The Agtech revolution started in India roughly a decade back and the target segment was farmers in their 40s and 50s. A generation which had very limited exposure to technology and disruption. Also, most of them looked at farming as an inheritance and not a business. And hence when Agtech startups started their early journey in India and that too through digital or voice platforms, the bigger challenge was not to crack the operating model but how to make the farmers believe in change. It was less about how to deliver a product or service at a farmer's doorstep but more about making a farmer believe that a genuine product or service can be delivered to their doorstep, and it works.
While working at AgroStar, the largest digital solutions platform for Indian farmers, I was always on the road, observing this pattern among the farmers in villages and on AgroStar’s digital community platform- Krishi Charcha (part of AgroStar App). And a question that I kept asking myself - where are we heading and when does the ‘aha’ moment come for AgroStar and the industry? Little did I know that the answers were present in the moments that I captured as photos while meeting farmers and the engagement that farmers experienced on the Krishi Charcha platform.
Now this picture speaks not just thousands but maybe more than a million words. And I get more confidence about this transition when I look at my home itself. How my four years old son opens the Zomato app on my phone, scrolls and points at Iyenger’s Bakery for a cake (he has his own list of good and bad food 😉). Likewise, whenever we are in a queue at a billing station, he will quickly grab the phone and say “Daddy-Payment (Please pay)”. So, in a nutshell, food delivery and digital payment came into our life as “nice to have things”, transitioned into convenience and eventually became a part of our lives. While experiences that I have shared, are more about consumption and urban India and this blog is about livelihood and rural India, there are certain things which are common between GenZ from both sides of India. Here are a few thoughts on the same:
United Digital India - While we may define urban and rural India based on various traditional parameters, the reality is that this divide does not exist today due to two factors- 4G & OTT. Access to information is no more a benefit of being in urban India or a luxury of riches, it is omnipresent. And this has helped in the uptake of digital consumption of Agtech in rural India and it will indeed bring better unit economics in the business too once this generation takes the inheritance from the last generation and treat it as a business than merely a family inheritance. This is not some short-term Covid impact, digital payments are a reality in rural India in every nook and corner. It has been 3 years since Covid, and I have hardly paid in cash while travelling to farmlands in remote parts of our country. Like 4G, OTT has too made this divide non-existent. Access to information on upcoming trends is not a barrier anymore. While Zomato, Amazon or for that matter AgroStar may not serve a pin code but their advertisements, more importantly, their existence is accessible to everyone.
Seeing our favourite farmer’s son Jugaadoo Kamlesh on Shark Tank India is not his luck but the true power of digital accessibility that has lifted all geographical barriers in the country. GenZ farmers are consuming this and getting ready to launch their own farming business soon, which will reinforce the massive opportunity for Agtechs such as AgroStar and others.
Influencer v/s Follower- India is generally shifting from a follower-driven society to an influencer-driven society. We have come out of the mindset of replicating an American model as a success in India. And it is quite evident with our home-grown startups such as Zerodha and Zoho. While working with AgroStar, I remember getting requests on LinkedIn from people in other countries asking if AgroStar can bring their Franchisees there (two of which I remember were from the Philippines and Nigeria).
As it happened in our businesses, our GenZ farmers are also going through this transition. Instagram and AgroStar’s Krishi Charcha platform are classic examples of this change. It has seen a massive uptake in India in the last four years led by users coming from rural India. Remember these platforms are not just about following a famous person but how many followers you have. Being in Agtech for five years now, I don’t feel surprised when I see our farmers with a solid fan following on Instagram, Youtube, Facebook and for that matter the AgroStar app. This will change the game for Agtech startups because when you get into an influencer mindset then it is all about being open to adopting new things and influencing others for its mass adoption.
A big thanks to the current generation of farmers who allowed and are allowing the next generations to be a part of this new ecosystem while they themselves are a semi-active part of it, just like how our parents believed in government jobs but enabled us to experiment and be a part of the growing private sector. I see this when a farmer asks a daughter or son to take delivery from an AgroStar delivery partner or visit the AgroStar store and put their family selfie on the AgroStar app.
Risk Appetite v/s Risk Aversion- Out of all, this is going to be a true game changer for Agtech startups. As Indian farmers (farming GenZ) moves from farming as an inheritance or obligation to farming as a business, they will have more risk appetite vis-à-vis the current generation which is risk averse. Well, this in some sense has already started happening in India where we see farmers growing fruits, berries, avocados and other such crops which were never heard of in India. With more risk appetite comes the urge to do things the right way with the right products and services. This will open a totally new segment for Indian Agtechs.
There is no doubt that GenZ of farmers will drive the required change in the Indian Agtech space. It will also give birth to many unicorns in the Indian Agtech space not just in terms of valuation but also from the point of view of impact. Personally, I’m excited to be a part of this sector and curious to see how would the GenZ of farmers challenge Indian Agtech startups to serve them better every day with better products, services, knowledge and much more.
Whatever unfolds in the future, one thing is for sure - “Super Exciting Times Ahead for the Indian Agtech Sector”.