Digitising seed ecosystem the Pando way

Update: 2019-04-20 18:31 GMT

A fertile seed holds key to farmers' prosperity. But getting hold of the right seed for a fruitful crop is not an easy task. Hyderabad-based agri-tech startup Kisangates Agro Informatics intends to change this. It developed an application called Pando which brings seed companies, dealers and farmers to single platform.

Founded in 2014 by Pradeep Raj, Kisangates Agro Informatics provides tech support to seed companies and their value chain.

The founder comes with an experience of 16 years in the field, having worked for Syngenta Pvt Ltd and Sathguru Management Consultants. The Nasscom 10k startup is incubated at iHub in Icrisat (International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics) here.

Agro sector underwent many developments in the last three decades, says Pradeep. "In the 1980s, the sector witnessed upswing in fertilisers, while 1990s was into hybridization.

In 2000, there were two major initiatives, being Biotech and farm services. Since the major idea that the industry had, called Biotech, got stalled, the companies did not have much to improve on the product front," he explains.

He further states that the only area that has room for development is enabling the existing ecosystem.

"Digitisation is the route for companies to reduce the cost to serve and reach out to more customers. Hence, I chose digital transformation, which in another 20-30 years is going to be the game changer in agro sector," he adds.

During his work experience, Pradeep realised that value chain initiative, executed as PoCs (Proof of Concept) was successful. However, it did not scale up effectively, and had to struggle with the cost to serve.

The shift from web-based platforms to the introduction of mobile apps made scalability easier, thus an opportunity for the founder to cash in on.

Kisangates' product Pando has 10 seed companies' as clients like Advanta, Seed Works, Delta Seed, Namdeo etc, wherein these companies have operations in South Asia and Asean region.

The product is used by 25,000 dealers reaching more than 1.5 lakh farmers, across India, Indonesia, Philippines, and other Asean and South Asia countries.

In Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, 2,500 dealers and 20,000 farmers are familiar with their digital product. Kisangates caters to seed companies through its B2B model and to dealers and farmers through B2C model.

Also, global development bodies like Icrisat and World Bank are their customers. The startup is working on two value chain projects in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, funded by Icrisat.

In the initial two years, Kisangates was a web-based platform, wherein they invested nearly 18 months working on PoC and small projects. From 2016 with the mobile app Pando, the startup has been actively supporting the seed companies to sell seeds effectively and to disseminate their technology.

"There is a high cost spent by companies for farmer adoption. Hence, our digital product helps them manage the field force, channel players and farmers. Through our product, the dealer is able to close work faster while reaching out physically to the farmers," says the founder.

He claims the changes brought in by his startup in this segment is that the lead time to take a decision by a farmer has reduced drastically thereby leading to the multiplier effect; an increase in productivity and effectiveness from the field force.

Secondly, communication to the farmer from these seed companies reaches out faster and in Indian languages. And, last mile insights on a real time basis have led to precise decision making for the companies, with the field force capturing and sharing insights from the market.

"We generally communicate the seven P's of marketing to the farmers, dealers and field force - product, price, promotion, place, packaging, positioning and people."

According to Pradeep, Kisangates is the exclusive provider of decision support system, and modelling campaigns for seed companies. However, he observes that adoption of the digital product by farmers will take another two years, so direct beneficiaries of the app are mostly dealers now.

Their next development in the pipeline is digitisation of deals. By July 2019, the platform will be providing cash discount and volume discount, wherein the startup is in the process of digitising the sales process and deals.

This deal-based approach will speedup the time these schemes reach the farmer, which was earlier rolled out by companies in the form of paper or phone calls, being less effective as it takes longer period to reach the market.

Currently, the startup has a workforce of 25 members, 15 being direct and 10 indirect employees. Kisangates, in 2016, had raised an investment of Rs 1.5 crore from angel investors, utilised on tech development, for a period of three years.

From 2016-18, it has garnered a revenue of $1 million and by end of FY 19-20, the founder looks to raise a Series B round of fund, up to $5 million, wherein the funds will be used to create wide spread adoption of the product among the dealers and for promotional expenses.

As a startup, their belief is 'Endurance and Focus on the end user experience', is utmost important to be a success story.

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