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Thursday / July 18. 2024
HomeAgribusiness“We are seeing marketplaces move to a phygital model”

“We are seeing marketplaces move to a phygital model”

– Shardul Sheth, Co-founder & CEO, AgroStar

Established in 2013, AgroStar stands as a pioneering AgTech startup in India, dedicated to the mission of “Helping Farmers Win.” By providing real-time agronomy advisory services and facilitating access to premium farm inputs, AgroStar has empowered farmers to cultivate higher-quality crops, resulting in remarkable yield increases ranging from 30 to 100 per cent. The key to this success lies in AgroStar’s distinctive omnichannel network, which boasts a massive outreach, engaging over 7.5 million farmers and encompassing a rapidly expanding retail network of more than 7000 agri-input stores in 7 states. Additionally, AgroStar’s strategic acquisition of INI Farms, a prominent fruit and vegetable (F&V) exporter in India, has further amplified its impact by enabling farmers to tap into global markets with more favourable rates for their produce. Shardul Sheth, Co-founder & CEO of AgroStar, shares his insights into the dynamics of the agri-input and output e-commerce market in India, with AgroSpectrum. Edited excerpts;

How is Agrostar contributing to the growth of agri-input digital marketplaces in India?

One of the biggest factors that is driving the growth of agri-input marketplaces is the access these platforms provide to a wider range of products to farmers. While providing access to agri-inputs is the foundational aspect, what sets AgroStar apart is the provision of high-quality bespoke agronomy advisory services alongside a diverse array of superior agri inputs.

One of the primary challenges farmers face is the need for up-to-the-minute information on progressive farming practices. AgroStar addresses this challenge through its farmer advisory centre and mobile app, granting farmers access to a wealth of agronomy knowledge. Through the app, they can stay abreast of the latest farming techniques, pest and disease management, and receive real-time personalised advice from AgroStar’s Agri-Doctors. This empowerment enables farmers to make informed decisions that enhance their crop yields. To date, the AgroStar mobile app has successfully resolved over 12 million queries from farmers, with a monthly influx of 70 million-plus data points into AgroStar’s data stack, reinforcing our capacity to deliver customised agronomy guidance on a large scale.

It is through this tailored agronomy guidance that AgroStar can recommend the most suitable agri inputs to our farmers, who can conveniently make purchases through our app and have them delivered to their doorstep or opt to visit an AgroStar store, also known as AgroStar ki Laal Dukaan in their vicinity. 

What is the status of agri-input and output digital marketplaces in India?

India has seen a proliferation of agri-input and output platforms in recent years. These platforms aim to bring transparency, efficiency, and convenience to agricultural transactions. However, the landscape is dynamic, and several factors influence its current status.

Growth: Agri-input digital marketplaces have been growing due to the increased adoption of technology in rural India. Farmers are increasingly using these platforms to procure quality seeds, fertilisers, pesticides, and other essential inputs.

Government Initiatives: Various government initiatives aimed at promoting digital agriculture platforms have further contributed to the growth of the sector. Visionary programmes like e-NAM (National Agriculture Market) designed to connect agricultural markets online, have the potential to create a substantial impact over time.

Challenges: Persistent challenges such as digital literacy, limited internet connectivity in rural areas, and trust in online transactions continue to pose obstacles. As technology advances rapidly, the essential skills required for its utilisation become crucial. There are still pockets of regions with low or intermittent internet access, even though mobile phone penetration has accelerated over the last few years. Establishing last-mile delivery systems in remote locations remains a challenge.

Opportunity: Despite challenges, new opportunities are emerging that can propel the sector’s growth. Platforms like Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC), for instance, can provide an avenue for every seller or brand to reach a broader audience of farmers across the country. This presents an opportunity for brands or sellers to expand their reach and offerings rapidly while providing farmers access to a more extensive range of products.

Which segment of agri-input is leading in the e-commerce market, and what are the driving factors of the agri-input e-commerce market?

We are witnessing a surge in farmers’ interest across various categories within agri-input e-commerce, including Seeds, Crop Nutrition, Crop Protection products and Farm Implements. However, each of these categories requires distinct levels of service in terms of advisory. For example, farmers often seek advisory support to identify the nature of the pest attacks on their crops before using crop protection products.

Some of the factors that are driving the growth of the sector include:

Access to Quality Inputs: E-commerce platforms aim to provide farmers with access to a diverse range of high-quality agricultural inputs, enabling them to make informed choices based on their specific crop and soil requirements. Marketplaces enable brands to reach a broader audience and explore new regions.

Advisory Services: One of the core issues faced by farmers is the lack of information about progressive farming practices. To be an effective agri e-commerce marketplace, companies must prioritise building robust advisory capabilities. This includes offering crop management tips, pest control advice, and guidance on suitable inputs, thereby enhancing the overall value proposition for farmers.

Convenience: Online purchasing offers a convenient alternative to farmers, saving them time and effort compared to traditional methods. Farmers can browse, select, and order products from the comfort of their homes.

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