Sugarcane Information System(SIS)
Office of Sugarcane Commissioner

The Problem

India is a leading producer of sugar in the world. Uttar Pradesh is the foremost state in production of sugar and sugarcane in the country. The sugarcane is produced by 3.00 million sugarcane farmer in 44 districts of the state and there are 125 operational sugar mills in the state. Through 168 Cooperative Societies the sugar mills purchase sugarcane worth Rs. 130309 million annually (Rs. 50 Indian rupee = $ 1 US dollar)
The interactions between the farmers and the sugar mills are numerous and spread out over the year and have a direct bearing on the income of both. The activities involve survey of field 2 times, Calendar of supply once, start of sugar mills & centre 2 times, issue of supply tickets, weighing and payment and development of sugarcane each 12 times a year which all add upto 53 interactions in all.
The problems faced by sugar mills and sugarcane farmers are discussed as below:
(a) Problems faced by farmers
(i) Lack of transparency in the farmer sugar mill interactions : The parameters related to farmer include, area under sugarcane, number of supply tickets, weight of sugarcane supplied, payment made etc, is not available to them. Absence of data sharing/transparency leads to resentment, corruption and presence of middlemen.
(ii) Wasteful expenditure on travel : For each information or clarification, the farmer had to travel 25-50 km to the sugar mill at least 12 times a year. Each visit costing around Rs. 200/- per trip would consume the entire day. The cost of these avoidable trips for the 3.0 million sugarcane growers works out to Rs. 7200 millions.
(iii) Lower incomes due to smaller supply to sugar mills : The farmers gets Rs. 30/- per quintal more for sugarcane supplied to a sugar mill compared to the manufacturers of jaggery. The lack of authentic information about supply time lines etc. force the farmers towards the jaggery units. If 10% more sugarcane is supplied to sugar mills, it leads to an additional income of Rs. 13030 million to the farmers.
(iv) Lower incomes because of smaller area under sugarcane : The cultivation of sugarcane gives an additional income of Rs. 6000/- per hectare to the farmers viz a viz alternative crops like wheat and rice. If 10% area is increased under sugarcane it will result in an increase in income of Rs. 1260 million to the farmers.
(v) Reduced weight due to staleness in sugarcane : After harvest sugarcane starts losing both it sugar content as well as it’s weight. In the absence of reliable instantaneous communication with sugar mills, each a delay of 24 hrs. in supply time will lead a 4% reduction in weight of sugar cane and financial loss is Rs. 6170 millions.

To summarize, apart from the physical and mental hardship, the farmers were suffering an avoidable financial loss of Rs. 27660 million.
(b) Problems faced by sugar mills
(i) Loss of income due to arrival of stale sugarcane : The fresh sugarcane has a high sugar content which quickly reduces with time. A reduction of 12 hours in supply time would increase sugar recovery by 0.10% leading to an additional income of Rs.1932.0 millions for the sugar mills.
(ii) Lower utilization of installed capacity : The 125 sugar mills have an installed capacity to crush sugarcane for 180 days in a year whereas availability is sufficient for only 120 days. The farmer diverts his sugarcane to jaggery producers. Thus the sugar mills and farmers were both losing money.

