eKutir - supporting farmers by providing right information and 'last mile' services
Two thirds of India’s population depend on rural employment for a living with most of them depending on agriculture. Most of the existing agricultural practices are neither economically nor environmentally sustainable, producing extremely low yields and hence adversely affecting the economic conditions of people relying on it. The major factor contributing to low yields remains the lack of information about agriculture practices.
To improve the livelihoods of people at the bottom of pyramid by helping them improve productivity, Krishna Mishra founded eKutir in 2009 and he was inducted into Ashoka Fellows in 2012. It is a for-profit social venture that develops innovative products and services to improve the livelihoods of people at the bottom of the pyramid. Through the implementation of their PIE (Participatory IT-enabled Entrepreneurial-driven) business model which incorporates sharing knowledge via ICT solutions, building partnerships and mentoring last-mile micro entrepreneurs, eKutir addresses social needs whilst reducing poverty and empowering people in rural areas
Headquartered in Bhubaneswar, Odisha (Orissa), eKutir focuses on supporting local farmers by setting up franchises and local hubs to serve farmers within a 15km radius and on training local (micro) entrepreneurs to offer tailored agricultural advice and trade information. Within 14 months of its inception, eKutir established 12 kiosks serving 6000 farmers and helped them increase both productivity and income.
An internet connection and connected device are the only set up costs required by the micro entrepreneurs. eKutir supplies the tech platform that allows capturing of data and offers advice on agro practices to maximise output. Their platforms include
- ‘mrittikka’ – a soil nutrient analysis and recommendation tool developed in conjunction with Grameen Intel Social Business
- Farmer Portfolio Management Tool (FPMT) – a system created together with social venture BoP Connect that records individual farmer activities, advises on how to improve management of their assets, connects farmers to experts and provides market connections and trading data
- ‘ankur’, a knowledge-based program providing tailored information on crops, soil type, seed selection and recommended practices for seed preparation.
They are also utilising its eAgro platform as a gateway to link BoP farmers with micro-financiers and as a delivery channel for vocational education videos to marginalised groups.
eKutir tries to make sure that both the farmers and entrepreneurs are involved and empowered at every level of the decision-making process. By aggregating farmers’ supply and purchasing power, eKutir helps them forge relationships with suppliers and distributors, creating economic benefits and opportunities throughout the agricultural value chain.
Today, eKutir operates in 6 states across India, serving 3000 villages, more than 50,000 farmers and over 100 micro-entrepreneurs. Crop yields per farm have increased by 40-60% and costs reduced by 15%. They are now planning to expand to serve 2 lakh Indian farmers by 2015 and are also starting their operations in Bangladesh and Cambodia.
eKutir has scaled to this point through it’s internal accrual and through collaboration with like minded organizations and institutions. For global scaling, eKutir plans to raise funding through a hybrid grant plus equity mode and aggressively move in collaboration with new partners in different geographies. eKutir plans to keep it’s brand value and mission intact, whilst collaborating for expansion. They believe that PIE is an established and recognized model, which is a fool proof mechanism to reach out to the villages and farmers.