Business Today|May 31, 2020

Farmers are finding newer ways, and means, to conduct transactions in times of lockdown
Joe C. Mathew

Ninjacart, a Bengaluru-based, tech-driven supply chain platform that connects over 20,000 vegetable and fruit farmers with 60,000 kirana stores and businesses across India, launched an initiative, Harvest the Farms, a few weeks ago. It helps farmers sell fruits and vegetables directly to customers. Ninjacart tied up with gated communities for bulk orders (at least 50 kg) and delivered at apartment gates. It entered into partnerships with food delivery platforms Swiggy and Zomato for last-mile connectivity.

The experiment is helping farmers in a big way. Farmers in areas where mandis are non-functional can route their perishable produce through Ninjacart. Vasudevan Chinnathambi, Co-Founder, says, “We have not thought about how we will work post-Covid but will look at how it pans out in terms of customer demand and feedback.”

Ninjacart is not a one-off case. As mandis are shut in large parts of the country, farmers are accessing consumers directly. This in itself could well be the biggest change in Indian agriculture in decades. But even more interesting is the way several companies across the country are using the power of IT to determine where farmers are stuck with their produce so that they can be connected with transporters, consumers, and reach new and diverse markets.

The trends will change the way farmers market their produce in India. That’s important because India is expecting a bumper harvest this season. The area under summer rice crop this year is a record 34.73 lakh hectares as against 25.22 lakh hectares during the corresponding period last year. In pulses, it is 5.07 lakh hectares (3.82 lakh hectares during the corresponding period last year), coarse cereals 8.55 lakh hectares (5.47 lakh hectares) and oilseeds 8.73 lakh hectares (6.80 lakh hectares). Not all of the 2,587 main markets that absorb this produce are fully operational, necessitating interventions such as the one by Ninjacart.

The Players step In


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May 31, 2020