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
The CEO's and IT heads of all the 125 sugar mills, chairmen of 168 grower societies and sugarcane department officials were called upon to contribute their ideas. There was a consensus that the Sugarcane Information System (SIS) must use all the four options i.e. Website, SMS & Query SMS and IVRS system simultaneously and Hand Held Computers (HHC) for remote Purchase Centers.
The SIS has the following subsystems:
(1) Websites : The website is the most comprehensive method of communicating with users and the data on website would be the platform for SMS, IVRS and HHC systems. To ensure that all the 125 sugar mills had website with identical features, the sugarcane department launched the model website for sugar mills. It was hosted on the project website for the guidance of sugar mills who incorporated all the features. Each of the 3.0 million sugarcane growers have a personalized password protected webpage containing latest upto the minute information regarding their interactions.
(2) SMS system : All the 3.0 million sugarcane farmers have been contacted individually and their mobile number was collected. The SIS sent around 100 million SMS to all the farmers which cover each interaction with the sugar mills. This system has also been implemented by all the 125 sugar mills.
(3) IVRS : The IVRS system is most suitable for illiterate people since it reads out the instructions as well as the desired information. The farmer can get the personalized information regarding cane survey, issuance of supply tickets, calendar, weight of sugarcane supplied and cane price payment. In all, 125 sugar mills are running this system successfully.
(4) Hand Held Computer (HHC) : This is a rugged and a cost effective device equipped with a printer and GPRS capability. The farmers used to get hand written receipts against cane supplied at the purchase centers. The weighing clerk often made mistakes, lost the sugar mill copy of the receipt or tampered with it. Then the farmer was the victim and the sugar mill lost goodwill of the farmers. With the use of HHC the purchase centers of sugar mills have been connected with main computer system of sugar mill via GPRS connections and the sugarcane farmers get printed weight slips.
The impact was measured by the officials of the sugarcane department, the sugar mills and the grower cooperatives. The review done by the cooperatives were in form of social audit and it was qualitative in nature. The department and the sugar mills conducted detailed surveys which measured the impact on each of the identified problems. The data collected was from a wide sample from each of the 125 sugar mills. The quantitative analysis of data revealed the impact of each subsystem of SIS on the income of farmers and the sugar mills.
The remarkable feature of SIS is that it benefits all the stake holders. The sugar mills and the farmers make considerable financial savings. The sugarcane departments benefits in its ability to bring transparency to the interaction of farmers and sugar mills.
Further details in all aspects of SIS can be seen in the Sugarcane Information System (A user guide) available at the The English version of SIS website is at

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
The SIS is the result of a unique collaboration between the government, the 125 sugar mills and 168 sugarcane societies. The statutory powers to regulate the farmers and the sugar mills interaction vests in the Sugarcane Commissioner. The sugarcane commissioner is assisted by a team of officials that extend right from the 44 district upto each of the 125 sugar mills.
The stake holders were the sugarcane growers represented by the 168 cooperative grower societies, the management of 125 sugar mills and the officials of sugar cane department.
The problem and its solution was recognized by the office of sugarcane commissioner. The key officials who formulated the solutions were Shri Kamran Rizvi-Sugarcane Commissioner, Shri Amitabh Prakash-Additional Sugarcane Commissioner, Shri Rajesh Pandey-Joint Sugarcane Commissioner, Shri Anil Kumar Sharma-Chief Engineer and Dr. Kripal Singh-Deputy Sugarcane Commissioner.
The problem and its solution was discussed with all the stake holders. The farmer representatives gave inputs regarding the use of technology most appropriate to the rural countryside. The responsibility of implementing the solution rested with the sugar mills. The system had to be robust, easy to operate and yet be cost effective. Each sugar mill had to be an independent delivery centre. Thus each sugar mill had to be totally convinced about the utility of the SIS if the project was to be successful on a sustained basis.
The CEO’s and IT heads of each of the 125 sugar mills were individually consulted and convinced about the SIS. Once this was done, the department worked hand in hand with the sugar mills. All the data relating to the 3.0 million growers was entered into the computers of the sugar mills. The data was cross checked with the growers for accuracy.
Thereafter all the four system viz- websites, SMS, IVRS and HHC were activated. The Service Level Agreement (SLA) incorporating all features that ensure uniformity and quality were signed by all 125 sugar mills.
The grower societies played a key role in taking the SIS to the farmers. They organized numerous training sessions and also distributed leaflets amongst the farmers. This awareness was crucial because it educated the farmers about the utility of SIS. Later the grower societies collected feedback from the farmers which led to a clear assessment of shortcomings and to the eventual improvement by SIS upto the level of expectation of farmers.
The constant interaction between sugar mills and farmers about SIS is modulated by the office of sugarcane commissioner. Regular meetings are organized where the sugar mills and farmers sit across the table to thrash out the issues. The sugarcane commissioner plays the role of system designer and also that of the independent regulator. The system is so designed such that regular audit is carried out by the officials of the sugarcane department, the sugar mills as well as the growers cooperatives. In the ultimate analysis, the sugarcane commissioner is responsible for the functioning of SIS.

