Small farmers, with little access to markets in the city, often end up making losses even when there are buyers elsewhere willing to pay a premium for the produce. An entrepreneur from a tiny village in Karnataka has set out to solve this woe of the farmer with the help of Internet.
Shrikrishna Hegde Ullane belongs to an agricultural family from Bidrakan, a village in Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka. Ullane’s online marketplace can connect the small scale seller in a village to a buyer elsewhere, bridging the demand supply gap.
For example, Kokum(Garcinia Indica), is a naturally grown fruit that looks similar to a Mangosteen fruit, mainly found in western ghat & Konkan area of India. The fruit has various culinary, industrial and medicinal uses.
Inspite of the multitude of uses of this fruit has, it is rarely or never cultivated in large scale. “Unfortunately not even 10-20% of naturally grown fruit is harvested by farmers, especially as it not cultivated and is naturally grown,” says Ullane, who did his basic schooling at the local Kannada medium school in his village.
The problem, appealed to Ullane, because of his agricultural background. “Why are farmers not able to use this opportunity to earn better?” he wondered.
On further research, he found that a few farmers were producing value added products like Kokum Syrup, Kokum dry rind, Kokum Butter and others but all of them were facing marketing problems. This was mainly due to the fact that organisations like the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) does not provide much support to such produce, lack of marketing skills and the fact that the farmers were unable to approach nearby city markets for sale of these products.
“There is a huge demand from customer’s side for these products, but these poor farmers are unable to reach out the customers and this was not the case just for Kokum, but the many other similar products suffering a similar fate,” says Ullane, who is now pursuing his higher education in Commerce and studying Social Entrepreneurship from Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India, Ahmedabad.
He set out with a mission that farmers should be able to introduce their products to outer world and there should be a proper platform for them to exhibit their products. This idea got him started on ConnectFarmer.com, a bootstrapped venture that intends to safeguards the interest of both the farmers and consumers.
This website acts as a link between farmers and consumer. Farmers and small scale cottage industries can reach out to their customers through the portal, which acts as a marketplace for their goods or produce.
“Thanks to developement and penetration of technology into the rural areas, Indian villages and farmers are less ignorant about Internet and mobile technology,” says Ullane. Many Rural Telephone Exchange are now connected with rural broadband facility. He says “My village telephone exchange has more than 50 broadband connections and the village population is just 2000. if not broadband, almost everyone has a mobile connection.” All this made it easier for him to help farmers get onto the portal.
Once registered farmers, small & cottage industries can publish the details of their products. Through the portal both, the customer interested in purchasing the product and the producer wanting to find proper customer for their products can connect with each other.
The registration fee for a farmer is fixed at Rs. 200 per product per annum, but a maximum cut-off of Rs. 500 is set for farmer registering a lot more products.
The portal also supports Farm tourism, more like a homestay on a farm. For this service, the portal charges a registration fee of Rs.500 per unit per annum.
The initiative is not just restricted to online activity, Ullane says,”We also conduct offline activities such as supporting farmers to overcome problems of packing and provide other technological support.”
Currently the service has got some traction and has listed more than 80 products on the marketplace from multiple states. In the future the team wants to add a call center and an SMS facility for farmers into the service.
The ConnectFarmer team consists of Shrikrishna Hegde Ullane(Founder & CEO), Balachandra Hegde Sayimane(Chairman) and Ganesh Bhat, Ullane’s childhood friend.