In India, the agricultural sector occupies a vital position in the overall economy of the country as would be clear from the following:
i. Share of Agriculture in National Income:
Agriculture has got a prime role in Indian economy. Though the share of agriculture in national income has come down, still it has a substantial share in GDP. The contributory share of agriculture in Gross Domestic Product was 55.4 percent in 1950-51, 52 percent in 1960-61 and is reduced to 18.5 percent only at present. The share of the agricultural sector’s capital formation in GDP has declined from 2.2 percent in the late-1999s to 1.9 per cent in 2005-06.
ii. Important Contribution to Employment:
Agriculture sector, at present, provides livelihood to 65 to 70 per cent of the total population. The sector provides employment to 58.4 per cent of country’s workforce and is the single largest private sector occupation.
iii. Important Source of Industrial Development:
Various important industries in India find their raw material from agriculture sector -cotton and jute textile industries, sugar, vanaspati, etc. are directly dependent on agriculture. Handlooms, spinning oil milling, rice thrashing, etc. are various small scale and cottage industries, which are dependent on agriculture sector for their raw material. This highlights the importance of agriculture in industrial development of the nation.
iv. Importance in International Trade:
India’s foreign trade is deeply associated with agriculture sector. Agriculture accounts for about 14.7 per cent of the total export earnings. Besides, goods made with the raw material of agriculture sector also contribute about 20 per cent in Indian exports. In other words, agriculture and its related goods contribute about 38 per cent in total exports of country.
In short, agriculture occupies a central place in the Indian economy. Its performance sets the pace of growth in the economy as a whole. It should, however, be noted that Indian agriculture is still in the state of backwardness, the per capita productivity in agriculture is less than in industry
At the same time agriculture has lot of issues like excess of irrigation, lack of water for irrigation, many a times young farmers are not able to understand what pesticides and fertilizers to use and how much to use.
Today we are providing exclusive interview of a very innovative and young startup which uses AI-powered IoT platform for Agriculture ecosystem that records a variety of growing conditions on the farm. It then uses artificial intelligence and data science to make on-farm predictions and delivers the insights anywhere on any device.
Lets see what the startup owners has to tell about their concept and their startup and lets explore their entire journey.
1.What is the Name of Your Venture? Any specific reason for this name?
The name of our venture is ‘Fasal‘. ‘Fasal’ means ‘crop’ in hindi. Fasal helps farmers make data-driven decision to increase their crop yield. `Fasal` defines the purpose of our venture.
2.Who is your target Audience/clients?
Our target audience/clients are Farmers who are progressive and are ready to adapt to new technology which can help improve their yield and income.
Various institutional farmers are also our customers like Grover Zampa Vineyards, Chawda Bhag, Lohan Krishi Farm etc.
3.Where is your venture based (city, state, country) & What are your geographical target areas?
Our venture is based out of Bangalore, Karnataka. In India we are targeting Karnataka, Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, East U.P., Assam, Punjab, West Bengal.
4.What problems does your venture resolve? What are your products or services?
Most decision in farming is out of guesswork and experience, which is not accurate and many a times it goes wrong which leads to loss in production and poor yield quality.
Fasal is an AI-powered IoT platform for Agriculture ecosystem that records a variety of growing conditions on the farm. It then uses artificial intelligence and data science to make on-farm predictions and delivers the insights anywhere on any device including (iOS, Android, Tablet and web).
Fasal provides the following benefits to our customers:
- Costs savings in usage of water, energy, fertilizers, and pesticides.
- Product losses prevention by controlling weather conditions to adequate harvest times.
- Automate the daily farming routines and help farmers to focus on more critical farming tasks.
- Real-time monitoring and alarm notifications about the field and crop conditions to help farmers to make early adjustments to reach the optimal growth conditions.
- Insights, future predictions and analytics to help farmers make more data driven decisions.
5.Share the idea or story behind the venture. How did it came to an existence? What motivated you to start your own venture?