(a) Strategies

 Describe how and when the initiative was implemented by answering these questions
 a.      What were the strategies used to implement the initiative? In no more than 500 words, provide a summary of the main objectives and strategies of the initiative, how they were established and by whom.
The main objective was to provide complete transparency to all the interactions between the sugarcane farmers and the sugar mills. This sharing of information was to lead to considerable financial gains to both the sugarcane growers and sugar mills. The growers would gain from higher supply to sugar mills, greater area under sugarcane, higher weight of supply and freedom from wasteful travel to sugar mills. On the other hand the sugar mills would benefit from better relationship with growers, higher sugar recovery from fresh sugarcane, better capacity utilization and savings in data entry.
The strategy adopted was to be such that the objectives were clearly understood, commitment was unwavering and implementation was perfect. The human side of the project was as important as the technological aspect. Accordingly stake holder consultation, training, regular review, audit, setting of standards of performance and social audit were the pillars of implementation :
(i) Stake holder consultation : The three stake holder viz the cane grower through the cooperatives, the sugar mills and the officials were consulted right from the beginning. There was unanimity on the problem identification and their solutions. It was ensured that all the stake holders benefit from the SIS.
(ii) Decentralization : Each sugar mill was designated as an independent delivery centre. Thus the huge task was divided into smaller integral parts making it into a problem confined to a small geographical area. All the stake holders could easily contribute to the solution.
(iii) Training of farmers : The farmers were trained on the use of SIS by the grower cooperatives. According to their literacy levels, the farmers could use the website, the SMS system or the IVRS. Leaflets and posters were also distributed.
(iv) Setting of standards : To ensure that quality of information is uniformly high, standards of performance were set for website, SMS system, IVRS and HHC.
(v) Training of IT personnel : To communicate the desired performance levels, the IT personnel of sugar mills were given training at the office of sugarcane commissioner.
(vi) Launch of model website for sugar mill : The sugarcane commissioner’s office launched a model website for the guidance of sugar mills. This contained the standards of performance of each sub-system which each factory could access. This mode of communication led to better performance.
(vii) Performance review : The performance review of each sugar mill was carried out by the office of sugarcane commissioner. The farmers and sugar mills were called for monthly review. Each problem was identified and it was hosted on the website. In the following month, the review included the solution of previously identified problem. The regular monitoring ensured that all the components of SIS were complying with the standards.
(viii) Service Level Agreements (SLA) : Many of the activities were outsourced by the sugar mills. The venders were to sign a SLA with the sugar mills to ensure adherence to standards. Below par performance attracted penalty provisions of the SLA.

