Connect with us

Interviews

Krishna Mishra, Founder of eKutir Agriculture

Published

on

Meet Krishna Mishra, Founder of eKutir Agriculture. Krishna is a social entrepreneur running a for-profit social business, eKutir, to work for the progress of small and marginal farmers and improve their socio-economic state.

1216f45

Family Influence

Krishna grew up in a village of Odisha, a rural village that was surrounded by poverty and misery. He was deeply influenced by his father, a Gandhian who actively engaged in various development initiatives. As a child, Krishna observed and engaged with various relief efforts with his father. The famine that hit Orissa in the 1970s marked him deeply. He was moved by the way people coped with disaster and saw the nexus between poverty and food security from close quarters.

Seeking a future in government service, Krishna pursued his education in political science. His interest in psychology led him to focus on political behavior – a skill that helps him work with communities today. Convinced that agriculture is intrinsic to development in India, Krishna focused on exploring the interconnections between political structures and agriculture while pursuing his masters in political science. These experiences exposed him to various systems and seeded thoughts around designing political and community structures.

Field_pictures (30 of 38)

Empowering Farmers

Krishna joined NABARD, a development institution in 1983, to empower farmers. During the 23 years with NABARD, he worked closely with communities launching self-help and farmer groups in India whilst designing several products. After eight years of working on the ground, he moved to Delhi and was instrumental in policies that continue to be offered even today, including; watershed development initiatives and orchard plantation initiatives, (popularly known as WADI), in collaboration with various national and international corporations. Krishna was also responsible for the creation of incentives that would orient commercial banks to focus on the agricultural sector and reach the poor communities in India.

All these initiatives gave Krishna insights into the limitations of existing approaches and he felt the need to re-design structures under which farmers were organized to ensure that it was participatory in nature and could withstand the pressures of the market forces. He drew from models in the U.S. where bonds of cooperatives were traded upon. However, he slowly became convinced that products and services targeting the farmers were driven by supply of the private sector and government and not based on farmer demand. This made him realize that there was a need to create a farmer-centric, inclusive, and sustainable model, which will involve a holistic, yet personalized approach to address the needs of farmers and ventured out to establish eKutir in 2009.

Value chain dysfunction and highly disconnected eco-system

In 2009-10, eKutir initiated its pilot in Agriculture with 6 micro-entrepreneurs and 300 farmers. This pilot initiative was in collaboration with Grameen-Intel Social Business in extending soil-testing and nutrient management solution to the farmers. With a rigorous pilot for one year, the results were quite intriguing, with benefits perceived for both micro-entrepreneur and farmers. An understanding of the agriculture value chain and institutional service delivery followed this pilot.

In Agriculture itself, the sheer dysfunction of the value chain, highly disconnected eco-system, and exploitative strategies keeps the smallholder farmer trapped in poverty. This further characterizes low yields, low incomes, few or no market linkages, and low access to finance. The smallholder farmer is prone to high risk owing to small land acreage alongside lack of confidence and trust by the system in the farmers. A farming cycle is such that a smallholder farmer, with an income of about $1 a day, is required to undertake various activities apart from laboring on the field. The farmer must assess the state of the soil, determine the choice of input supplements, application methods and best growth practices, acquire seeds and other inputs, manage pests and diseases, access credit and market information, organize transport, and identify purchasers for the produce.

IMG_4595

Promoting productivity and income

The innovation of eKutir is in designing a decentralized, risk-mitigated, and transparent system to extend agriculture services to the farmers. This led to the creation of “PIE” model, which is widely accepted to extend agriculture and non-agriculture services to the rural communities. In 2013, eKutir established Krishi Vikas (Farmer Development) to extend its PIE model and a gamut of agriculture services to more than 50,000 farmers. The model has been widely accepted by NABARD to promote smallholder productivity and income for 50,000 additional farmers by 2015. Gradually, the model has gained acceptance and spread to 4 different states with different field partners in India.

Grameen-Intel Social Business has deployed the ICT-enabled tools, co-designed through the domain knowledge and expertise of eKutir, in Bangladesh and Macedonia. International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) is taking the technology to countries like Cambodia and Nepal for the benefit of smallholder farmers.

PIE stands for Participatory, ICT enabled and Entrepreneurship-driven approach.

eKutir creates a distribution network of micro-entrepreneur independently or in collaboration with its field partners.

  • Identification, selection and training of micro-entrepreneurs
  • Market Opportunity and Gap Analysis
  • Business Planning and Handholding
  • Designing the Eco system to address to that problem

ICT-enabled tools under current deployment includes:

FPMT – A one-stop tool used to capture data, manage portfolio of the farmers, provide market linkages, access to advisory services, and aggregate demand-supply. This tool allows the potential input suppliers and buyers to gain access to a group of farmers, which becomes an opportunity for them to provide quality products at affordable prices. FPMT allows the farmers to choose quality inputs and sell the produce at fair prices, creating value through the agriculture value chain.

