3 min read
Empowering Agro Input Retailers to Serve Farmers Better
Agriculture in Bangladesh
Bangladesh is still predominantly based on Agriculture which contributes more than 15% to the National GDP. With a population of 164.7 million, it is one of the most populous countries in the world. Almost 66% of the population lives in rural areas, and agriculture is the main occupation of 45% of the working population. This implies how Agriculture is an integral part of economic growth and how important it is to ensure food security for this massive population.
There are about 16 million farmers in Bangladesh, while nearly 13 million farmers have to rely on informal sources of finance at high-interest rates. 70% of the agriculture financing comes from informal sources and as a result, the farmers cannot invest in high-quality inputs. As a consequence, farmers either have to purchase high-quality inputs on credit or settle with low-quality products from the input retailers. On the other hand, these input retailers don’t have enough working capital, thus limiting their access to purchase high-quality inputs. Hence they opt for low-quality inputs to generate profit.
iFarmer is an Agri-Tech startup with a mission to ‘digitalize’ the agriculture value chain. We are a team of experts from the digital and agricultural sectors. We have been working on creating a sustainable technology to transform the agriculture value chain by connecting all key stakeholders in the country through technology to bring transparency, efficiency, and representativeness. Through iFarmer’s networks, we have taken initiatives like Kri-Shop to connect farmers with retailers and enable them with easy access to inputs that enable farmers to grow faster.
iFarmer aims to empower Farmers and Agri-Input Retailers with the best agricultural practices, information, products, and services. It is an online platform for farmers to access the right information about agri-inputs and find the best-suited product for their needs. For retailers, it serves as a digital marketplace where they can purchase more than 500 SKUs of agriculture inputs under one roof at competitive prices. iFarmer also provides advisory services to both groups of farmers and retailers.
Challenges of Agri-Input Retailers
The challenges in the Agriculture Input ecosystem that these retailers face are:
They lack the working capital required to purchase the high-quality and most demanded products since these need to be bought in Cash from the distributors. On top of that their business relies on selling credit to the farmers which puts them in a critical situation where they need to make a strategic decision to balance out the inventory. This results in purchasing low-mid quality inputs since they are available to purchase on credit and have a higher profit margin. On the other hand, they often have to purchase at a higher price from middlemen if they want to maintain a steady inventory for the farmers
Smallholder farmers rely on the products available in these retailer shops since they have to buy most of the inputs on credit. Hence the farmers have their hands tied and end up buying low-quality inputs which results in lower yields during harvesting
Input retailers have inadequate knowledge of agriculture advisory services while farmers mostly rely on them since they are the primary source of information for agricultural advisory. Thus retailers play a huge role in purchase decision-making for the farmers
Input retailers have less business acumen and very little access to market information limiting their opportunities to grow the business
Therefore to make our agriculture more profitable, sustainable, and most importantly an efficient ecosystem, agri-input retailers need to have easy access to high-quality inputs and information through a digital platform to better serve the farmers. This is where Kri-Shop has been working to establish a platform with an aim to connect farmers with Agri-Input retailers to ensure easy access to high-quality inputs and provide agricultural knowledge at the same time.
Kri-Shop’s vision is “To build Bangladesh's most efficient and largest agriculture market platform creating access to quality products and services to serve their farmers.”
This was the inspiration for iFarmer to connect these input retailers, one of the key stakeholders in the agriculture value chain, through a single platform, “Kri-Shop”, offering them door-step delivery of high-quality inputs to empower them. Kri-Shop’s Guiding Principles as a Product are:
Access to an Online & E-commerce Platform for Agri-inputs: Retailers are doing business activities manually without the use of any tech or digital solution. Most of their communication and daily activities are not being recorded making things difficult to keep track of, follow up on a specific transaction, ensuring transparency and client satisfaction. At the same time, the current process requires the usage of hard papers and multiple redundant processes prolonging the operational processes both for farmers and retailers. Kri-Shop acts as a one-stop shop for all agri-input products for retailers. Retailers can buy input products of all top brands, with the convenience of doorstep delivery from our app, call center, or iFarmer Centers.
Focus on Creating Simplistic User Experience: A Simple and minimalistic UX for the people who are less tech-savvy with gadgets i.e. Retailers. Ensuring user engagement and user awareness through easy user journeys and experiences to make them eager to use the app. iFarmer enables retailers to purchase inputs from the platform, manage their inventory, and farmer/customer data along with transaction data to bring transparency and build creditworthiness. Also offer advisory services, to broaden the retailer's engagement with the farmers.
Retailer credit financing service: There has been a prevailing challenge for developing a proper database of the Retailer’s profile where all of their business information has been stored along with the transaction records to make a scientific Credit Assessment system for applying credit financing in their business. iFarmer offers “buy now and pay later” services for retailers. We also enable retailers to get access to loans from financial institutions based on their transaction history and alternate data.
To serve its target users and create values to their needs Kri-Shop has 3 core features :
Kri-Shop: A simplistic E-commerce platform for the Input retailers to purchase the Agri inputs and get them delivered to their doorstep.
Users can order items with a customized lowest pricing based on their geographical locations
Get last-mile delivery
Flexible payment options: Cash on Delivery, Credit, etc.
Track Order Delivery Status
Helpline facility for last-minute customization/placing an order
Community: Connecting all the retailers in a single platform through which they can share their knowledge and develop a community to support the farmers with the advisory services they seek for
Get agri-advisory content from the experts
Post, Share, and comment on Independent ideas, Agricultural queries, product reviews, market updates, Image content, etc.
Bookkeeping: Record daily business transactions and track the credit sales made to the clients.
Onboard Customers and keep track of credit records
Send SMS to clients free of charge
Automated invoice generation, Profit & Sales reports
Kri-Shop has 7000 registered retailers who have access to more than 700 SKUs of agricultural inputs. Our operation has been going on in 9 districts, generating BDT 802M in revenue since its inception.
The tagline “কৃষি উপকরণের ডিজিটাল সমাধান” talks about empowering the retailers by providing them with all the products under one roof and making them easily accessible from all over the country. With this mission, we are working towards connecting and educating these retailers in Kri-shop’s digital ecosystem in iFarmer’s continuous efforts to digitally transform the Agricultural value chain.