Fasal was started as an attempt to help my dad (a vegetable farmer in East U.P. India). He was constantly losing yield because of unpredictable weather conditions and cost of cultivation was high with respect to the market price. Many in my village were facing same issue for a very long time. After being graduated from IIITB and worked in industry for more than 6 years in building scalable enterprise saas products, I had this thought of helping my dad for couple of years now but technology was not there at that time. After IoT and ML became prominent in tech domain, I thought it is the right time to validate my idea.
I started discussing this with my friend (Shailendra Tiwari) who is an excellent product manager and he helped me build a quick prototype which we tested at my dad’s farm and within 2 weeks we started seeing the results in. My dad cut down his irrigation schedule to 50% to maintain a fix water tension that the crop needed. We got excited and dropped couple of mails to vineyards where maintaining water level is highly important to maintain sugar content and berry size in grapes.
We got an invite from the largest vineyard in India called Grover Zampa, they installed our MVP and within 2 months of time they were able to save various sprays for downy mildew disease by getting early prediction from our product and they are able to maintain required water level at primary and secondary root level to maintain the grape quality.
We saw the need and the market and quit our jobs in December and presented our Idea to NASSCOM CoE IoT (Govt. of India) Bangalore and got selected without a pitch. That helped us getting more structured and gave a push to make a product available in the market. We worked all focused in Dec and released our private Beta. We went to the largest vegetable province in India in Jan first week – Chattisgarh and did pilot with 5 more farmers from small to large scale. We registered our company on 11th jan 2018. This went very successful and we started getting traction without even any marketing just word of mouth from farmer to farmer. Right now we have 5 pre-sale order and end of this month, 3 of them will be on-boarded to our platform.
We are receiving more than 10 inquires a day for our platform subscription and we are selecting customers only if we think he/she will be the right person to start early. And to scale our product to pan India and other countries, we started looking for investments. It is being 3 weeks when we started applying for investor pitches and we are currently interviewing 8 early stage investors and 1 has already sent us an offer.
6.Who are your biggest competitors and how do you differentiate yourself from them?
In India and abroad we have couple of competitors working in same domain. Most of them are in market for more than 3 years now. And they all are primarily hardware vendors.
On the other hand we have built a platform which is hardware agnostic and can work with any hardware platform available today or tomorrow. It has helped us to make a quick entry in the market (3-4 months and we have 2 paying customers and 6 pilots running). Also, we are focused on adding more offering to our platform to help farmers grow better and grow more.
Apart from all above we have received various complements for our service. We make sure customer requests are addressed on time and with efficiency. We are a customer first company. It sets us apart from any of our competitors.
7.How did you identify your co-founder? Tell us some thing about your co-founder/s
My co-founder Mr. Shailendra Tiwari was working with me for last 2.5 years. I was his engineering lead and he was my product manager.
Apart from that he is a graduate from NIFT in industrial engineering and hold a very strong expertise in User Experience, User Research and Product Development.
8.How did you hired your first team members? What skills Do you want in your employees/team?
We are hiring people from our internal network as of now. People who share common passion and hunger to build something which can make an impact to the society.
Our team works on auto-pilot. Every member in our team take complete responsibility and ownership of his/her work. That is something which we are always looking in any candidate.
9.What expansion plans are you looking for the next 2 years, next 5 years?
Next 2 Years
We looking forward to expand our reach to all above mentioned provinces of India and enable precision agriculture. We want our platform to be accessible by small farmer by means of collaboration with Central and State Govt. to install our devices at panchayat level.
In long term we also want start open initiatives and training programs to educate and share knowledge with farmers about new and sustainable agriculture practices like vertical farming and hydroponics etc.
Next 5 Years
- Expand our reach to latin america, western europe and other countries where agriculture is a prominent factor in their GDP.
- Start Soil testing services and make it reachable to masses.
10.Where do you want to see yourself in next 10 years?
Well, I want to see Fasal reaches to every farmer and help them produce more food and better quality food.
New generation population takes agriculture as serious occupation and not the last choice.
And I will probably be growing vegetable and fruits at my farm using ‘Fasal’ in 10 year 🙂
11.What are your goals over the next 1, 3, 6 and 12 months?
