The agrarian community in India holds a lot of potential for growth. Over 14% of India’s GDP is attributed to the agricultural sector, along with a sizeable 42% of the population dependent on agriculture for its income. As such, the consistent growth and development of this sector is crucial to maintain the economic fabric of India.
One major factor that is stagnating the growth of this sector is logistical inefficiencies. Farmers lose out on profits as they transport goods at partial capacity, wait for prolonged hours to off-load produce and simply lack the knowledge on current market rates.
Akshay Dixit, a computer engineer by profession, was introduced to the problem of ‘Mobility as a Service in rural India’ during his stint at Digital Impact Square, Nashik. Along with a couple of other friends, Akshay set on a journey to identify the challenges & gaps in the system and design a solution that would reduce logistical and operational inefficiencies.
Building on field experiences
He started interacting with marginalised farmers, circling marketplaces and transport providers from multiple villages across 3 demographic clusters (developing, moderate, tribal) around Nashik. After months spent on the field, a few hard lessons and a lot of grit, Akshay co-founded VesatoGo.
VesatoGo is an online platform (app and dashboard) which serves as a demand and supply aggregator, connecting marginalised farmers who own less than 5 acres of land, service providers- vehicle owners who transport produce, and agribusinesses, APMC markets, Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs). Just like a lot of thought has been put into designing and developing the platform, Akshay wanted the company name to truly reflect its values. ‘vesa’ means ‘small farmer’ in Sanskrit while ‘togo’ means ‘integration’ in Japanese.
One platform, multiple connections
VesatoGo operates on two models. The first model ‘Rural Mobility Togo’ improves logistical efficiency in transporting produce from farms to the marketplace by introducing part loading facility while the ‘Farm Operations Management’ model ensures the timely procurement and quality maintenance of the high-value crops. The platform also acts as a complete farm operation management software. VesatoGo only onboards local service providers from the cluster which ensures the cash of the cluster flows within the cluster and does not go outside it hence building the community.
The Rural Mobility Togo model connects the marginalised farmers with multiple marketplaces and service providers, hence improving a farmer’s market visibility and providing more business opportunities for the vehicle owner’s. With a ‘pay only for what you use’ policy, a farmer saves costs as he pays only for the space that his crate occupies in the vehicle, while the service provider can take on multiple cargoes from other farmers at one- go.
A farmer selects the available vehicle to deliver the produce along with a time slot when the cargo should be off-loaded at the marketplace/agribusiness. Since the service provider is now responsible for off-loading the produce, the farmers save hours of their own time and can do what he does best- farm. The produce is now off-loaded in the least possible time. As per a pilot conducted, the model was able to reduce the waiting time to 3 hours from 18 hours.
Farm Operations Management model is designed as a complete end-to-end solution for the agribusinesses to optimise their farm operations and supply chain. The module comprises of multiple modules; Supplier Management, Harvest Planning, Fleet Management & Live Tracking and Inventory Management. Through Harvest Planning, agribusinesses can manage their harvesting activities. Once the agribusiness decides to buy from a particular seller, the logistics supervisor selects the most appropriate vehicle provider. Since rural areas lack a standardised & detailed map, only a vehicle with a history of travelling to the chosen seller’s area, is sent for the pick-up. Any time lost trying to locate the pick-up point is thus, avoided. Through inventory management, the agribusinesses can keep proper records of the incoming and outgoing stock and harvest.
Creating change, touching lives
Within 3 months since they have commenced operations, VesatoGo has over 3000 farmers enrolled on the platform with another 2000 more farmers by June 2020. They have facilitated the procurement and transport of over 36, 000 tonnes of tomatoes at a conservative average of 400 tonnes per day.They have also bagged Sahyadri Farms, one of the largest FPOs in India, as a customer and a strategic partner.
For Akshay, his decision to pursue social entrepreneurship instead of a career in the U.S pays off when he meets the farmers. He shares with us one story that he is particularly proud of.
“Mr Kadam has an acre land of tomatoes and 4 acres of wheat. He would be frustrated standing in queue for as long as 18 hours a day waiting to off-load his produce. He had almost decided to uproot his lower value tomato plants in order to pay more attention to his higher valued wheat farm. However, at a chance encounter, we met, and I introduced him to VesatoGo. Through the app, he was able to access a local vehicle owner, who delivered his produce at the marketplace. This really helped him save a lot of time and opportunity cost.”
The Road Ahead
Getting the crops efficiently from the farms to the FPO is not where Akshay’s vision stops.
By September 2020, VesatoGo aims to expand its system from a B-B model to a B-C model. In parallel, VesatoGo’s services will expand to include the dairy and poultry industry in and around Nashik
You can get in touch with VesatoGo if you are looking to volunteer in operations, UI/UX design, or product development, or to know more about how they are creating a big impact!