By Dr. P J Kulkarni, Scientist, Mahyco
Agriculture is one of the important pillars of the Indian economy. According to a report from FICCI, about 65% of Indian population depends directly on agriculture and it accounts for around 22% of GDP. Although, agriculture in India has majorly seen a steady growth in the last few years, not much has been done in encouraging young, fresh and unique innovative ideas in the sector.
It was only in 2007, when the era of start-ups saw a boost and things started to change. Young entrepreneurs are now quitting their jobs in IT sectors and MNCs to establish their own start-ups. These young entrepreneurs are now beginning to realize the fact that investing in agriculture is one of the very few safe and profitable businesses. Agriculture is a crucial sector of our economy and the demand for agricultural products is never expected to reduce.
Many startups are taking up unique challenges in agriculture space and finding creative and innovative solutions which are farmer- friendly. For example, a startup launched a website in January 2015, with an aim to empower farmers by providing them with quality agricultural inputs and accessories through a marketplace platform. The start-up aims to solve transportation and delivery actions to farmers which have been a major challenge in the past.
Another innovative start-up aims to simplify agriculture business for farmers through mobile apps. With the increase in Smartphone penetration, farmers can easily access their farm equipments or the raw materials on their mobile phone. The innovators have built m-commerce platforms through which farmers can procure agricultural inputs needed for their farms by simply giving a missed call which will eventually give them access to their mobile app. Farmers can buy seeds, nutrients, agri-hardware which can be procured from this platform.
Such as these, many more startups are identifying challenges- weather analysis, financial inclusion, safe food, water usage, women empowerment etc. and working day and night to address these challenges and convert them into sustainable businesses. Even though corporate and startups are working on farm to market products, the introduction of agriculture market platform by the government will make the entire ecosystem of trade very effective.
Agriculture has always been a critical industry to deal in. It is encouraging to see some prominent movements finally being initiated. I cannot help but give a fairly large share of credit to start-ups for bringing about a lot of freshness and innovation in the agriculture system. Measures like these are not only bringing about a radical change in the Indian economy but also taking a step forward in an attempt to make agriculture more farmer friendly, and who knows perhaps more ‘digital’ in India.