When you think of start-ups you think cities, Starbucks and young people in tech parks. But the reality is that rural India is a vast market that can be tapped – if you have the know-how. The critical hurdle in rural areas is not just infrastructure or connectivity, but rather that most customers need more than a paid service, they need a solution that addresses a difficult shortage or need they may have. Most companies are unwilling to consider such social aspects, and hence do not venture into areas like farming. But things are changing, both among the companies and the farmers.
India is slowly, and perhaps inevitably, moving away from being an agriculture-dependent society.
A report put out by Credit Suisse says, “Rural India, in our view, is no longer an agrarian economy exposed to the vicissitudes of an erratic monsoon. All agriculture is rural by definition, but the converse is no longer true.”
While the vagaries of the monsoon are one of the prime reasons why farmers are moving away from agriculture, lack of adequate credit, no access to good equipment, and the hardships involved in these two things are major factors pushing farmers to move away to other occupations.
Sensing a need for such services, in 2016, Abhilash Tirupathy co-founded a company called Gold Farm, based on Farming as a Service (FaaS) model, where farmers can book any farm equipment, as per their requirement, through a mobile application and a call centre.
What started as a two-man team, today has grown into a 100 plus member company. The platform has been beneficial to more than 25,000 farmers till date.
In a report published in YourStory, Karthic, the co-founder says, “We realised that the entire agriculture ecosystem was credit driven. The farmer needed a tractor; the tractor owners would rent their equipment based on credit, making this business model risky; for in a bad year without a good crop yield where would the farmer get the money to repay him?”
In 2017, Gold Farm was successful in raising $2 million (Rs 13 crore) in seed funding from farm equipment, and automobile manufacturer Mahindra & Mahindra and early-stage venture catalyst Infuse Ventures.
Gold Farm has equipment hiring centres in 11 villages across Kolar and six in Gadag in Karnataka. Using the Gold Farm app or by dialling the call centre, farmers up in a 30 km radius from these centres can book tractors and other equipment.
Gold Farm offers a range of implements such as rotavators, disc harrows, rotary tillers and MB ploughs. The services are charged on an hourly basis, based on the tariff fixed by a local panel that includes a government representative, mainly the District Agriculture Department officials, as reported in Hindu Businessline.
An interesting idea that definitely needs more looking into!
(Edited By Vinayak Hegde)