Digitalization is rapidly changing workplaces and industries, offering data, efficiency, and often better workflows. The agricultural sector is no different. Although the government in India has created several initiatives to relieve concerns in the country related to water scarcity, crop cycle shortages, weather challenges, and others, life as a farmer is one of concern.
To help relieve such concerns, Nishant Mahatre and Tauseef Khan (who were both students at both IIT-Kharagpur and IIM-Ahmedabad), developed Gramophone, an agritech startup. The duo created an app that brings timely information and related insight that can lead to better yields for farmers.
“Our goal is to bring the best agricultural products, data, and knowledge to the farmers,” shared Khan, CEO and co-founder of Gramophone. “Our app, which can effortlessly be downloaded on any mobile device via Google Play store, is a one-stop answer for farmers, where they can buy original crop nutrition, crop protection, seeds, implements, and agri-hardware at their doorstep.”
Farmers can access information and crop advisories on the best products to grow, including weather data. This assists them to not only improve productivity but also sustainably increase their revenues.
How the app works is quite unique. The Gramophone app has a six-pronged strategy to help farmers increase their productivity:
- Support & Advisory – including general information and education, as well as recommendations based on their specific crops
2. Input Planning – helps farmers assess their land better by facilitating soil testing and crop nutrition administration
3. Quality – lets farmers procure top-notch products from reliable suppliers
4. Availability – to ensure products arrive promptly and that the farmers are kept up-to-date with new developments in the market
5. Accessibility – and convenience to ensure farmers to receive products right at their doorstep
6. Cost-effectiveness –ensures products are marketed at a more competitive price than the original market value.
The company also has a toll-free number that offers similar features for those farmers who do not have access to a smartphone.
What’s more: Gramophone conducts field visits, wherein a member with extensive agricultural experience will visit a farm in person, observing the nature of the clay and climate to provide the best farming and cultivating suggestions.
The most significant challenges for the co-founders to date were the early site visits in Madhya Pradesh. “When we went to the rural villages for the initial time, it was an obstacle because we were outsiders entering their space,” explained Mahatre. “The initial response from the farmers was, ‘Who are you? We have been making this sort of cultivation for years.’”
Proving the authenticity of Gramophone took time. “However, with time we have been able to build their support and earn credibility,” Mahatre added.
In 2009, after certifying from IIM-Ahmedabad in agri-business administration, the IIT-Kharagpur alumni decided to solve the main issue that troubled the Indian farmer. They noticed the biggest challenge was that of productivity.
“India is one of the top nations in fruit and vegetable production. To solve the problems that arise for the Indian farmer, we wanted to combine agriculture and technology to create something that would provide the right knowledge and methodology,” said Khan.
Farmers in India typically have little control over crop prices in the market or how favorable a yield may be in one year compared to another. There are a lot of variables that are simply out of the control of these workers.
“So, we wanted to resolve the things that are within the farmers’ control and help salvage situations by encouraging them to improve productivity by 50 to 70 percent,” he said. And it seems to be working. Today, Gramophone has more than 200 employees.
A positive impact
The most significant impact that the technology has had on farmers in India is that it has changed their mindset and the way they view farming.
“The change in behavior and mindset of farmers is something we have noticed over the years, and this has been quite an impact. Further understanding the potential of agriculture and things we can do to make a difference is something we constantly strive to do through Gramophone,” said Mahatre. “In quantitative terms, we have seen that there has been an increase in production by up to 40 percent, and a decrease in the cost of cultivation by 20 percent, in the case of farmers who have employed our app.”
Ramkishan ji Kanardi, a farmer from MP, who had hugely benefited from the gramophone app, shared: “When I first went to the Gramophone office in Indore, they trained me how to use the app. This was quite handy for me as it presented me with the weather forecast and prediction of rains previously. Also, the app told me if there was any disease in my crop and, if so, how it can be remedied with suitable medicine. In case there is any requirement to be addressed, the office gets cautioned and rings me up to provide me with a solution, unlike others who sell a particular brand, Gramophone tells me what would operate best for me and my crop.”
More than three lakh farmers have employed the Gramophone platform to date, which has mainly come from word-of-mouth selling.
“In our local store, there aren’t any branded products which we can use for our produce, but with the gramophone app, we can place our order in the day and get it delivered at our doors by the evening,” said Devendra Patidar, another farmer from MP.” This is quite convenient for us farmers as we don’t have to waste much time waiting for our produce, or end up buying the wrong product.”
Gramophone credits the support of other organizations for much of its success. A few of the companies that have funded in Gramophone to date include Naukri.com, Better Capital, Asha Impact, and Info Edge Limited, among others.
The team hopes to expand to other states including Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh, and originate the app in other languages as well.
“Building and replicating human interface via technology, like a chat service presented by the app, is something that we hope to do soon, as we have remarked that the farmers like to be guided and directed till goods reach their doorstep,” said Mahatre. “We do have a toll-free calling service, but possessing this would be an added benefit.”