Talking to Biz Innings, Naveen Velpula, founder & CEO of NaPanta says, he firmly believes in transforming agriculture industry into a high revenue generating business through his NaPanta mobile application
At a Glance
NaPanta is an Agricultural crop management mobile application using Android platform with a farmer base of 70,000+ as on 18-Mar-2018, in both states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
NaPanta is an Agritech startup incubated and supported by AIP-ICRISAT and IIIT-Hyderabad. NaPanta helps farmers to access real-time and dynamic information pertaining to daily market prices of 3500+ markets and 300+ Agri commodities along with 3-years price trend with a simple mobile internet connection. This free mobile application allows farmers to track their expenses in an organized manner. NaPanta is a tailor-made app for farmers which gives detailed information on pesticides, insecticides, weather forecast, crop insurance, cold storage across Andhrapradesh and Telangana. Its unique features enable the farmers to hire agriculture equipment for very affordable rentals, farmers can also sell their produce directly online without any middlemen.
NaPanta has reached 6,400+ villages and 60,00,000 farmer interactions with the app. The daily unique farmer visitors are 3,000+ and more than 25,000+ Daily App interactions happen with NaPanta.
Mr Naveen, what is your app all about? what’s your USP?
A farmer can get the required service or Information in less than 1 min of turn around time for all his crop-related issues which is available in the application. NaPanta app covers complete pest and disease management details over 90+ crops covered with 400+ chemical formulates, and its detailed usage on each crop and each pest. We also extended the services with one extra mile by providing 3000+ pesticide products of 26+ companies like Bayer and Tata Rallies. Farmers can compare and choose the best-suited pesticide product among the pool of products by various companies.
What percentage of farmers use mobile apps in India? does this really serve the purpose?
With a pickup in the Internet usage and increase in smartphone penetration in rural areas, farmers are able to make use of the Internet to research on farming solutions. Apps are providing real-time data about weather, local markets, seeds, fertilizers among other things. With Internet connectivity getting very affordable and the reach expanding to even the remotest areas of the country, these apps boosting the agriculture sector in India.
How is the youth in the country pursuing agriculture, what are the drastic changes that we can witness in this sector in the coming years?
India is witnessing the reverse trend at this moment, youth are taking up agriculture as their prime career. The huge market opportunities and increased demand for food supply chain is attracting various professionals to look back to agriculture. Since several tech innovations occurred in this place, it has become easy and convenient for youth to adopt precision farming techniques. The government is providing various subsidies and promoting safer agriculture practices, which is an opportunity for the new age farming requirements. As the second generation is overtaking the farming from their parents, this eventually enhances the agriculture sector capabilities in India.
Going forward what is the role of technology in Agriculture? Where do you fit in it?
The technology usage in agriculture has just started in India. in next 2-5 years, the agriculture system will upscale by the technological innovations in Agri Space. In the near future, FaaS (farming as service) solutions can help to address inefficiencies across the agricultural supply chain, such as low productivity, lack of farm mechanization, access to market and data asymmetry. FaaS has the potential to spark an economic social revolution by improving the status of small and marginal farmers in India. NaPanta is already being widely considered as one of the stakeholder of tech evolution in Agriculture system in India.
Effective communication is the need of the hour in Indian agriculture, it can fill the gaps in the entire system. The expertise and solutions to the problems in farming upheld with the agricultural officer/scientists hardly reach to the farmer. There is a huge gap between the actual on-field situations and government supported activities. To fill these gap we developed the app and offered it to the farmers for free. Our app is designed primarily to serve small and marginal farmers.
Farmers with small land holding (less than 5 acres), struggle a lot to find information on genuine seeds, crop protection solutions, details on cultivation etc. In spite of all the running around, they get very little information and that too is not accurate. If the pest attacks their farm, by the time they collect the details and purchase the pesticide they would have wasted 3-4 days and pest would ruin their crop. So we have provided the complete details along with the related images on crop cultivation and protection. It is precise information with the well-defined solution. This saves farmers time and the results will also turn very positive if followed properly.
Resources or Technology? what do you think is future backbone of agriculture?
The perfect blend of resources and technology can increase the precision agriculture practices, which helps towards higher productivity with an increase in profitability.
Connecting farmers and Agri equipment suppliers is really a great Idea, how does this benefit both?
In India, farm mechanization is as low as at 40% compared to 95% mechanization in the USA. Average farm size in India is less than 2 hectares, which is far lower than developed regions which are highly mechanised. Larger farm machinery is difficult to operate on such land holdings and in some cases actually completely unsuitable. Farm equipment is capital intensive, making it a major investment for small and marginal farmers. Quality of after-sale service is another concern due to the inadequacy of proper maintenance in remote regions of rural areas. We are trying to connect Agri equipment owners and suppliers with farmers at the village level. Hence, we are able to reduce the service time of Agri equipment for the farmer and enhance the productivity of equipment supplier. Both parties are benefiting from this connecting activity.
You are associated with some NGO’s, what kind of ecosystem you are aiming to build and how does it help Indian agriculture.
Building an IoT system for agriculture is a challenge. At the same time, educating the farmer about the usage of technology in agriculture is another challenge. Educating the farmers has to happen at regular intervals at the village level, but it is very tough to execute. With the help of some NGO’s, we are successfully handling this issue.
Being a young entrepreneur, you have chosen this unconventional route, what led you to it?
A farmer near to my village killed himself as he was cheated with adulterated cotton seeds. He had no option to recover the loss or repay the cost incurred for the crop. I was shocked to learn that for a measly profit of Rs.300, the unknown dealer was willing to sell fake seeds. Such a small profit margin costs the farmer his life. These suicides were echoing across villages, and that disturbed me. They lack the correct information about farming inputs like seeds, fertilizers, machinery, and types of equipment. Besides, there is no one to give them the guidance. Therefore to fill in these missing information gaps in the agriculture we developed the app and offered it for free of cost to the farmers.
How did you succeed in nurturing your Idea into a successful business model?
In Initial days, we were majorly concentrated on dissemination of Agri information to the farmer community. After building 50,000+ farmer base we thought of building a business model with this base. However, we found Agri Mechanization is one of the opportunities, where we immediately acted on. We are also planning to trade various Agri products through our online platform apart from the Agri commodity trading.
Your business model looks tailor-made for farmers, does this fit into the urban lifestyle?
NaPanta app is exclusively designed for the farmer with hand holding information about various crops they cultivate. To cater the urban lifestyle we are planning to come up with an innovative idea as a sub-product of NaPanta, which may hit the market by September 2018.
What more can we expect from your kitty in the future? Any plans on expanding into international markets?
NaPanta is a powerful tool for dissemination of agriculture information. With the help of ICRISAT, NaPanta has got international visibility, one of the African country named “Malawi” is interested in NaPanta, to serve their agriculture needs. We are happy to extend our services to Malawi with “NaPanta – Malawi” version. The talks are in advance stages, yet to confirm by both parties. After launching our app in Malawi, we have plans to serve other African countries too.
What advice do you want to give to the youth who want to enter into Agri space?
For youth who want to enter into farming: my sincere suggestion is, please start cultivation with a very limited area like an acre or a half acre for a season or two. Get the essence of farming, then enter into the field with larger cultivation area. We have several examples of who are passionate about agriculture and left their decent jobs and failed in farming activity without having proper knowledge.For those who want to help the farmers: “Farmers are no more interested in theory and verbal comprehension! they are interested in facts and factual attained by other farmers in their field. Give them the right information and proper guidance, there will be a great development in Indian agriculture for sure”.