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Madhya Pradesh Provides Excellent Opportunities to Budding Agri-Tech Entrepreneurs

Bestowed with the 2nd largest share of arable land resources in the world, accounting for 20 agro-climatic regions, and all the 15 major climates in the world, India is the largest producer of high-income generating farm produce like spices, milk, pulses, tea, cashew, jute, and the second-largest producer of wheat, rice, fruits, vegetables, sugarcane, cotton, and oilseeds.

Shivam Dwivedi
Digital Agriculture
Digital Agriculture

At current prices, Indian agriculture accounts for one-fifth of the country's GDP and employs roughly 60% of the workforce. According to the Economic Survey for 2020-2021, Indian agriculture has contributed 20% to GDP for the first time in 17 years. Despite Covid-19 pandemic, the Indian farming community has demonstrated incredible perseverance and grit.

Bestowed with the 2nd largest share of arable land resources in the world, accounting for 20 agro-climatic regions, and all the 15 major climates in the world, India is the largest producer of high-income generating farm produce like spices, milk, pulses, tea, cashew, jute, and the second-largest producer of wheat, rice, fruits, vegetables, sugarcane, cotton, and oilseeds. While these facts give meaning to the figures above, one area that needs to be addressed is the lack of information and higher predictability in farming practices, undervaluing the growth potential and ability to dominate the international Agri markets.

An Ernst & Young 2020 study pegs the Indian agri-tech market potential at $24 billion by 2025, of which only a little over 1 percent has been captured so far. Currently, it is estimated that there are over 1000 agri-tech start-ups in India operating at different levels of agri-value chains.

Gramophone- Agri-tech Start-up:

One such agri-tech start-up is the Indore-based Gramophone. The company was co-founded by Tauseef Khan and Nishant Mahatre, both of whom trace their association back to their IIT Kharagpur-IIM Ahmedabad days. Both Tauseef and Nishant come with short yet meaningful stints working at agri-tech companies and venture capital funds before starting Gramophone. Their past experiences helped them to respond to a persistent need in the farming sector by providing Indian farmers with highly customized information and tech-driven inputs to achieve better farm yields.

Gramophone moves with a two-fold vision - one, to keep the farmer at the heart of product development, and two, to demystify complexity around agriculture methods and best practices. As a result, Gramophone has developed a slew of localized product packages to help the farmers access best practices, crop advisory, and weather information coupled with the best products to grow their output and income.

Tauseef Khan, Gramophone CEO and Co-founder, candidly confesses that stepping into the start-up world was not an insurmountable task as he had a strong support system in his parents, friends, and mentors. On the business side of things, the co-founders conducted a thorough market survey in the five agriculture-driven states of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, and Madhya Pradesh. Following this, both Tauseef and Nishant converged on identifying Indore in Madhya Pradesh as the Gramophone headquarters.

According to Tauseef, Madhya Pradesh made the cut as, geographically, it is the second-largest state, having contributed to the growth of Indian agriculture tremendously in the last decade. Moreover, Madhya Pradesh provided an untapped market and atypical contexts as compared to other competing states. For instance, the Average Land-holding Size (ALS) in Madhya Pradesh is higher than in others - up to 2 hectares per farmer. This also translated to a far higher rate of early adopters of the services offered by Gramophone, resulting in higher incomes, once its products were tested, ensuring repeat orders and word-of-mouth.

Tauseef insightfully testifies that the assurance of a better law and order situation was also another rationale that helped them choose Madhya Pradesh as their start-up hub. Having started as an agronomy-led, agri-input commerce company in 2016, Gramophone has been building on its successes, has helped more than 1,50,000 farmers to maximize their incomes. So far, it has serviced more than 1.6 million farmers, out of which 80 percent of farmers belong to Madhya Pradesh.

Tauseef explains that Gramophone kept its focus primarily on Madhya Pradesh in the initial years, before expanding its business to the adjoining states of Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh, and Maharashtra. Currently, Madhya Pradesh accounts for 75 percent of Gramophone’s revenues.

Speaking positively about the new start-up policy being introduced by the Madhya Pradesh government, Tauseef hopes that it would encourage more budding entrepreneurs to take the leap of faith and enter the ‘road less travelled.’ He also hopes that the state government would ensure the provision of a ‘single window system’ to fast track ‘lift-offs’ for start-ups so that they can focus on problem-solving. He confesses that Madhya Pradesh, and especially Indore, is quite a favourable destination for budding entrepreneurs to launch their start-ups.

With respect to launching an agri-tech, Madhya Pradesh makes for a better cut because of the state government’s expressed commitment to improving agriculture, and also the fact that MP is one of the largest producers of cash crops and grains in the country, which ensures that the farmers are more open to adopting best practices and tech-driven farming.

Besides the technical and business aspects, Madhya Pradesh provides a great standard of living and quality of life, as it boasts of Bhopal - the cleanest state capital - and Indore, which is the cleanest city of India. Truly, the Government of Madhya Pradesh is committed to promoting and strengthening a start-up culture and ecosystem in the state that will contribute to achieving the dream of Atmanirbhar Bharat a reality in the near future.

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