Seed Selection Tool (ankur) – ankur is a seed selection and recommendation tool. Last-mile entrepreneurs use Ankur to assist farmers with better seed selection to achieve increased productivity and farm yield.

Nutrient Management Tool (mrittika) – mrittika is the soil nutrient analysis and recommendation tool. Last-mile entrepreneurs offer soil-testing services to the farmers and use mrittika to analyze the results to recommend fertilizer for achieving cost-effective and optimum productivity.

There are several other software applications that are under development and will be rolled out in the next 5-10 years.

Field_pictures (38 of 38)

Equipping farmers with the necessary soil knowledge

eKutir piloted mrittika, a software application that recommends nutrient application on the basis of soil-testing analysis. The value proposition of this tool was to equip the farmers with the necessary knowledge about their soil, crops to be grown, and the requisite application of nutrients and fertilizers, basis of soil characteristics.

When the first phase of pilot was conducted with 300 farmers, it created excitement among the farmers on seeing the soil testing conducted in front of them at their farm. When the test results were presented, the farmers were astonished with the appropriateness of soil analysis, as majority of these farmers had faced challenges in procuring the soil testing report timely, from the soil health centers established by the Government. The approach of using mobile soil test kits at the farm increased the inquisitiveness of the farmer and helped in disseminating appropriate knowledge on testing and soil health.

Post soil testing, the results were entered in to mrittika, which on the basis of the farmer information captured provided the quantity, quality, and availability of nutrient/fertilizer on the farmland. The software tool had a detailed step-wise algorithm at the back-end with a simplistic user interface to help the micro-entrepreneur enter details and get corresponding recommendations. The software application allowed localization and customization, tailored to a particular region. When compared with the current dosage given by the farmers, it was understood that there was over-application of fertilizers, which were spurious, and were bought at unfair prices.

To test the efficacy of mrittika, a control and treatment group were created. The control group applied the same dosage wherein the treatment group applied the dosage recommended by mrittika with the nutrient procured through eKutir. The results were overwhelming for the treatment group with the best farmer showing 133% reduction in costs, 200% increased crop yield, and 250% increased income on the crop. This established farmer’s trust in eKutir and helped us organically increase our outreach without any additional marketing.

The initial reaction of the farmers helped eKutir build a sense of trust and credibility, which increased farmer’s confidence in the system, and made them understand that this is a non-exploitative way to help them become more productive.

As, eKutir believe in designing appropriate software applications to benefit the needs of the farmers, eKutir came up with additional tools like ankur, FPMT, TIME Tool, and so on to help address the small gaps in the agriculture value chain, with a vision to create a suite of ICT-enabled tools that will help drive our mission to benefit millions of smallholder farmers.

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/ekutir
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/eKutirSB
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ekutirsb
YouTube: How eKutir works
Vimeo: http://vimeo.com/71197753

Callum Connects

Denise Morris Kipnis, Founder & Principal of ChangeFlow Consulting

Published

on

Denise Mossis Kipnis’ curiosity in people and the world, lead her to set up ChangeFlow Consulting.

What’s your story?
I’m driven by curiosity. Having been the only one in a room who looks like me for most of my life, I developed a curiosity about who stays, who leaves and who thrives in minority/majority situations including when and how connection and collaboration happen. I was a systems thinker long before I knew what that was, always asking why and so what; and seeing the pieces, the whole, and the places in between. So helping people and organisations move through the complexity of transformation feels natural to me.

What excites you most about your industry?
I see change and inclusion as two sides of the same thing; I don’t practice one without the other. Some people see change as death, as loss, as exhausting. And it can be. But I see in the work I do as an opportunity for something new or hidden to emerge. When an organisation understands that it is first a group of people, who themselves represent and belong to groups of people, and it begins to tackle what it would mean to understand and learn from all that talent, all that diversity, to have them all working for and not against the organisation, to truly unleash all that their people have to offer; that’s magic.

What’s your connection to Asia?
Change and inclusion are personal values as well as professional strengths. For me, living and working outside of the States was a bold experiment to see whether any of the stuff I’d learned about change and inclusion would work outside of the US. My husband and I targeted Asia specifically: it would be the greatest contrast, culturally speaking, for me; and a unique career springboard for him.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Although I’ve practiced in other cities, I am biased towards Singapore. In some ways it’s what Los Angeles is to the rest of the United States, a microcosm of sorts. The regional/global nature of it means that so many different nationalities and cultures are represented. As a result of this mix, you never know what you might get. In some situations, cultural dynamics are obvious, sometimes subdued. The variability is compelling.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“Never ask anyone to do anything you wouldn’t do yourself.” Michael Rouan.

