BW Businessworld

Local Crop Has More Resistance To Climate Change: Co-Founder, CropConnect

Unless there is demand in the market farmers do not grow their products. Demand of the right product is all that matters

In an interaction with BW Businessworld, the co-founder of CropConnect, Ishira Mehta speaks about various aspects that effect agriculture trade. Ishira is a former World Bank employee turned agriculture entrepreneur. She had covered over eighty thousand kilometers in three years, while visiting more than twenty one districts to connect with farmers.

What is your market based model?

We start with farmers as they grow what sells in market. Unless there is demand in the market they do not grow their products. Demand of the right product is all that matters. There is an entire value chain connected with it. We create demand in the market, and then we directly buy products from farmers and sell it in market. Our Market based model is all about it. Here we are basically dealing in traditional and indigenous crops, which are suitable for local farmers as well. Regional crops have their own resistance to difficult climates. Even farmers get profit from it.

How will it change the condition of farmers?

We are working only in indigenous crops as I have told you. Imagine a farmer is growing millet in some land, where drought is a common occurrence. As it’s a local crop, it can handle the less water. Now, the chances naturally comes down to face loss because, it suites the nature and climate. Selling such products, do help regional farmers as well.

What made you found CropConnect?

I had my career with World Bank for a long time where I had to work for various agriculture value chains. I have developed this interest during the same period. I thought of connecting farmers to the market and my partner Punit had somehow a similar kind of an idea. We wanted to bridge the gap between farmers and market. It had ignited me to found CropConnect. Then there is original Indian Table where we offer our traditional Indian products like rice and millets. It has strengthen the farmers and inspired them as well.

How technology play its part in agriculture, when farmers are fighting for very basic issues like seeds and markets?

It is not an either or situation. I feel technology can go hand in hand while tackling basic issues as technology can help farmers leapfrog and adopt latest available tech tools like weather forecasting, drip irrigation, access to market prices, crop advice etc. on their phones.

Goods and services tax (GST) has its impact on farmer produce organizations due to unawareness of the issues like price differences in fertilizer. How long you think it will take for a normal trade to come back?

Hard to say as the knowledge level of farmer producer organizations varies widely across the country but from our experience it should not take too long. All the farmer groups we work with have got a GST ID and have transitioned to doing GST transactions.

What will be your business strategy if government will allow foreign direct investment (FDI) in farmer markets? What if big multi-national players get directly involved?

We don't see a direct threat from multinationals as of now as our products are niche due to their indigenous and regional nature and do not meet the scale requirements of large companies. Overall, FDI in the agriculture sector might bring much needed investment in the supply chain especially at the farm gate level to reduce wastage and increase shelf life.

If you are asked to rate farmer issues on scale, how will you rate them?

I must say its inconsistency in price. Today, farmer is the only producer in nation who can’t decide the price of his own produce. Then there is an issue of Input cost, whatever is happening with farmers has a big role to play with it. We have created small groups of farmers, who can be trained to cut the input costs. I will rate connectivity to the market as the third major issue. It has also played big role, we have seen farmers not getting access to collection centers and ultimately, not getting the right market to sell their products.

Is it true that Gujarati’s are born business people?

There is some sort of truth in the statement. I do not prefer to work for other people. I feel restless doing it, therefore I would say yes, we love to do business.

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