With more than 300 million handsets (mobile phones) out of the 840 million rural populace in India as per a recent CAGR, technological revolutions like MVAS and Ekgaon experiments, shaping the ‘Good Times’ of Indian farming communities, seem to hold unprecedented promise. MOHD MUSTAQUIM evaluates
Ramalingam, a farmer at a village in Madurai district of Tamil Nadu, frequently gets message alerts on his mobile phone for his 10 hectares of millet field. These messages help him in deciding on seeds, fertilisers, soil nutrient management, irrigation and other farm related issues.
The phenomenon seems to make deeper inroads across rural spectrum in our part of the globe. Multiple Value Added Service (VAS) providers have launched their agri info services in different states. In an agrarian country like India, where agriculture and allied works constitute about 60 to 65 per cent of our workforce, mobile VAS, besides providing agri info to the farmers, generates plethora of business opportunities.
Since the country has seen a boom in mobile penetration during the past decade, the value added services are making their way to the deeper pockets of the country. Ekgaon Technologies, which is currently operating in of Tamil Nadu, provides various agri related information such as soil management, irrigation alert, weather forecast, crop advisory service, pest alerts and such other information.
Appreciating the phenomenal business opportunity, Reuters Market Light has started providing personalised agricultural information to the farmers through mobile phones. In about 50,000 villages, the service provider has 10 lakhs subscribers across 13 states of the country.
Apart from SMSes, Integrated Voice Response System (IVRS) in regional languages are also provided to farmers. IFFCO Kisan Sanchar, a joint venture of fertiliser manufacturer IFFCO and Bharti Airtel, provides voice message advisory to nearly 12 lakhs farmers in the nation. These specialised advisories are helping farmers across the country to take correct farming decisions. IFFCO Kisan Sanchar operates through its 13 Kisan call centres across 18 states in the country. Through these services farmers frequently receive market rates, farm credit information along with equipment supplies.
PHONE OPERATED WATER PUMP
Farmers of Punjab, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and few parts of southern India are experiencing a new way of switching on and off their pump sets with their mobiles, remotely through their cell phones.
Ossian Agro Automation, a Pune-based organisation has launched an electronic device, Nano Ganesh, giving freedom to the farmer of switching on or off the pump sets from anywhere by dialing a number through his mobile phone. Director of the firm, Santosh Ostawal elaborates, “Nano Ganesh is a phone-based remote control system through which farmers can switch on and off and monitor their water pumps from any place by a mobile phone. A mobile phone has been effectively used as a low cost wireless device to m-connect the water pumps located in any terrain, near river, well, lakes, canals, etc.”
“The system comprises of an electronic hardware, Nano Ganesh, used in association with a mobile phone connected to the existing starter mechanism of the water pump”, he further added.
Today, the plight and other woes faced by farmers in India now has a bit of solace in the shape of Nano Ganesh, which needs a simple remote control solution for operating their staple source of irrigation (pumps) from anywhere. Owing to a huge profit margins of over 250 per cent for the first year of launch the Ossian Agro Automation earned Rs 15 Crore on investing just Rs 7.5 Crore, it also plans to make their services pan-India lest others seize the glaring opportunities in the segment.
Moreover, experts tend to believe that the agricultural information services could be a thriving business through technological interventions. As Indian hinterland has diversified needs pertaining to farm activities like soil texture, weather and cropping pattern, etc. It has buttressed the need for more personalised and relevant pool of information to the farmers, which in a way facilitate entry of more service providers operating on viable corporate models.
It is widely believed that any information dissemination to the farmers in India could only work if that is relevant, correct and useful to them. On this, Anand Prakash, assistant manager, Ekgaon Technologies, stressed, “We have agriculture experts for every crop, fertiliser, soil and nutrient management and all other services we are providing. They study the nature of soil, what fertiliser needs to be used, weather conditions and what crop will be better suited in a particular field. These experts have years of experience in agriculture.”
On the success of the services provided by Ekgaon Technologies, Prakash adds further, “we are operating in Tamil Nadu, have consultations with the government of Bihar and also have expansion plans in Rajasthan and Gujarat. Very little number of subscribers quit our services and now we take pride to say that more than 75 per cent trust and continue with our services.”
As agriculture and allied works shapes the growth trajectory of Indian economy, any bad Monsoon has a cascading impact on all other sectors of Indian economy. Thus it is said that innovations that strengthen the farming communities could be a pivot in the robustness of our economy as a whole. Most of the Indian agricultural output depends upon the Monsoon, if the country gets a good Monsoon, about 60 to 65 per cent population get a good yield and earning opportunities. It directly affects the economy.