhe, a Ziro local, established her very own boutique winery there in 2016, which continues to produce an organic Kiwi wine from locally sourced fruit. However, owing to the lack of connectivity with the rest of the country, this wine is available only in Arunachal Pradesh and Assam. It is also for this very reason that India continues to import 75 percent of its domestic demand for kiwis.

In the process of scoping for our study, we spoke with academics and sector experts who study rural enterprises and livelihoods. The common thread in our conversations with all them was the challenge of inaccessible markets and price-demand information asymmetry. For instance, while they are custodians of the unique handicrafts of their regions, artisans are often unaware of who their customer is or the market value of their product, relying largely on middlemen for this information. Logistical challenges such as lack of access to storage facilities and proper means of transport, are other problems related to market access in rural areas.

While market access is a challenge for all rural entrepreneurs, women entrepreneurs are further disadvantaged due to a host of cultural norms, domestic responsibilities, and compromised bargaining power in male-dominated local economies. The ‘time poverty’ faced by women further restricts their ability to obtain accurate market information by networking with others, or traveling outside their homes.

Can ICTs foster aggregation of such small and scattered rural entrepreneurs, and bring products from these decentralised units to the consumer market? Further, how can ICTs enable women entrepreneurs to access markets in the context of the unique barriers to market they face?

In the next phase of our study, we look for replicable and scalable solutions to this market access conundrumand other challenges faced by rural women entrepreneurs all over the country.

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