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31 | Creating viable business models for inclusive growth through the National Optical Fiber Network Business Models Agriculture Agriculture is the principal source of livelihood for 58 percent of the Indian population 48 and hence, plays a major role in the overall development of the country. ICT plays a vital role in uplifting the agricultural community by providing technology enablers that enhance farm productivity and lead to increased income levels of farmers. Initiatives such as eChoupal, eKutir, and mKrishi have demonstrated that deployment of ICT tools can increase farmers’ income by up to 400 percent 49 . The infusion of ICT in agriculture not only benefits farmers but also creates an entire commerce ecosystem for agro input providers, agro product purchasers and consumer goods companies. More importantly, ICT reduces information asymmetry (e.g. price asymmetry, lack of awareness with respect to latest technological trends, seed types, and demand for various crops) which is crucial to equitably distributing the fruits of development among all sections of the agriculture community. Acknowledging the fact that timely access to agricultural information is one of the major challenges faced by Indian farmers, the Government of India launched ‘Kisan Call Centers’ with an objective of providing agricultural information to farmers 50 . While this is a commendable step, information asymmetry could be further reduced by providing additional services such as real-time alerts, e-commerce etc. This is a concept which has been experimented with successfully in various pilots undertaken by the private sector in India. 48 Economic Survey 2012-13 49 Hystra 50 Agricoop
Creating viable business models for inclusive growth through the National Optical Fiber Network | 32 Case study 6: TCS - mKrishi The award-winning mKrishi platform combines multiple technologies to bring information regarding local weather, fertilizer requirements based on soil conditions, pest control, and current food grain prices in local markets to the farmers’ low-end mobile handsets markets in a rich content format. The platform also allows farmers to send queries, attaching crop images with the same, through a mobile phone and provides responses with advice or relevant information in vernacular languages. Impact • Since 2008, more than 20,000 farmers in 400 villages have subscribed to the mKrishi service • Preliminary analysis suggests that expert advice to farmers helped increase yield by ~20 percent and reduce pesticide costs by ~40 percent. • The mKrishi platform also made farmers aware of best practices and latest agriculture technology such as Integrated Pest Management. Source: TCS Case Study (Business Call to Action, published on 12 May 2012) Case study 7: eKutir Rural Management Services Private Limited– eKutir A socially-focused venture, eKutir engages rural entrepreneurs to advise farmers on ways to improve productivity and income levels. Farmers are required to pay a one-time membership fee, and service fee depending on the number of consultations. They provide information on new and improved ways of soil testing, nutrient management, pest and disease control, market price discovery, etc. Additionally, they serve as aggregators and connect farmers with agro suppliers via a common Internet based platform. This allows farmers to negotiate on product prices directly with the buyers thus, removing intermediaries. Partners: Intel, KIIT School of Rural Management, Milaap, MGM Agri Ventures, Netafim, NABARD, etc. Business Model: For profit Impact • eKutir was able to serve 6,000 farmers in the first 14 months via twelve Internet-powered kiosks, and proved to be a profitable venture for the entrepreneurs • The venture proved to be a success as it helped in increasing farmer income levels by as much as 300 percent. Source: Intel website, Fastcompany In certain pockets of Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, where there is good broadband connectivity, farmers are already managing a lot of demand and supply through ICT. The advent of high speed broadband through NOFN, coupled with innovative and commercially viable business models, could help replicate these models in other parts of the country.