Who inspires you?
Often it’s a “what” not a “who.” I can get inspiration from a passage in a book or a situation in a movie, as well as a turn of a phrase or watching people interact. I often make the biggest connections between the various threads I’m working on when I’m sitting in someone else’s event.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
I’m honestly not blown away by much. Instead, I’m struck how circular things can be: ideas often come back around with a slightly different twist and I watch the way it shakes things loose for people. I recently sat through a workshop on Self as Instrument, and despite being thoroughly versed already, I learned something. In preparing for a panel on design thinking, I unearthed a new language to describe things.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
You’ve caught me at a good time. I’m sitting in appreciation and gratitude for all my experiences, because I wouldn’t be who I was today if all that has happened, didn’t. And yet one thing comes to mind: It wasn’t until I redesigned my website two years ago (shout out to Brew Creative!) that I realised I hadn’t made explicit agreements with my past clients as to what I could share publicly about our engagement, or whether I could use their logos in my promotional materials. In my business, confidentiality is so important, and yet I need to be able to talk about the work as reputation and experience leads to the next success, and so on. It turned out a lot of the contacts I had known had left the organisations where the work was done, so they couldn’t help at that point. So the practice I’m carrying forward is to get those agreements up front, and to make sure my relationships in client systems are broad as well as deep.

How do you unwind?
Science fiction, puzzles, wine.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Home. I don’t travel to relax, I travel to learn and explore.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Built to Change, by Ed Lawler and Chris Worley. To my knowledge, it’s the first pivot from advising organisations away from stability and toward dynamism, from strategic planning to strategizing as an action verb; to blow up the traditions and rigidity that impede organisations from developing change capability.

Shameless plug for your business:
We’re taught that there are two kinds of people: those who see forests, and those who see trees. There is a third type, my type, and we see the ecosystem. Worms, climate, birds, the spaces in between. This is the perspective organisations need to be successful in solving complex problems and thriving in change.
ChangeFlow uniquely blends four disciplines (two of which are multi-disciplinary in themselves): organisation development, culture and inclusion, change management and project management.

How can people connect with you?
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ChangeFlowConsulting/
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dmorriskipnis/
LinkedIn Company page: https://www.linkedin.com/company/4862954/
Email: [email protected]
Website: http://www.changeflowconsulting.com

Twitter handle?
@ChangeFlow

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

Continue Reading

Callum Connects

Agnes Yee, Legal & Compliance Recruiter of Space Executive

Published

on

Agnes Yee started Space Executive in Singapore, which is a hub for businesses in some of the world’s fastest growing economies.

What’s your story?
After graduation, I joined a design media company as a Business Development Executive, during the era when ‘reading a magazine online’ was unheard of. I believe that laid the foundation for being unfazed by rejections.

I fell into recruitment pre-GFC and rode the highs and lows in the early years. A decade later, I decided to set up my own recruitment company, partly because I could. I’m acutely aware of the face that being an Asian female in Singapore is sometimes a privilege, and that many women in the world are living a very different existence.
Thereafter, we joined Space Executive as part of a merger. I am currently the Partner of Space Executive, a recruitment company focused specialist disciplines, including Legal, Finance, Digital, Sales and Marketing and Change. We also run Space Ventures, a venture capital business, which invests in seed and pre-series A businesses.

What excites you most about your industry?
On a daily basis, we’re influencing how one spends a third of their day. It is interesting how the Internet has transformed the industry, and I’m excited to see how we can harness technology to bring us to the next phase of this business.

The VC is an extension of applying our skills and experience in reading people. We very much invest in the people as much as the idea. Being a native Singaporean, it’s been exhilarating watching Southeast Asia becoming a hotbed of ideas; and young entrepreneurs simply daring to dream.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I’m a born and bred Singaporean. I love that I speak both English and Mandarin, grew up playing with Indian friends and eating Malay food.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore for the low barriers of entry to set up a business, but has to be China (and Hong Kong) for their hunger and constant innovation.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
青春不要留白 which translates to ‘Don’t waste your youth.’

Who inspires you?
Anyone who has gone against the grain.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
It wasn’t recent but reading the article on https://waitbutwhy.com/2015/12/the-tail-end.html never fails to blow my mind how little time we have left. Charting our lives in weeks, and realising I only have enough time left to enjoy 60 Christmas turkeys, read 300 books (all if I’m lucky); and mostly, I’m left with the last 5% of the time that I spend in-person with my parents.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I’m cognisant that every decision I made in life has brought me to where I am today, and I wouldn’t change one thing. But I’d really like to have had more time to travel.

How do you unwind?
Exercise and wine.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Trekking any mountain in Asia. It brings us back to the most basic. To overcome elements of nature and our own mind.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Start with Why, Simon Sinek

Shameless plug for your business:
Space Executive started in Singapore, a hub for businesses in some of the world’s fastest growing economies. We assist organisations in accessing a targeted and specialised, and often times transient talent pool.

Out of Singapore, we have recruited across 14 countries; and have embarked on our global expansion plans with offices in Hong Kong and London this year, and US, Japan and Europe in the following years.

Space Ventures provides funding, management and financial guidance to young businesses with original ideas. We have invested in peer to peer lending platforms, credit scoring, social media education, and other start-ups spanning diverse industries. We are always interested in hearing more about new ideas.

How can people connect with you?
https://www.linkedin.com/in/agnesyee/

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

Continue Reading

Trending