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Farmily: A social media for farmer-consumer linkages

The rural penetration of internet and social media is increasing by the day in India. Interestingly, farmers too are using these services to get connected with agriculture experts and NGOs catering to their needs. ‘Farmily’ is one such start up portal and mobile App, which is using social media and interactive tools to link farmers and buyers, thereby creating an online marketplace for the farmers.

What does Social Media mean to you? How can it help farmers living in rural areas? Have you ever wondered how can urbanites get connected to the people living in rural India and produce food?

Social media is a platform- an application or website that enables users to create and share content in virtual communities and networks. It allows the user to connect to a larger audience.

Unlike urban users, people in rural India may not be as techsavvy and many of the small and marginal farmers might not even have mobile phones. However, having said that, there are a lot of opportunities in the rural market and things are changing by the day. With unprecedented growth in mobile subscription in rural India, the use of social networking services Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp are increasing. Many farmers are using these services to get connected with agriculture experts and NGOs catering to their needs.

According to the Internet and Mobile Association of India report 2014, there is a healthy growth in internet users driven by rural India. Rural India registered a growth rate of 39 percent to reach 101 million users by October 2014, whereas urban India grew by 29 percent to reach 177 million by October 2014.

Still, India has a number of challenges that hinders the penetration of internet and social media and one needs to think of the affordability and accessibility of these services.

Interestingly, here is one startup, Farmily, a portal and mobile App, which is using social media and interactive tools to link farmers and buyers, thereby creating an online marketplace for the farmers.

What is Farmily about? How does it work?

Farmily works to empower farmers by connecting farmers and buyers, farmers and other farmers, farmers and the ecosystem, through its mobile App and website. Through this interface, once the farmers are registered, they are given a digital presence through microsite, where he can showcase his farm, his capabilities and his produce.

It also allows buyers to put up a demand for produce on the platform. A mobile message will be delivered to the farmer, as soon as the buyer places an order or expresses interest in purchasing the farmer’s produce. Farmers can respond to the demand and are able to negotiate online and conclude deals online. Farmers can also put up their produce for sale and entertain bids from buyers for price discovery. Once deal is done, Farmily activates the ecosystem to leverage the transaction like finance, logistics etc. All is done in the language the farmer is used to and on his mobile phone.

This will enable farmers to directly interact with the end customer and he can get better price for the produce. This process also reduces the food wastage in the supply chain, which is predominant today.

For example, as a buyer, A can place order for a particular commodity, say rice of 100 kg, with farmer X, who lives within a range of 100 kms, for a particular price. If the farmer X feels that the price quoted by A is reasonable, he can agree to supply or he can reject the order request as he may find another buyer who can pay him a better price.

Presently, Farmily is targeting only progressive farmers who are relatively tech-savvy and use mobile phones. However, it is spreading by word of mouth and already farmers’ organisations are teaming up to take up big contractual orders.

“Farmily is redefining the way the world produces, distributes and consumes food. We are just asking farmers to produce to demand. In the present market system, a farmer produces X quantity of food crop and take it to market expecting a certain price for it. He will end up a loser, if he does not get a decent price. However, through Farmily, the farmer can get the order first, and accordingly grow-fruits/ vegetable/crops, thereby reduce wastage in the supply chain process. Farmers will be able to negotiate a fair price, delivery timelines and the terms of transaction” says Karthik Natarajan, Founder of Farmily Inc.

The question now is about logistics- Who will bear the transportation cost and how will it be delivered to customers? If the quantity is large, the farmer may deliver it to the buyers’ doorstep. But, if the quantity is small, there needs to be outlet created at various points and the buyer might have to get the reach the farm.

Like how other products that are delivered through major Ecommerce retailers like Flipkart and Amazon, Farmily is thinking on those lines to arrange logistics and cold storage facility to take the produce from seller to buyer.

Farmily already has about 10,000 downloads in a span of 10 months since its launch and the company claims that 80 percent of them are farmers. As of now, the farmers are not charged any commission for using the service. Also, it is not that the system will completely eliminate middlemen. Even if they are there, they might not be in a position to exploit, as the farmers know the market price and he can chose whom to sell the produce.

Through the App and website, the buyers can see the buyer based on the location and choose through an interactive map.

“This process is informative as the buyer can get to where the food they consume is coming from. Demand based production will enable to predict costs accurately and manage cash flows. Quality control becomes easy and can be integrated into the supply chain effectively. Wastage is minimised converting it to profits and enabling food security,” says Natarajan.

Though this system, financing the value chain becomes easy to track and farm related micro finance and micro insurance schemes can be effectively deployed. Reach of farm inputs and services increases manifold. Access to agricultural information, knowledge delivery for modern farming techniques and deployment of best practices for sustainable and organic farming can be adopted quickly and efficiently.

Success story

Shastri, a 50-year-old farmer from Hosakote village, about 30 kms from Bangalore city, has been growing vegetable for the past 20 years. Until March this year, he used to sell his produce in vegetable markets in Bangalore. He says, he was exploited by middlemen and had to pay around 10% as commission towards the transportation cost.

Shastri grows around 40- 45 types of vegetables in organic way, Green lettuce, and Red lettuce, Celery leaves, Onions, cabbage, Iceberg lettuce, Red cabbage, cucumber, radish and more.

Shastri registered with Farmily in March this year, and has got orders from major retailers like Birla Group, M K retails and more. He says he now gets 5 times the price he used to get earlier.

With sudden splurge in demand, Shastri could not manage it alone. He now has mobilised around 200 farmers in and around in his village and supplies around 1-2 tonnes of vegetables to his customers.

There are several such farmers, who have registered with Farmily and are growing crops based on the needs of the requirement of the customers.

Quick and Easy Sign Up
Use your mobile phone number or your email address to create an account. If you are a farmer list your produce and location so buyers can find you. For more, logon to www.farmily.com or download Farmily App.

Interviewed by Mr Prabhu, a freelance journalist