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
Identification of problem : The meeting with CEOs of sugar mills, chairmen of cooperative growers societies and officials were first convened in May, 2010. The problem faced by the 3.0 million sugarcane growers as well as the 125 sugar mills were discussed in detail. There was a consensus that the problems faced by the farmers were the lack of transparency, wasteful expenditure on travel, lower incomes due to lower supply of sugarcane, smaller area under sugarcane, loss of weight because of stale cane and hand written receipt at out centres which were susceptible to misuse. Similarly the problem faced by the sugar mills were the loss of sugar recovery due to arrival of stale sugarcane and lower utilization of installed capacity.
Identification of solution : The meeting with all the stake holders was called in August-September, 2010. Independent IT experts were also called upon to contribute with their expertise. An effective, instantaneous and reliable communication system that could share complete information between the 3.0 million growers and 125 sugar mills was the solution. It was jointly decided that a three tier system involving the use of website, SMS & Query SMS system, and the IVRS should be adopted. This would ensure that all the farmers with varying literacy levels could equally benefit from the system. Further each of the 125 sugar mills were to be independent delivery centres.
Collection of mobile telephone numbers : Each of the 3.0 million farmers were contacted individually to collect the mobile telephone numbers. This was completed in September-October, 2010.
Design of model website : Model website for a sugar mill was launched by the sugarcane commissioner in September, 2010. It contained the basic templates for database to ensure uniformity across the whole state.
Launch of website by sugar mills : The IT personnel of each sugar factory were trained by the sugarcane commissioner's office. Thereafter each sugar mill in November, 2010 created the database of its growers and displayed it on their website. Due to standardization, each of the 125 sugar mills website were identical and the 3.0 million sugar growers had their individual webpage which provided comprehensive information.
Launch of IVRS : Uniform protocol for IVRS was designed by the office of sugarcane commissioner. Each of 125 sugar mills provided the grower information via IVRS through toll free lines. This was done in November 2010.

Launch of SMS and Query SMS System : Each interaction of the farmers with the sugar mill was to be followed up by a confirmatory SMS. Growers started getting the SMS from November 2010. Till date 100 million SMS have been sent.
Hand Held Computers : This was used to provide printed receipt to the grower instead of a hand written one. Each of the 7000 purchase centers got the HHC between November 2010 to October 2011
Training of Growers : The sugar mills as well as the cooperative growers societies trained the farmers from November 2010 till March 2011. Leaflets were distributed widely to educate the farmers in the use of SIS.
Service level Agreements (SLA) : To ensure that each of the 125 sugar mills provide uniform, reliable and high quality services the use of SLA's was made mandatory. The model SLA was adopted by the sugar mills in November, 2010.
Since the launch of SIS in November 2010, monthly review meetings were held to monitor the progress. Many changes have been incorporated which have made the SIS more friendly towards the rural farmers. The use of Hindi language in SIS has been an important change.

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
The main obstacles and how they were overcome are described below :
Size and geographical spread : The SIS is the largest rural IT network in India. It connects the 3.0 million sugarcane growers with the 125 sugar mills which are spread out in 44 districts. The problem was solved by making each of the 125 sugar mills into an independent delivery centre. The services to be provided by each sugar mill were specified in detail. The progress was monitored by special audit software which processed information directly from the sugar mill data base servers. The decentralization of delivery platform solved the problem by dividing it into manageable smaller problems.
Resistance of sugarmill : The cost of the SIS was to be borne by the sugar mills and they were initially reluctant. However right from the initial stake holders meetings, the problem faced by the sugar mills were identified and solved by the SIS. Each sugar mill gains about Rs. 70 million annually by the use of SIS. This has led to the sugar mills adopting the system in right earnest.
Low IT literacy level of the farmer : The state has a literacy rate of 60% and the rural areas have even lower levels of literacy. The SIS took this into account by using 3 subsystems - websites, SMS and IVRS simultaneously. The farmer at the lower end of the literacy spectrum uses the IVRS which reads out all the desired details. The SMS system is used by farmers of average literacy to read the message or ask a literate person to do so. The farmers who are computer literate use the website to get the information. The use of SIS had led to a popularization of cyber cafes in rural areas where farmers at a nominal payment can get his complete printed information. The training session of the growers at the 168 grower societies had a further big impact in popularization of SIS.
Collection of 3.00 million mobile phone numbers : The task of collecting the mobile telephone numbers was an uphill one as no one had earlier collected 3.00 million numbers. Each village was mapped out and specific village wise teams were designated to collect the numbers. Over a period of 3 months after continuous monitoring, the task was completed with SIS having 3.00 million telephone numbers.
Lack of connectivity : Some parts of the state did not have adequate mobile towers which led to poor connectivity. The farmers were willing to purchase mobile phones but there was no network. Further the sugar mills needed high speed internet lines to host the websites. The mobile service providers were contacted and are assured good business. They readily set up the infrastructure at these locations which led to the success of SIS.

