In India where agriculture is the backbone of our country and 70% of the population is dependent on farming; we’re only at 40% level of mechanization for 14% of Agriculture GDP. We spoke to Khetigaadi.com founders to know what it means to encourage farm mechanization in India and their start-up’s contribution towards it. Pravin Shinde, Founder & CEO, and Vishnu Dhas, Co-Founder & Executive Director shares their thoughts on agriculture mechanization in India.
1. What inspired you to start your business? OR How did you become an entrepreneur? Can you tell us more about yourself?
ANS: Basically we have humble roots being farmers’ sons. It is open for all of us to see what kind of hardships our farmers face when in fact they should be everyone’s priority because they harvest the food we need for our living.
For the lack of an efficient system that’ll help farmers address their operational problems and to encourage farm mechanization, Khetigaadi was founded with an aim to conquer these major challenges. Our farmers and the farming community are significant contributors towards the ecosystem and yet are the most neglected ones. Our core objectives are to educate them with right knowledge of farm mechanization, to encourage them to deploy it and optimize yield and of course to empower them with latest farming technology. We are already witnessing a positive difference with our initiatives amongst the farming community. Khetigaadi also aims at providing additional income to farmers and elevate their standard of living.
2. What core issue does your startup solves and how?
ANS: We have built Khetigadi after grass-root analyzation of problems and challenges faced by our farmers. It is a knowledge based advisory platform for farmers to use right technology as per one’s requirement. It is available in 9 regional languages with user-friendly interface and is as safe as an online banking portal. We have made it available as an App in 10 languages and our website can be viewed in 3 different languages. The concept is techno-savvy and compatible with IOS as well as Android. We don’t just offer buying, selling and renting of tractors & farm equipment but also guide them to boost their confidence in decision-making. Idea here is to grow our country’s mechanisation rate and advise farmers to use right technology at individual level.
3. Why did you choose Pune as your launch pad?
ANS: Pune is home and it is good to have a stable base when you want to venture into unchartered territories. We are only headquartered in Pune. For an IOT model, it doesn’t really matter. We are here to optimize reach and penetrate further into the rural network with the help of technology.
4. What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?
ANS: It’s amazing how we started and where Khetigaadi is today. When we started off, we did not even have all the information required to educate and convince the farmers, on one platform. It wasn’t available online nor were there any offline sources where we could collate it from. We reached out to various agriculture-based research centers and sometimes even purchased the much-need information and reports. This exercise took almost a year where we compiled all the data and studies that will help enlighten the farmers and convince them about the need for mechanization. We have also visited many agriculture events and exhibitions to collate data across the country. Internet availability and smart phone penetration was also a challenge, but now with JIO and competitive prices of smart phones things are much easier.
It was a matter of surprise to our brother farmers to know that information regarding tractors, farming tools etc can be sourced from the internet or viewed on a laptop/computer! It also looked like a barrier to them because everyone kept wondering when will the internet game reach rural areas and when will the farmers use this technology to their advantage. Why just farmers, but even sellers and manufacturers thought that our tech-enabled platform will be a challenge for farmers for lack of awareness.
We literally travelled village to village talking to farmers. Beginning with Nashik in Maharashtra and Jalandhar in Punjab, we met farmers one-one and explained the concept of Khetigaadi. After initial hiccups and disbelief (how can we get such advanced help so easily) our farmer friends were convinced about Khetigaadi.
5. What was the initial response to your brand and how did customer feedback help make changes for better?
ANS: We have been happy the way our brand has shaped up. In a country like India where mobile penetration and internet usage is at an all-time high; it only makes sense to utilize it positively. Initially, people had inhibitions as to how will they find answers to their farming operational queries on the phone/internet, but, with time it was all sorted. A lot of credit also goes to the younger farmer generation who took the initiative to educate their elder generation on technology usage to their benefit.
Knowing that not everyone is comfortable with handling smartphones and internet, our endeavour has forever been to make our platform as user-friendly as possible.
6. How do you want to measure success for your startup?
For us, we will be successful only when each and every farmland in our country will undergo a mechanized way of sowing, harvesting and thereafter. And it’ll be even more satisfying if Khetigaadi has a major role to play in it.
7. What motivates you as an entrepreneur?
ANS: Farmers, their challenges, our villages, techno-innovation in bringing about a positive change in the agricultural sector – all of these factors are motivational triggers for us.
8. What are you most paranoid about?
The very fact that everywhere around us the treatment and importance given to our ‘Annadatas’ is so casual and insensitive in a way. They should be an integral part of our lives because we eat the food that they take hardships to grow.
9. What has been the most rewarding part of your journey until now?
ANS: As entrepreneurs the satisfaction of being able to reach the grassroot level is immense. Today, with pride we stand at a 40 lakh strong community and are further raring to go.