Smart Krishi: empowering Nepali agriculture with smartphone technology

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When information is mere a fingertip away, why not to use it?

It was immediately after the completion of his engineering degree when Anil Regmi heard about the Ncell App Camp 2014 happening in Nepal. With much interest, he applied for the competition in the agriculture category, as there were no agricultural apps in Nepal by that time.

Though his idea was not selected for the finals in the competition, having worked for almost 2 months on the app, he didn’t want to let the idea go that way. Thus, giving full shape to the app, he formally launched it on Google Play Store on January 2, 2015. He had named the app as Smart Krishi with a dream to make every Nepali farmer smarter.

Though already adopted in many other countries, Nepal is still lagging behind in the use of ICT to access agricultural information. Thus, they had started the app with a vision, “When information is mere a fingertip away, why not to use it?” Smart Krishi envisions to empower Nepali agriculture through smartphone technology, and make the farmers more capable, along with building a common platform for them to share their knowledge and information, says Regmi.

Currently, 4 members are actively working in the team to make the project successful.

So far, they have invested all their time and resources for brand promotion and increasing traffic in the app and website, instead of focusing on revenue, with the thought that latter is easier when they have a good user base.

“Till now, thousands of active farmers and agriculture enthusiasts have utilized and benefitted from the information provided in the app, along with interacting and sharing the information,” shares Regmi.

Working mechanism

Regmi sees professional farming growing in Nepal. Youths in various districts of Nepal have started agricultural farms and nurseries, taking it commercially. He also mentions about regularly getting queries from people on carrying out various farming techniques. “We receive dozens of queries from farmers on a daily basis. They also ask about training and other opportunities. From the app, we try to give agricultural information through examples of farms and farmers’ experiences than just writing about the farming methods and principles. We forward them to go to other successful farmers to understand more about farming techniques as they get to learn practically from that method. We simply work as a medium,” explains Regmi about the working mechanism.

The contents on Smart Krishi are aggregated from various sources like Agriculture Information and Communication Centre (AICC), Nepal Agriculture Research Centre (NARC), non-government organizations, and various Nepali media. They also feature success stories of farmers from different places of Nepal so as to encourage fellow people interested in professional farming.

Regmi expresses happiness for the growing interest of people towards the app, and the information provided by them, along with an increase in downloads of the app. Till now, it’s been downloaded more than 48,000 times, and the users have shown growing interest in the app contents. So far, Smart Krishi has utilized the incomes from the business in the marketing and growth of the company itself.

Vision

While starting the app, Regmi had a vision to develop it as a platform to exchange information. Now they are heading in that direction. They have started partnering with various organizations working in the agricultural sector to spread their information about trainings and other agriculture related activities, along with opportunities for the farmers.

They are also in the process of making Smart Krishi as a system to connect all the organizations related to agriculture in Nepal. “After we take it in that direction, it will be easier for the organizations too, as they can reach to the specific, and target group of farmers,” says Regmi. They are also on the way of making an automated system of the app, enabling farmers to have their own contents on the app, along with enabling them to interact with each other, more like a social media of people involved and interested in agriculture.

Regmi feels it satisfying to be able to have this level of name and fame with the empowering of farmers using information available in the app, and making them to benefit from the platform. The team is working further to take it to the grassroots level, i.e. farmers, and make them feel that Smart Krishi is their own app, and enable them to share their stories of success, and lessons from the farming.

Marketing and promotion

As it’s very challenging to market a newly-established company, they had started marketing about the app through their friends, peers and people in their network itself. Later, as a Facebook staff, Regmi got USD 500 from the social networking giant, making marketing aspect of the app easier and smooth. It helped them to boost the page, and reach to a wider mass of people.

Monetization

With the wide reach of the page, various agriculture entrepreneurs started to approach him, and promote their business through Smart Krishi. The first cash income for Smart Krishi was from a newly established agro-tech vendor in Chitwan, whom they charged Rs. 3000 per month to promote their agro-tech tools.

As the business grew and demands from agro-tech ventures increased, they thought of creating a separate website, and promote third party businesses. Thus began www.krishibajar.com, a platform, more like an e-commerce site for the agro-tech venture owners, who can promote their business, and sell the agricultural tools, seeds, fertilizers and others. They also help in purchasing and selling of agro-farms.

Target users

As Smart Krishi is a mobile app, its major target audiences are those own a smartphone, eager to learn about farming, and willing to start agriculture a professional way. Along with the farmers, students, job-holders in government organizations and I/NGOs along with those having special interest on modern farming technology have been using the app. But, it’s the farmers who mainly engage and interact on the page, along with sharing of their problems and stories, and requesting for information on trainings, seeds, organic fertilizers, and agro-tech goods. Though the majority of the app users are from Kathmandu valley itself till now, along with those from other towns, they are focused to reach the grassroots level, and farmers in the hinterlands in the near future.

Achievements

Smart Krishi was selected for the business incubation session from the Idea Studio Season 2. It benefitted them with necessary mentorship, and helped to promote the app further, along with providing a platform to connect with fellow Nepali entrepreneurs, hear their stories and build a network with successful Nepali entrepreneurs.

In 2015, Smart Krishi was also selected among the top 75 youth organizations in Nepal by Santosh Shah Foundation. Regmi feels it as one of the proudest moment in his life, to get recognized in such a way, and being on Television. It was only after this episode that his family came to know about him and his works.

In March 2016, they were also successful to be among the top-5 winners in the Youth Agripreneurs Project, a pilot project that seed-funds young agricultural entrepreneurs, held in Johannesburg South Africa. They won 5,000 US dollars from the competition. The prize amount made them more able to promote the app, and they utilized it to reach a wider number of people.

Future

Though, having faced challenges in every step, Regmi is sure about the brighter days ahead for the app, as suggests the coordination, support and suggestion they have been getting from agro-entrepreneurs and the app users.

Coming this far, he wants to make Smart Krishi as a platform where all the farmers, agricultural organizations, government and non-government organizations, and all the concerned people come together. He wants to connect as many stakeholders as possible into the app.

To the aspiring youths:

To the aspiring youths willing to get involved in agriculture, Regmi suggests them to get trained in the subjects of their interest, and know about it in detail, including the size of the farm, budget, production, market, and every other thing. “You need to learn about management, from farm to account management, research, production, supply, market and others. For this, you should first get trained and visit to the different farms on a regular basis. You should be constantly engaged in it. Return in agriculture is sure, but don’t seek fast return,” he says.

And, to all those wanna be entrepreneurs who are willing to start something new in Nepal itself, he asks them to carry out research before starting anything, and have a vision, and get dedicated on the work.

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