(d) Use of Resources

 d.      What resources were used for the initiative and what were its key benefits? In no more than 500 words, specify what were the financial, technical and human resources’ costs associated with this initiative. Describe how resources were mobilized
The project used tried and tested technologies to implement the information sharing solution. Each sugar mill was an independent delivery centre and they had their independent websites, SMS software and IVRS softwares. The HHC were to be installed at the 7000 purchase centres in the state and each factory installed them accordingly. The SIS uses 125 websites, SMS software and IVRS each along with 7000 HHC's.
No additional manpower was needed as the sugar mills already had an IT department which was looking after the operational and financial aspects. The IT personnel were trained on the SIS and they easily implemented it. Infact, the use of HHC has reduced the manpower needed for data entry. In all, each factory has an IT head, one Asstt. IT head and 3 programmers.
The financial cost of the solution in terms of technical costs were quite low as existing solutions were adopted. The package consisting of websites, software for SMS system, IVRS and HHC cost Rs. 0.7 million for sugar mills. For all the sugar mills the total cost is Rs. 87.5 million.
The cost of manpower is not added as the SIS uses existing IT professionals. The sugar mills purchase sugarcane worth Rs. 130309 million annually. Compared to this the cost of SIS is a mere 0.067 %, which is almost negligible.
Key benefits : The SIS has been beneficial both to the farmers as well as the sugar mills. The key benefits to the farmers are :
(i) Transparency : There is complete sharing of information between the farmers and the sugar mill and the middlemen have been eliminated.
(ii) Saving in unnecessary travel : The number of trips a farmer makes to a sugar mill to market his produce has been reduced by 12 trips. This has resulted in a saving of Rs.7200 million.
(iii) Increased supply of sugarcane to the mills : The information by SIS has increased the supply to sugar mills resulting in an additional income of Rs.460 million to the farmers.
(iv) Increase in area under sugarcane to the mills : The SIS has facilitated the farmers to increase the area under sugarcane leading to an increase in income of Rs.350 million.
(v) Higher weight of sugarcane supply : Timely information of supply tickets via SMS has reduced the harvest to supply time by 12 hours. The farmers gained Rs.1550 million due to higher weight of sugarcane supplied.

Benefit to the sugar mills :
(i) Supply of fresh sugarcane : The harvest to supply time was reduced by 12 hours which resulted in sugar recovery by 0.10%. The additional sugar so made was worth Rs.970 million.
(ii) Increase in sugarcane supply : The SIS helped the sugar mills to procure more sugarcane which led to an additional income of Rs.5250 million.
(iii) Reduction in data entry : The use of HHC equipped with GPRS at purchase centres insured that the factory had real time data of sugarcane purchased. This reduced the data entry cost by Rs.210 million.

