Entrepreneur Vijay Bhaskar of Vinfinet Technologies, on their latest product Kisan Raja, and his vision to take relevant technology to rural India.
Tell me a little bit about vinfinet technologies.
Vinfinet is started by a group of people from IIT Madras alumni. The vision of this company is to bring technology to rural India. In the last 12 years, I have been with companies like Cisco, Intel and a few startup companies. I have been thinking for quite some time about doing something to take technology to rural India. I come from rural background myself, I always wanted to do something for rural India. We wanted to start off with an irrigation automation product. We created a prototype and have been testing for quite sometime. By the end of April, we sold 100 units. By the next three months, we are aiming to sell 1000 units. The response so far has been great. We have presented at a couple of exhibitions. Taking care of quality manufacturing and putting an after sales service team in place are some of the challenges I am facing right now. We are right now looking at penetrating the whole of South India, starting from Andhra and Karnataka. Apart from offering technology products to rural Indian markets, Vinfinet has been in existence since the past 4 years, but I started working on it full-time only from last July.
Can you tell us about your latest offering Kisan Raja in detail?
Kisan Raja was started as a product, but we want to bring it out as a solution. This is actually to solve a lot of problems faced by farmers in operating the motors at night. There are many power problems that any rural farmer faces. They have to travel in odd hours, in the middle of the night to switch off the motors. The advantage of Kisan Raja is that the motors can be remotely controlled from wherever you are. This not only remotely protects the motors, but also reports fluctuations and etc. to ensure that the motor stays damage free.
So when was Kisan Raja launched?
Kisan Raja was launched on 7th July 2010.
What are the other products and services that vinfinet offers other than Kisan Raja?
Kisan Raja is our first product. We are planning to make multiple products in the next nine months. We shall have at least two products in the pipeline for the rural markets.
How has the response for Kisan Raja been?
It has been tremendous. We have participated in an exhibition called Krushi Mela in November 2010. Over 5,000 people visited our stall. And, 2000 members wanted to buy our product then and there. So far we have got about 75 to 80 requests for dealerships.
Are there other players in the market, doing similar things in the market?
There are few other players who are doing it, but none are in no way close to some of the features that we are offering. And, some of the competitors are trying to do something similar using a mobile, but a mobile phone can’t take power as an input. So the product that we are offering, lets farmers control more of what they can do. Also, because our team has experience in product design, we built Kisan Raja from a customer’s point of view. I spent a lot of time in rural India understanding customers needs.
Considering that there are other players like Rural Bridges and Nano Ganesh in the market, what is the kind of market share you are trying to capture? How hard was it to acquire the first few customers?
We are looking at being an end to end solution rather than being just a product company. There are three aspects of irrigation: Pumping the water from bore well, transporting it to the right areas and then sensing the exact requirement of the water.
We have created end to end solutions for this entire process. We are providing a series of solutions in irrigation for the farmers. We aspire to have a range of solutions for irrigation automation in India. Though, we are in a very preliminary stage right now, the market that we are trying to capture is pretty huge. There are about 40-50 million pump-sets in India. The growth rate of these pump sets is 10-15%
That is a huge market for us to capture. But, it requires tremendous amount of understanding of the local problems. Reach to the farmers is a major challenge in rural India. Major challenge is after sales tech support.
I had interacted with many people who worked in rural innovation before, and most of them say that reducing the cost in distribution channel is a major challenge for them. What do you say?
A fertilizer company or a drip irrigation company already has access to large network of farmers. We are very particular of who our customers are and whom we want to reach out to. So, we would like to collaborate with players who already have leveraged this network.
How many customers have you already acquired?
We have already reached out to 2,000 customers. We regularly do knowledge sharing programs with NGOs. And, I keep getting a lot of enquiries from distributors. We are also looking at hiring marketing intern to expand the customer base.
Anything else that you want to tell us?
We are neither 100% a for-profit company nor are we a 100% charity. We are for a social cause, at the same time trying to sustain ourselves. I would love support from the tech community to help us in this initiative.
We at YourStory.in are excited about the number of young people quitting their jobs to innovate for rural India. We wish Kisan Raja good luck and will keep you posted about all the latest happenings at their end. Meanwhile, you check out http://kisanraja.com/