At a time when corporates are rediscovering the might of rural India, ITC has chipped in by organising a rural business plan contest that drives home its message. The tobacco-to-hotels major has organised, for the first time, such a contest featuring all the major B-schools in the country besides global B-schools ranging from Wharton to Harvard to London Business School.
Called ‘Mera Gaon Mera Desh, ITC claims that this is the first time the company is sponsoring a business plan contest on such a big scale. The company says it has entertained about 1,200 registrations as the event currently gains steam among B-school campuses. An ITC spokesperson said, “The business plan has generated a lot of excitement among students.”
The contest has been organised in three parts. The first entails students submitting business plans online via ITC’s own portal. After an initial shortlisting, the top 10 teams from each B-school or hub (in case of cities like Mumbai) have been asked to present their business plans at the campus or hub. The top 15 teams will travel to Kolkata for the finals slated for January 15, 2005.
As per the scheme of things, MBA students will have to weave their ideas into logical and feasible business models for rural India that have the potential of becoming a winner. ITC has handpicked an expert panel which will evaluate the business plans. It includes Dr Isher Judge Ahluwalia, Dr Vijay Kelkar, Mr Ranjit Pandit, Prof Krishna Palepu, Mr Jairam Ramesh and Dr MS Swaminathan.
In the campus, the prize is Rs 1 lakh and Rs 50,000 for the first two teams. For the finals, team prizes will be Rs 6 lakh, Rs 4.5 lakh and Rs 3 lakh, respectively.
Participating B-schools include all the six IIMs, XLRI, IRMA, ISB, IIFT, JBIMS, and SP Jain. On the other hand, international B-schools include Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Michigan, London Business School and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.
XLRI Jamshedpur’s Prof Madhukar Shukla says that the event has enthused a lot of students at the XLRI campus. “There were 22 entries from our students from which ITC has shorlisted two. The winning plans were on Malabar Paper and floral business,” he adds.
Says Somnath Biswas, a student of ISB, Hyderabad, “We are excited about this business plan contest. As management students, we are being taught the nitty gritties of doing business in rural India and this is an ideal platform to showcase our thoughts.”
Mr Biswas, like several others at ISB, has developed a sustainable rural business model on microfinance as he readies for a final presentation to the ITC jury. “Plans are not all necessarily ITC’s e-choupal-specific. There are several others on e-governance and cotton farming as well,” he says.
So far the business plans have covered a wide range of themes like flower exports, paper business, microfinance, selling insurance policies in the hinterland and retailing of pharmaceutical products, among others.
Says a student from IIM-Lucknow, “The most interesting aspect of participating in such a contest is the prospect of reaping social benefits along with doing business. It has been proved now that rural India holds a lot of promise for corporates and this contest is timely.”