How digital mandis are transforming the lives of farmers in India
Even in today’s day and age, farming and agriculture is a long and a tedious process involving multiple layers of production, assistance, manual labour, toil, and tribulation.
India is vastly an agrarian country, and with agriculture being the backbone of the subcontinent, increasing reforms are being introduced for the upliftment and betterment of the sector and individuals who comprise it.
Reshaping the mindset of Indians to view agriculture as a business with a concrete revenue model, rather than an age-old tradition, has been rather slow.
The FY21 Budget allowed some farmers to heave a sigh of relief. Priority sectors, when backed by technology, have the power to bring about change in the lives of millions.
It is also a step towards building a country that is digitally equipped, declared Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman during the Budget. The emphasis on the digital transformation of India has given the agriculture sector a push in the right direction.
Monopoly of the middlemen
With the existing infrastructure, the agricultural produce only reaches the nearest agri market that is under the jurisdiction of the APMC (Agricultural Produce Market Commodities), after incurring the cost of travelling, packing, and sorting the produce.
The biggest issue with the prevailing APMC system is that farmers are struggling with a prolonged and tedious process that involves a sizeable amount of crop wastage.
When they arrive at the local mandis and are waiting to sell the perishable items, they have a good amount of trust and faith in the local agents for the sorting, grading, and other essential agriculture processes, thus relying heavily on middlemen who are not always trustworthy or honest.
This lengthy process becomes extremely tedious as it involves too many intermediaries comprising of wholesalers, retailers, and traders who make their own rules and pricing fixations, forcing the farmers to comply with their regulations. This poses a grave injustice to the farmers who have no other option but to comply with their decisions.
Hence, the traditional vegetable market places allow absolute control over storage, dispatch, and pricing decisions to rest entirely with the many intermediaries who seem to be a massive threat in the entire agricultural supply chain.
This undeclared monopoly that seems to exist is staggering the growth of goods and the free flow of the agricultural value chain and is also unjust to the local farmers and their livelihood.
Importance of digital or e-mandis
During the Covid-19 pandemic, certain shortcomings and failures of the local traditional mandi systems have come to light and there is an urgent need for this type of system to be redressed. With the introduction of modern technology, these local marketplaces have seen a transformation into digital or e-mandis.
The agriculture sector is at the brink of a digital transformation. With the introduction of modern technology and digital machinery using techniques like artificial intelligence, blockchain, machine learning, climate-smart advisory, geo-tagging, and the internet of things, the agricultural sector has seen a substantial spike in the number of investors over the past few years.
This has, in turn, increased the awareness and visibility that the agriculture sector received previously, owing to various digital platforms that have changed the traditional perceptions of thinking of Indian agrarian culture.
E–mandis or digital mandis use a much more user-friendly trading module that puts all the power and rights back in the farmer's hands. They can easily upload all the details of their produce and interested buyers can view and negotiate with the farmers directly.
The B2C format enables farmers to view the real-time price points as well as the bargain rates. It also enables them to directly negotiate with wholesale traders and other local traders, putting an end to the middlemen involved in the process who hamper their movement and freedom of choosing crop type, variety, and price point.
Other than just ensuring smooth negotiations, these digital mandis also ensure easy online payments and smooth digital transactions. They take care of cash crunches and streamlines the entire process thereby ensuring a smooth profitable relationship with traders and buyers directly.
The monetary transactions they make are ensured and efficient keeping in mind the farmer’s rights while preserving their benefits. Lastly, the digital mandis have introduced one of India’s oldest professions to ecommerce platforms.
With the advancement in ERP technology and SaaS-based solutions, the agricultural sector is developing as a business and a profitable investment.
Newer concepts like fresh fruits and vegetable technology (FFV) emphasise extra care and attention to their quality, quantity, and growth processes. Various digital tools, infrastructure, and digital abetment have come a long way in encouraging farmers to function seamlessly and effectively, without the fear of being deprived quantitatively or financially.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)