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
The factors which ensure the sustainability and transferability of the project are described below :
Financial Sustainability : The Sugarcane Information System (SIS) is a runaway success as it solves the problems of all the stake holders in a significant manner. The saving from SIS to the farmers and sugar mill alike are such that the cost of SIS is almost negligible. The benefit to the sugarcane growers are transparency, savings in wasteful travel, increased supply of sugarcane, greater weight of supply and increase in area under sugarcane. These benefits result in a saving of Rs. 8465.0 million to the farmers.
Similarly the impact on the 125 sugar mills are on account of higher sugar recovery from fresh sugarcane, better capacity utilization and elimination of data entry which all total up to a savings of Rs. 7000.00 million. These considerable savings to both the farmers and sugar mills ensure sustainability of SIS.
Socio – economic sustainability : The system has complete transparency and information sharing leading to the elimination of middlemen. Further, the farmers are gaining in terms of financial savings. This helps ensure that growers maintain a pressure on the sugar mills to provide reliable services under SIS.
Institutional & Regulatory Sustainability : The SIS helps the department to provide its services in way that benefits all sections equally. Thus the institution of sugarcane commissioner ensures that SIS is run in a sustainable and efficient way.
Environmental sustainability : Prior to SIS, each transaction was recorded on paper and sent to the growers. The use of SIS is a way forward in the concept of paperless transactions. The use of SMS, IVRS and website is a paperless sharing of information which leads to saving of paper.
Replication and transferable : The project can be replicated in all the states of the country where sugarcane is cultivated. However, the SIS can be used by all the organizations and Govt. departments that interact with large number of people spread over a wide geographical area. In fact, the SIS through the complete transparency and ease of use is a role model for all the departments that work primarily in the rural areas. The areas where SIS can have a relevance are (1) Social welfare Department - inform beneficiaries through SMS about release of scholarship & social security pension; (2) Primary Education Department - verify attendance of teachers through IVRS calls and SMS to the parents; (3) Land records- inform the owners through SMS about any change in ownership and; (4) Rural Development - SMS and IVRS call to citizen informing about release of funds for local village body.

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
The SIS has had a revolutionary impact on the lives of sugarcane farmers and sugar mills alike. The key impact areas are as follows :
Transparency : The transparency brought about by complete information sharing through SIS has been responsible for much greater partnership and goodwill between the growers and the sugar mills. The middlemen have been eliminated and now the farmers always get the fair price for their produce.
Financial impact on farmers : The financial gains from implementation of SIS have increased the income of farmers. As stated previously, the combined gains from all initiatives for the entire state is at least Rs. 8465 million.
Financial impact on sugar mills : The use of SIS leads to a better relationship with the sugar growers which though invaluable, cannot be quantified. However, there are considerable financial gains of Rs. 7000 million to the sugar mills. These are on account of higher recovery from fresh sugarcane, greater capacity utilization and savings in data entry due to use of HHC. These translates to saving of Rs. 56 million for each of the sugar mills.
Work culture towards use of IT : The low levels of literacy in the rural area were not an impediment to the adoption of IT. The SIS has prompted the citizens to learn about use of website, read and send SMS on mobile phones and use the IVRS. The cyber cafes have been started in rural areas and are doing good business.
Lessons learnt
(i) Centralized planning : The system architecture was designed centrally to ensure uniformity of services in the state.
(ii) Decentralized implementation : Each of the 125 sugar mills were made an independent delivery centre. The sugar mills and sugarcane growers were within close vicinity of each other. The implementation was easy as task was divided into manageable geographical areas.
(iii) Decentralized monitoring : The 168 cooperative growers societies were given the task of monitoring the implementation. The service provider and the end user were in constant touch. This led to better understanding of problems and ultimately to their perfect execution.
(iv) Agreed Goals-stakeholder consultation : The system was designed after incorporating the suggestions of both the farmers as well as the sugar mills. The agreed goals facilitated the implementation in a smooth manner.

(v) Regular monitoring : Each of the sugar mills were personally monitored by the sugarcane commissioner's team. Monthly review meeting were followed up by monitoring of implementation until the desired standards were achieved.
(vi) Training : The sugar mills IT personnel were trained to understand the design standards. The time spent on training led to a perfect communication of the cane commissioner's team with the IT personnel of sugar mills. This ensured that implementation of SIS was quick and upto the design standards. Similarly the farmers were trained on the use SIS by the 168 growers societies.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Office of Sugarcane Commissioner
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Kamran Rizvi
Title:   Sugarcane Commissioner  
Telephone/ Fax:   +919415527999
Institution's / Project's Website:
Address:   Cane Commissioner, 17 New Berry Road, Ganna Kisan Sansthan Building
Postal Code:   226001
City:   Lucknow
State/Province:   Uttar Pradesh
Country:   India

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