In this year’s Budget, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced that the Union government will promote kisan drones, chemical-free natural farming, and public-private partnerships for timely delivery of digital and high-tech services to farmers. (Image above Left to Right: Karan Chawla, Ashish Mishra, Pankaj Tripathi, Siddhant Bhomia)
One platform that can assist in this regard is the Krishi Network, founded by IIT-Kharagpur alumni Ashish Mishra and Siddhant Bhomia. This platform seeks to ease accessibility of critical information for farmers, which enables them to generate higher profits.
Providing a mix of online and offline support, the platform, which is run by their Delhi-based venture Cultino Agrotech Pvt Ltd, has also on-boarded agri-brands, agri-input merchants, and other stakeholders in the agricultural supply chain. Facilitating all this work online is the Krishi Network app, currently available in Hindi, Marathi, Punjabi, and English.
“We help farmers by reliably connecting them to experts and other agri-businesses beyond their local area, providing them information and accessibility to such technology. Since Krishi Network is a complete technology driven agri-supply chain, it’s also helping farmers connect with input brands, merchants, buyers of produce, and lenders,” Ashish Mishra tells The Better India.
The platform is currently connected to 30 lakh farmers. With a presence in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Maharashtra, it provides technical advisory for “making critical farm decisions via experienced and trusted farmers”. The company offers ‘15-minute answers’ for questions around any agricultural service, which is made possible through more than 8,000 experts registered on their platform.
Small town aspirations
Born in a small town called Shikohabad near Agra, Ashish grew up in a household where his father was in government service while his mother took care of affairs at home. Graduating from IIT-Kharagpur in computer science engineering in 2009, he would go on to gain extensive experience in software development in companies like Shiksha.com. After his stint there, he worked in various marketing and product roles at MyGola and Healthians.
Meanwhile, Siddharth was born and raised in Gwalior and graduated from IIT-Kharagpur in 2010. Before launching Krishi Network in 2019, he spent nine years working in a variety of roles across ventures like Fractal Analytics, PwC India and Innovaccer. “In 2017 when rural internet penetration started taking off, we saw a major opportunity to inspire, educate, and enable farmers to adopt change of practices to increase income,” says Ashish.
Why does Krishi Network stand out?
“Unlike other startups that fall into the category of input selling, output selling, or providing capital, we provide instant and accurate answers to all kinds of agri-related technical questions a farmer might have. Our expert farmers actively contribute on the platform and help fellow farmers. This expert-led advisory, and delivery of answers within 15 minutes, are what separates us from other agritech startups,” Ashish explains.
Experts are identified from the app, progressive farmers’ list in Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs), and other government sites. These are farmers who have done “exceptionally well” in some specific domains of agriculture, and are now looking to help others.
“Expert farmers earn respect from the community by contributing on the platform. Krishi Network helps them build their brand and increase sales for their training or input businesses. These experts mostly interact with the farmers through the app. We are also planning to launch this platform in more languages soon,” he adds.
Kashi Prasad Vishwakarma, a farmer from Madhya Pradesh, says, “The Krishi Network mobile application is very useful. The information helps us reduce loss by controlling pests. Support with fertilisers, harvest, and other components of farming has given us productive results and higher yields.”
Once the farmer is on-boarded, they go through a journey of accumulating points and collecting badges by contributing to the community. Based on their contributions, experts are identified and put through a separate process of onboarding and activation.
“On the business side, we work with innovators and brands who want to showcase their products and services to the Krishi Network community. We are working with more than 30 brands who have been onboarded on the Android app. The advisory we deliver has directly helped farmers save their crop and increase their yield. Our interventions related to seed selection and plant protection help farmers improve their income by more than 15% in general. Our efforts have helped generate solid organic support from stakeholders due to the opportunity to connect with farmers. It also benefits the whole agri-ecosystem and leads to frictionless two-way communication access to farmers,” claims Ashish.
Questions from farmers generally centre around the kind of pesticides to be used, variety of crops that can be sown, etc. Farmers can also access questions that have already been answered. If it’s a new question, they can speak to the experts directly on the platform.
Sharwan Kumar, a Haryana-based farmer, explains how Krishi Network assisted him. “Last year, there was a serious termite outbreak on the cotton crop I was cultivating. The fields were burning and I had no hope left. It was then that the experts at Krishi Network helped me with the right information. I was on the verge of losing my entire crop, but the information available on the platform guided me through the crisis, and I am grateful to them.”
While Krishi Network has received funding, they haven’t been willing to disclose any figures so far. “Few key angels that have invested in our company include Sanjiv Rangrass (ITC), Sunil Khairnar (Indigram labs), Venkat Tadanki (Anvaya ventures), Rushank Vora (ICICI ventures), Aneesh Reddy (Capillary), Abhishek Goyal (Tracxn), Suraj Saharan (Delhivery), Rohit Razdan (ClearTax), and Kanav Hasija (Innovaccer), amongst others,” he adds.
Also, earlier this year, Krishi Network brought on board Bollywood actor Pankaj Tripathi as its brand ambassador. Reports on other publications also suggest that he has also backed the platform for an undisclosed amount of capital.
“Coming from a farmer background, I have always believed in supporting initiatives that help farmers with access to information to grow their business. Back in my days as a farmer, genuine and correct information always used to be a concern,” Tripathi said.
‘Bollywood actor Pankaj Tripathi invests in agritech startup Krishi Network’ (VCCiRCLE, 22 February 2022)
(Edited by Divya Sethu)
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