Agriculture is crucial to India’s economy, as it provides 23% of GDP and employs 66% of the workforce. However, most of India’s poorest people are subsistence farmers who have little or no access no technology and markets for their produce. Farmers lack knowledge on which markets to target and what price to charge.
Deepa Bachu, Director of Emerging Market Innovation at Intuit sought a solution to this problem. The research she carried out in Karnataka back in 2008 found that 40% of the time, farmers were accepting lower prices in order to sell perishable goods and up to 100% of the farmers she visited were unsure of whether the prices they were charging were correct.
As a solution, Deepa developed a free SMS based product called Intuit Fasal that connects rural farmers with buyers and provides them with real-time price information via mobile phone. It is described as ‘a basic supply and demand calculator’. Farmers register for updates by calling a toll free number and will then receive three text messages daily from the service. These messages are tailored to the farmer’s crop and location, thus helping them chose the right market to target in order to get the best price.
The service currently has more than 500,000 users who earn an average of 20% more income thanks to the technology.
Mobile technology has been used increasingly to enhance agricultural productivity. Access to up-to-date market pricing information is essential if farmers are going to increase their profitability, and in turn, increase production rates. (Farming First Principle 5)