Ok, so we are now we are an 840 mn strong mobile phone market. What next? How do we use the fact that there is at least some sort of a communication device with the majority of the population? I think of this as a hub and spoke system. 840+ million people are equipped to receive data from different centralized and decentralized sources. And this must be utilized to fill the gaps.
TCS is already on it. They have come up with a solution known as mKrishi. This service provides farmers (around half of our work force) advice about how to best go about their agriculture cycle, keeping in mind various factors like weather forecasting, other macro-economic factors, location etc. All enabled through a cell phone and web interface. It’s like having the expertise and resources of TCS at your fingertips.
The service, known as Mobile Agro Advisory System, “connects farmers with an ecosystem that empowers them to make sound decisions about agriculture, drive profits and conserve the environment”. I’d say it’s about time. There is a lot of thrust to increase agriculture productivity and enable farmers to get better returns from their produce. There are also a lot of studies being done around the globe on how access to mobile phones impact agriculture in particular.
This research study mentions, “Mobiles impact information asymmetry in the agriculture setup. It also helps in bridging the gap between the availability and delivery of agricultural inputs and agriculture infrastructure”. In other words, farmers are much better informed (about prices and resource availability) and their produce can now reach far beyond what it used to, earning them more and reducing wastage too.
Another research study done on Niger (Africa) concludes “the introduction of mobile phones is associated with a 10 to 16 percent reduction in price dispersion across markets, with a larger impact for those market pairs with higher transport costs”
But mKrishi doesn’t stop there. Its offerings include a sensor based “Automatic Weather Station”, Geographical Information system, and a lot of other features (see here). It effectively is a one stop, mobile enabled shop for farmers to get very useful information to enhance their yield.
With a possible 10-16 percent reduction in price dispersion and reduced information gaps, I think we can help a lot of farmers get a more standardized price, and hence get a better deal for their crops, tremendously helping their financial situation. If things go well, this may also help reduce farmer suicides.
There are some challenges too though. Educating farmers to use the system well is a one, ensuring their participation by sharing their personal data is another (Read TCS CTO K. Ananth Krishnan’s interview here). But as with any technology S-Curve, I am hopeful mKrishi will catch-up soon to empower farmers and propel India forward towards a more inclusive growth.