The Agribusiness Matters Digest Edition
Round Up/Summary of Previous Agribusiness Matters Editions. Starting from Day 1
I am updating this section with older posts, as and when I further update this blog. This archives section was last updated in November 2020.
Supply Chain and Agri-Input Retailing
The classic Beer Game is fun to play in Supply Chain 101 Class. Until you consider it's implications on Indian farmers and the agri-input supply chain. If you are serious about transforming the agri-input supply chain, here is your biggest challenge.
The Beer Game has been playing out sadly for several decades in the agri-input retail, making farmers buy agri-inputs that are either unnecessary or appropriate, causing them further undue economic stress.
It’s strange to observe how these stories repeat, whether for selling automated precision irrigation system or good old pesticides to farmers, with similar characteristics.
Unlike what English speaking urban #Agtech folks like you and me would like to believe, Middlemen have not organised themselves in the agri-input supply chain with evil notorious means to enslave the farmers.
Sure, the shenanigans exploit when the right opportunity arises. But, you can't make a point-blank statement calling middle-men evil, just because media loves to paint a villain and the shakers and movers of agritech (read investors) are betting on disintermediation.
Can a horizontal B2B e-commerce player with an estimated operating expense of 60 crores a month teach something of value in agri-input e-commerce?
What makes Udaanisation of Agri-Input Supply Chain a likely contender to shape the future of agri-input retailing are two fundamental assumptions.
Assumption-1: Traditional Agri-Input Retailers matter in the long run.
Assumption-2: You can't create any long-term impact in the future of agri-input commerce without addressing the credit needs of traditional agri-input retailers.
When Bayer announced their partnership with Agrostar, if you cared to pay attention to the devil’s detail, you would realize that this isn't a regular rom-com fare, bleeding with cloying romantic gooeyness. It makes you wonder: What is really happening beneath the surface?
The greatest retail organisations of yesterday and today viz, Walmart and Amazon, have become extremely successful for one deeply under-appreciated reason.
These companies have fine-tuned their operations to such an extent that they have designed and implemented their own algorithms in the market at scale with surgical precision across decades. Agri-Input Retailing today is also witnessing a similar tale of two algorithms. However, only one seems profitable. Which one is it?
If you don’t mind my joke at the expense of Gartner, having once vehemently criticized their business model, you would realize that I have called this unmagic quadrant for a simple reason. I cannot promise good things to happen to startups who find themselves in not just the right side, but any side of the quadrant.
Is it possible to map the supply and demand levers for digital agronomy services? The supply levers can be broadly categorized based on the level of interaction provided by the agronomy player to its farmers. The demand levers can be categorized based on whether the agronomy model is predicated on a free-to-use or pay-to-use model.
a) You may be going digital. But, don't forget the humble telephone!
b) Please don't treat the Indian Farmer as the Product!
c) Acknowledge the Dharmasankata (double bind) in going with free agronomy advice business model.
Can crop advisory startups like Plantix fulfil their promise to reduce the inputs required for farming in India? If Rebound effect (reduction in expected gains from new technologies that increase the efficiency of resource use) is inevitable in the case of Digital Agriculture, thanks to Jevons’ Paradox, how do we make sense of Plantix strategy?
The Small Holder Farmer’s Precarious Predicament
Every time a pandemic occurs, as historians and wise men living on the Internet have observed, we humans are forced to think about defaults. How do we make sense of the crucial default design pattern which has shaped the business of agriculture so far?
What does it take to make markets work for smallholder farmers in India? If you go back to Economics 101, you would know that for markets to work, it must fulfil three criteria. Call it 3 Ps
a) Private Property
c) Profit and Loss
Can we examine these three dimensions to unpack the complexity of making markets work for smallholder farmers in India?
If I were to dramatize the story of Indian Agriculture and Indian Agtech, I feel tempted to tell a story of two siblings who were born from the same womb, but in different eras of this vast subcontinent. The elder one discovered his youthful exuberance in Socialist Bharat. The younger one was born in a globalized India with access to unlimited capital and exponential technologies.
It is also a classic Bollywood tale of two siblings who separated at the beginning only to be reunited towards the end.
If you carefully look beyond your biases and really observe what's happening on the ground, two visions about the future of agriculture have been quietly playing out, competing with each other.
Agriculture, by its very nature, is an infinite game. Perhaps that’s why it is the toughest nut to crack, the last brave domain that has so far withstood the onslaught of digitalization sweeping across the globe.
Emerging Agritech Business Models
a) Perpetuate the Scarcity Myth and Proclaim that your Agritech Startup will Feed the World b) Place the Agritech Cart Before the Agriculture Horse c) Paint Middle-men as Evil and Introduce Silicon-Valley style Aggregator Marketplace d)Build Free Apps for Farmers while dreaming of Data Marketplaces.
The streets of Indian Agriculture are not paved with gold for digital crop advisory players looking to tap into emerging markets like India with a salivating mobile user base. Essentially, for digital farming to make strategic sense, there are two roads. Which one would you choose?
Before we set out to understand the #Farmbills Controversy, it is essential to understand fundamental tenets about Indian Agriculture. You need to understand why Agriculture is Politics. You need to understand why common Man’s perception of Indian Agriculture belies the ground reality. And last but not the least, The Common Man Needs to Understand how she is culpable in the larger scheme of things.
Why does the government want to eliminate middlemen from agriculture through #FarmBills? What is the role of middlemen in Indian agriculture? What role do they play in the agri-input and agri-output supply chain? Why are farmers protesting against the government’s vain attempts to eliminate middlemen from agriculture, if the latter is purportedly profiting at the expense of farmers?
I have always felt that the depth of your understanding of any domain is directly proportional to your ability to take opposing stands and argue them convincingly. Since I did my share of criticizing the government for hasty agricultural reforms, I must take the reverse gear and do the needful to appreciate the government for its ambitious attempt to tackle a tough problem by its horns.
When I look at the flurry of developments happening across different states, ever since the Farm bills became Acts through presidential assent, it seems appropriate to state that what we are witnessing is the grand Samudra Manthan of Indian agriculture.