The Indian economy is mainly based on agriculture, with almost 24.6% of the total population involved in cultivation. However, farmers still face challenges when getting produce to the consumer. Most of the time, the involvement of a middleman lowers profit of the farmers, and they are left receiving a lower price than what they deserve.
In recent years, the government has tried to create policies that support Indian agriculture, but it is still a challenge to include small and medium scale farmers in this growth process. Many are left wondering how they can interact more directly with the farmer in order to get the right price, and ensure that the produce reaches the consumer in a good state.
This is where Connectfarmer.com comes into the picture. The website is a platform that brings consumers and farmers together, eliminating the middleman. The website lists various products, ranging from groceries to spices and artistic products. The consumer can also select the state and district where the products originate from, and they can place an order online.
Connectfarmer.com was founded by Shrikrishna Hegde, a The DO School, Germany graduate. Shrikrishna himself belongs to an agricultural family, and thus he knows first-hand what problems faced by farmers. Describing his background, Shrikrishna says “I am basically from a smallholder agriculture family. I was born and raised in a village. During the college days, I was attracted towards the rural entrepreneurship sector. My village background and interest in agriculture made me investigate the current opportunities in the agriculture sector and since I was a commerce student, I did a detailed study of the commercial viability of agriculture activities, and found the real problem faced by farmers”.
According to him, “Agricultural Marketing” is unorganized and unpredictable in India. There are no guarantees about price or demand. Thus, he decided to do something to target this problem. His initial dream was to start a Cooperative Marketing Federation at state level for agricultural products. However, at that point he said as a 23 years old it was a bit too complex to execute successfully. As a way to achieve similar goals in a more manageable way, Shrikrishna though of an online platform for agricultural products. The venture actually stemmed from a research project so it took more than a year for Shrikrishna to transform the project into a social enterprise. The major restructuring of Shrikrishna’s venture happened at The DO School. Sharing his experience there, Shrikrishna explains, “This is where I really learned how to run a social enterprise. Romy Kreamer, and Rakesh Kasturi were my mentors, and I really have to thank them for the unconditional support.”
Like any entrepreneurial journey, Shrikrishna also faced many challenges from arranging funds to identifying appropriate software developers. However, he claims that his major challenge was hiring right person, as the agriculture sector currently fails to attract the necessary talent. Eventually, Shrikrishna found the right match for his venture in Balachandra Hegde and Shriganesh Bhat. Balachandra Hegde is working as the Chairperson of the ConnectFarmer and he joined the company through a personal connection. He is a Landscape Ecologist and a Farmer himself, whereas Shriganesh Bhat is working as a Software Engineer.
Having a degree in commerce came handy to Shrikrishna when it came handling the necessary clearance from government and other legal issues. Shrikrishna could also reduce the investment costs by tapping the vast network of India Post. Instead of managing a warehouse, the farm products are directly shipped from farmers to the consumer through India Post which is reliable and cheap.
As far as the vision for his venture is concerned, Shrikrishna wants to expand his business to rest of the India and involve more farmers beyond the districts of Karnataka state. Shrikrishna offers the following words of encouragement to young entrepreneurs: “Make a good network by attending as many events as possible in the relevant field. Always keep your elevator pitch ready! But most importantly: Dream big, start small, and never quit. Failures and challenges are very common, so never compare yourself with anyone: it’s just waste of time and will just bring your confidence down.”
By Padmanapan Rao