Rural Distribution Network, famously known as RUDI, empowering women of Gujarat on various ways such as rural production, procurement and value chain that provides a rural supply chain network. It was started to elevate economic status of women farmers in sustainable manner. Agricultural products produced by women farmers, RUDI markets its product as a common brand in the rural markets. It assists in post-harvest management of crops, sales and generates employment opportunities for the rural women through processing and marketing interventions. The distribution network actively involves the marginal farmers and providing a connect to the end consumers. The capital rotates in the villages and therefore, it strengths the rural economy.
RUDI is an internal network of Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), which was started in 1972 in the western state, Gujarat. However, today it is helping women across the country through social network building, financial inclusion and agricultural empowerment with the prime objective of generating employment opportunities for them. As the largest rural women’s network in the country, SEWA is dedicated to assist rural women in producing, processing, marketing and selling agricultural products as well as removing middlemen in connecting to the end consumers.
It was gradually realised that there is a huge potential for rural retail marketing through networking of the small and marginal producers. But the challenge lies in the ways to rotate the production so that the farmers get better prices and the consumers get the better quality at competitive prices. Keeping this in mind, the rural distribution network was conceptualised. As the name suggests here the main idea is to distribute the producer’s product through a well-established network at the village level.
To cater to 14 districts of Gujarat, there have been five processing centres. From purchasing to marketing, each processing centre has a technical team that looks after entrepreneurs at all levels of supply chain. The main commodities which are processed at the centres are mainly, spices, pulses and primary cereals such as rice, wheat and millet. All kinds of packaging and leveling are done in the processing centres. The distribution network operates through dedicated hubs that work at the entire stages of processing. The village hubs cater to three villages, wherein, the production is sorted, cleaned and packaged. The village hubs have processing and storage centres as well.
The distribution centres are made at both village and district levels. The RUDI retail has its outlets all across Gujarat which sells the commodities to the end consumers. Each RUDI processing centre comprises of six technical groups for post crop production management such as procurement, processing and packaging, quality control, brand promotion, marketing and recordkeeping and accounting.
The village females purchase agri crops in tons and clean, sieve, grind, weigh, and package and label the commodities. They add value to the commodities and make new crops as marketable. Those women, who perform sales transactions with buyers, are called as ‘Rudiben’. For every processing centre, around hundred Rudiben market the commodities. The few women look after the financial accountings. In terms of supplying commodities, these women load and offload at the village hubs. To meet the needs and facilitating all work procedures, all basic technologies have been modernised.
In order to eliminate middlemen and provide direct technical, financial and marketing facilities to the rural poor producers, the Department of Rural Development of Gujarat and SEWA have founded SEWA Gram Mahila Haat (SGMH). In the post harvest phase, the district workers seek market prices from the SGMH Business Information Centres and then send the information to the village hubs. Because of the powerful network base of SEWA, it has been able to penetrate this particularly disadvantaged sector of the society.
SGMH mainly takes care of training and capacity building exercise. It organises technical trainings for Rudibens. The rural women, working in functional areas such as procurement, quality control, processing, inventory management and accounting, get specific training in their functional area. However, villagers placed at higher-level such as processing centre in-charge are trained in all aspects of the business.
The distribution network of RUDI rationalises the process in such a way that production to sales in effective and efficient manner. The model takes raw commodities, adds value through its networked processing and promotion. Then, the network connects it to the urban market through dedicated buyers. The main objectives of the organisation were defined as to quality products produced by the rural producers reach the rural markets under a common brand of RUDI, farmers can get good prices and the consumers can get the goods in competitive prices. The 6.5 lakhs SEWA members to be further integrated through the Rural Distribution Network.
The Rural Distribution Network of RUDI and its parent organisation SEWA are making ways for the farmers, providing them fair prices and marketing their products to the rural markets. Actually, the women of the Gujarat are getting empowered and they do not have to depend upon the middlemen who eat the big share which always leads the hardworking farmers to struggle for their survival. This model of rural distribution can be applied in the rest of the nation which can provide a fair price to the farmers, it can make job opportunities for the rural women and development can boost the rural economy. The famers of the nation, who are feeding the 1.2 billion people, can be integrated with similar kind of distribution network.