FARMS is a new-age digital platform catering to the needs of farmers. “It is a one-stop solution for farmers providing a complete spectrum of products and services that include seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, animal feed, and more, with products delivered right at their doorstep,” says Alok Duggal, founder, and COO of this agri startup. The idea originated two years back, but the seed was sown many years ago. “Being from a small town in Punjab, I have seen farmers from close quarters, heard about challenges first-hand, known many for decades, and have always felt a kinship towards the community,” he informs.
Duggal’s stint at ING introduced him to the world of micro-finance and the rural ecosystem. “I learned about the pain points of the farming community. So, after spending 10 years in distribution and supply chain with JCDecaux and Home Studio, I took a break to go around the northern and central parts of the country’s farming belt and tried to understand the struggles of the farmers,” he says.
According to him, farmers in the interiors of Haryana, Punjab, UP, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, MP, and Karnataka face several challenges in all the stages of the production cycle—limited market information and knowledge, limited access to quality seeds, fertilizers, and agrochemicals and to top it, a farmer has to waste an entire day when he travels to nearby towns to purchase farm inputs. Most of the purchasing is done without a receipt and traveling through multiple points. The farmer then has to carry kilos of material back, in many cases after borrowing money from the moneylender.
“So, amid the pandemic, Farms was introduced as the single point platform to address all these issues,” says Duggal. “Modelled almost as the Amazon – one-stop online shop for the farming community, farmers, don’t just buy seeds, agrochemicals, animal feed, and bio-fertilizer as they need, at the click of a button, but also have access to a huge inventory of well-known brands available directly from the manufacturers. Farms, through its in-house logistic channel, deliver the goods to the farmer’s doorstep. This will eventually solve many of the everyday challenges a farmer faces, be it genuine products or delivery of bulky products,” he says.
Talking about the impact the venture has made so far, Duggal says, “One of the biggest successes would be the proof of being able to make a difference in the lives of 60% of dairy farmers from 14 villages in Kota, Rajasthan. The beneficiaries saw an increase of 16% in their average income and with the same advancement y-o-y, Farms targets to double the income of farmers by 2024.” Similarly, the Farms team has ensured that farmers growing wheat or paddy in Rudrapur, Uttarakhand, or in Bathinda, Punjab, get the best variety of seed well in advance to plan their sowing on time.
“The other success I would say is our reach,” says Duggal. “Our penetration is currently across Punjab, Haryana, Uttarakhand, UP, Rajasthan, and MP. We have built a strong connection with the farming community by delivering more than 1000 products daily at the farmer’s doorstep. Today, we are connected to eight lakh farmers with strong and deeper coverage of more than 20,000 villages. At the time of the pandemic, our entire team delivered products to farmers at their homes in their villages, covering more than 200 pin codes.”
Farms have close to 50 leading brands such as Bayer, Godrej Agrovet, Deheus, PI Industries, Crystal Crop, Asses (Paras), Corteva on board as partners. “We were bootstrapped for the initial 12 months by raising money from family and friends. However, strong business traction has put us on the radar of the investment community. We are raising funds and have already got some concrete commitments,” he informs.