Having spent nine long years in the payment business with large scale rural and semi-urban reach, Vikram Anand wanted to explore the agriculture space. With that zeal, Pune-based Vikram visited Satara (a city located in the Satara District of Maharashtra) and Narayangaon (a town in the Pune district of Maharashtra) to dig deeper into the challenges farmers face.
After long discourse with the farmers, Vikram found that they were procuring farming inputs at retail prices and selling produce at wholesale prices, clearly affecting their profit margins. Timely availability of affordable and good quality products was the need of the hour.
The thought behind Farmguru was born when Vikram decided to change the lives of thousands of farmers in Maharashtra. Started in September 2014 and run by CashPeAgri Retail, Farmguru allows farmers to buy curated, genuine, quality seeds, agro-chemicals and organic inputs in the price range of Rs 75-85,000.
farmers register themselves for free and join the Farmguru Group. As a part of the registration process, our team collects data about the farm and crop needs. These are then fed into a CRM from which crop-based campaign and daily contact lists are generated using data science and crop science,” says Vikram, who previously Co-founded an electronic distribution company ‑ BuySmart (2005 – February 2014).
Building the community
Although the past decade has witnessed many initiatives in streamlining the buying and selling of agricultural produce using technology, Vikram realised that little has been done to improve the availability of farming inputs.
Farmguru aims to democratise the supply chain by making all the members of the Farmguru Group aware about the product availability. It relies on SMS for information dissemination and voice calls for transaction considering the low penetration of smartphones and internet in rural areas.
Using data science, Farmguru runs regular crop-based campaigns with specific products focusing on the requirement of farmers and crop pattern. Products are delivered within days after the campaign is launched (based on pre-negotiated prices with suppliers). To source the products, Farmguru has tied up with BASF, Godrej Agrovet, ADAMA, Yara Fertilisers and has now access to more than 3,000 products through authorised suppliers.
The first sets of Farmguru Group Members were acquired by holding regular meetings with farmers in several villages.
Encouraged by the services from Farmguru, farmers get their family, friends and other farmers from the same village to join the Farmguru Group. Many progressive farmers connect members of Farmguru team to WhatsApp groups they are a part of and thus all members of that group are also registered on Farmguru,
Few tech-enabled farmers also join Farmguru by filling up a form on the website. Promotion of the website on both social media and Google also helps the platform get new members every day. According to Vikram, 70 percent of the Farmguru group members are referred by existing members. The platform currently has 50,000 member farmers from Maharashtra.
Vikram along with Priyanka Anand, Vishal Parpia, Arijit Palbag and Ramprasad bootstrapped Farmguru. Priyanka brings 10 years of experience in Human Capital Operations. Vishal was a techpreneur and brought 16 years of experience in building solutions for transaction-led business. Arijit has 21 years of experience in sales and marketing, and Ramprasad gained 21 years of experience in retail banking and CRM.
Convincing farmers (who have always preferred to buy Agri supplies from the local store) to buy inputs from a company which didn’t have a physical store in their village posed a major challenge. Vikram however recalled that Farmguru’s pricing, genuineness of products, advance payments managed to gain trust of the farmers within a short period of time.
Given the poor infrastructure in many rural pockets, timely delivery of products was also one of the biggest hurdles. To overcome this, they have tied up with India Post to cover all pincodes across India.
Farmguru claims to generate 300 to 500 transactions per month, with an average ticket size of Rs 20,000. Over 50 percent of Farmguru customers, Vikram says, are repeat customers.
Currently, Farmguru has a team of 25 members comprising professionals in the field of agriculture, technology, sales, marketing, finance and analytics backgrounds.
We are on the verge of launching our proprietary responsive storefront with complete offline capability hosted on Google Cloud, which can be accessed from almost all smartphones and will work efficiently even in remote locations with poor or intermittent connectivity. We are also working on an offline Android app to democratise the buying experience.
Farmguru claims to have generated sales of Rs 1 crore in its first year of operations (2015-16) and is targeting revenue of Rs 10 crore in the current financial year. In the next two years, the Farmguru group intends to have a million members and generate a sale of Rs 100 crore.
According to a report by the India Brand Equity Foundation, India's food grain production has increased marginally to 252.23 million tonnes in the 2015–16 crop year. GDP of agriculture and allied sectors in India was recorded at $259.23 billion in FY 2015 as compared to $132.71 in FY 2014.
BigHaat, an agri-commerce startup, empowers farmers by providing them with quality agro inputs and accessories through a marketplace platform. Agri-equipment rental marketplace Ravgo brings access to modern technology for small farmers who cannot afford ownership of expensive machinery. Jayalaxmi Agrotech, a crop-specific app in English and regional languages, helps farmers minimise crop loss and improve productivity.