Most startups are lean, but if we were to find lean corporates, the first company that would come to mind is Intuit. This $4 billion corpus is run by all but 8000 people all around the world. To give you a sense of scale, Infosys is a $7 billion dollar company with a 155,000 employees (you do the math ). This is a company run by entrepreneurs at heart and every project that they work on is treated like a startup.
We were invited to Intuit’s office in Bangalore for a conversation about Intuit’s first India only offering, Fasal. It is an SMS based platform that provides farmers with reliable and real time wholesale market prices. Since its launch, Fasal has helped more than 1.5 million farmers across 3 states. Deepa and Preetam Kajal, who leads sales for Fasal, walked us through their journey with Fasal. And whichever way you look at it, it was fascinating.
Identifying problems and choosing what to solve
Like any startup, the thought process behind launching Fasal was backed by sound research. Deepa shared that the team in India went about conducting a series of experiments to see the business viability of solving that problem. She said, “We conducted about 11 experiments of which 3 were very successful. One of them was centered around providing information to farmers. Initially we were thinking about providing information like what to plant at what time, along with information about market price. However, the former would have required agricultural specialist, so we scrapped the idea.”
Since then Deepa and Preetam have led grass root level marketing campaigns in many tier two and tier three towns across Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat. The efforts were mainly a group of salespeople going from town to town, speaking and educating village heads and the middle men at the vegetable markets of the benefits of the system. Deepa says, “We started with as many as 15 farmers, of whom 12 went on to use it extensively.”
Word of mouth virality
Any product that addresses a big market need has virality built into it, and Fasal is addressing one of the biggest pain points of the Indian economy. Deepa says, “A lot of times, farmers would pick going to a middle man, over us, and he would give them a better price than us. But after negotiations, the price which he buys it for is much lesser than what we offered.” By providing this information to farmers, Deepa believes that Fasal is a truly game changing product as it directly impacts the financial status of a farmer.
Of course, Fasal met with its fair share of resistance. Deepa shared that many of Intuit’s evangelists were roughed up while trying to promote the product at the markets and to the farmers. However, they came around, and now the users of Fasal are referring the product to farmers and middle men from other states.
When asked if Fasal was aimed at eliminating the middle men, Deepa says, “Not really. In fact in some cases, you really need middle men. For example, they would know of hotels who can buy broken carrots, which a vegetable market won’t buy. We want to work with them actually, but only the good ones.”
Check out this video to know more about Fasal –
Fasal is seeing great traction and through sheer word of mouth, Intuit is having to deal with inbound requests from many other states. However, expansion isn’t their current priority. Deepa says, “The focus in the next couple of months is going to about monetizing Fasal. And we’re going to have to figure out a non user paid model for it.”