“It is not integrity, it’s more about the transparency, it’s about having transparency across the supply chain,” said Shashank Kumar, Co-founder and CEO, DeHaat, in the latest episode of Matrix Moments with Ankush Goyal, Senior Associate, Matrix Partners India.
According to him, agriculture is not a new sector in India, at least for agritech startups. Irrespective of their model - whether they are back-end, front-end, lending, or creating a market, that’s not a problem.
“So, the important factor is the behavioural change. Whichever technology interface you all are building, one thing we always aspire to is that by using these interfaces, what sort of behavioural change can we bring,” explained Shashank.
Use of tech for different methodology
Citing an example, Shashank shared that in their early days in Bihar, they encouraged farmers to grow baby corn. The farmers had never grown baby corn before, but they had grown corn.
The DeHaat Team
The team met the farmers and told them they had to harvest the seed early next morning. In the morning, the team realised that the farmers were still apprehensive about growing baby corn. The team then displayed the benefits of growing baby corn, and also explained how irrigation can be customised depending on the crop, soil moisture, and several other factors.
“We stayed close to the farmers, and having multiple touch points really helps because it is the same network of farmers you’re being with throughout the year, round the season - not for a specific crop, not for a specific service. So there was a consistency in terms of touch points,” said Shashank.
This means you are helping a certain network of farmers to get the best source of agri input. You’re also advising them and helping them to sell their produce.
“The problem we all are solving is about transparency because the sector has got a long tail, and because of this, the industry holds a bunch of inefficiencies. This transparency can be brought by technology, and ultimately technology has to be used by the farmer, by our operator, by our collection centre operator, or maybe even by our truck driver, and that’s where behavioural change is important,” said Shashank.
Increasing technology penetration
If one were to look at the entire farming value chain - starting from the farmer to the consumer - the mid-section is somewhat solved for with technology as the farmers and the last mile need more disruption.
Towards that end, DeHaat has been creating its own last mile network where it has close to 1,000 micro entrepreneurs now.
“At least now, all micro entrepreneurs are very much comfortable with technology, and that’s where you’re getting the scalability. So, between farm to consumer or farm to businesses, the technology adoption in the middle of the value chain has already happened,” said Shashank.
The farmers are still in their early stages of adopting tech, and most of the farmers across India have been using WhatsApp. But again, when it comes to the transaction, they prefer to call you.
“I think technology adoption at farmer’s side is yet to happen. But the good part is that the way smartphone and data penetration has been increasing, it gives scope for faster adoption,” explained Shashank.