Right now we are focused on getting investment so that we can scale. We have started receiving pre-orders. We will start shipping from May-June. We are also looking towards strengthening our product offering by adding more disease prediction models and pest prediction models, expanding engineering and research team.
12.Have you raised any funding? Or have any plans for the funding?
We started with funds provided by our Friend and Family. We are currently looking for seed funding and we are in touch with various early stage investors. Some of them have already made an offer which is yet to be finalised.
13.What were the problems you faced during the starting days and how did you resolve them?
Operations were the biggest challenge. Installing devices in a remote location and providing a good customer service was a real pain.
We started setting up Distribution network and appointed our product engineers in all the regions we cover. It has helped us overcome the operational challenge and we are still providing same level of service guarantee.
14.What was the most challenging part of your journey till now? How did you overcome those challenges?
Very interesting question. I would like to tell you small story which will answer your question –
When we were onboarding our Chattisgarh pilot customers and installed Fasal. One of them called us next days saying your system is not working because it was showing minimum temp of 4 degree celsius when the thermometer in his room was showing 8 degree. He was not ready to believe us because for last 8+ years he is doing farming with data provided by weather station installed at 40 kms aways from his farm.
We went to his farm stayed there for 4 hours during evening and took his thermometer and put it near the farm. He was shocked to know that for all these years he was wrong and that was the reason he was never the full yield which he was expecting. Sharing his testimony – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BqlqCum7FhY
There were multiple such incidents happened when people were not ready to accept and finally realised that there were doing wrong for long time.
- Are you married, single or in a relationship?
I got married recently and I started ‘Fasal’ just after my marriage. You can guess how much support and sacrifice is being made by my wife Neha.
16.What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
I am a traveller. Whenever I get few days off, I pack my bags and roam around valleys and mountains. I also like reading biographies in my free times.
17.Whats your favorite food & holiday destination?
I like all Indian cuisine. My favorite holiday destination is Maldives islands.
18.Whom do you consider your idol or biggest motivator?
My younger brother. Yes, he is 3 years younger than me and runs his own media startup – Fossbytes Media.
I do remember how he started, the various difficulties he faced and finally made it to this level. He kept on pushing me for working on my ideas for very long and he is the one who funded me to start ‘Fasal’.
19.What do you feel is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?
The risk taking ability.
20.If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
I would be ready to take risk early and build more ventures.
21.How has being an entrepreneur affected your family & Social life?
Though I have less time for family affairs but I am more happy and it reflect in my family too, they feel proud.
22.Anything, you would like to say to our readers or upcoming entrepreneurs?
If you have an idea and you believe in it, take risk early in your life. You might fail or succeed, but in both cases you will learn and become better. Learn to make trade off decisions and value your time. Submitting a not-so-perfect pitch is far far far better than not submitting it at all on time.
23.Tell us something about your education & family background.
I have completed my masters in Software Engineering from IIIT-B. My family belongs to a village called Bhudhawar in Azamgarh (U.P.) where I had my primary education. My dad is a well known farmer in my village.
24.What is your USP which makes it unique & different from other start-ups in similar domains.
We understand the domain very well because we belong to the same background. We don’t go to our customer in gucci shoes and blackberry trousers and talk a language which they don’t understand. We know how we can build the trust among them and we are dedicated to provide the level of service which is needed.
- What do you think is the biggest threat to the success of small businesses & Start-ups today?
Not managing the cash-flow. The greatest hurdle I feel when running a small business. Common cash flow management mistakes include overestimating future sales, failure to bring in the money owed by customers, over spending and the biggest culprit, not budgeting.
- Do you consider yourself successful and by what means do you measure success?
Not yet. There is a long way to go.
27.Please share complete name, address, phone number, email id & website of Your Business & Contact Person
Business (Product) Name – Fasal
Company Name – Wolkus Technology Solutions Pvt. Ltd.
EmailId – [email protected]
Website – http://fasal.co
Address – Wolkus HQ, NASSCOM CoE IoT, Domlur, Bengaluru, Karnataka – 560008
Contact Person- Vaibhav Singh Rajput
Ph – 0-8792500192
Ananda Prakash Verma
Vaibhav Singh Rajput