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If Farmers Develop, Our Country Will Too: Padma Bhushan Awardee RB Singh

At the Rural Communication Summit and Awards 2024, industry experts gathered to discuss the role of communication in rural development and sustainability. The day focused on the need to include gender and cultural nuances in communication strategies.

Mrini Devnani

In New Delhi's bustling Aerocity, luminaries from the agricultural sector congregated for an exhilarating event, ‘Snail Integral’s Brand R. Comm – Rural Communication Summit and Awards 2024’. It was aimed at reforming rural communication strategies. The day was set at the Hotel Holiday Inn, where the program unfolded into a symphony of ideas, insights, and collaborations. Notably, Krishi Jagran was the media partner of the program.

The morning commenced with the resonant voice of Emcee Shri Rakesh Tiwari, a multifaceted personality known for his eloquence as a poet, storyteller, and TEDx speaker. Followed by this was the ceremonious lighting of the lamp; it symbolized the enriching journey ahead.

Next, Shri Amit BK Khare, Founder & Managing Partner, of Snail Integral LLP, discussed how technology is linked to communication. Citing the need to bridge the communication gap in the agricultural domain, he noted that strategies must be put in place with the support of government and private players to enrich the sector with the right methods.

Dr KC Ravi, Chairman, CropLife India, and Chief Sustainability Officer, Syngenta shared that communication is not about transmitting information, rather it is relevant for creating an impact. Agriculture is diverse and so are the agricultural practices, according to him. Hence, rural engagement is necessary and the gaps in the know-how of farmers across the nation must be addressed widely. “They need to make informed decisions; we should strive to make agriculture more predictable,” he said. Moreover, he focused on farmers’ access to lucrative markets and the need to diversify their income sources.

He opined that catering to socio-economic disparities and moving towards hands-on training, fostering innovation is important. Lastly, he emphasized how together we must engage the rural youth with the technologies that are available to create employment opportunities. “Innovation and adoption of technology will enhance agricultural productivity,” he stated.  

Focusing on the challenges, he cited limited access and communication that hinder farmers’ ability to access markets. Therefore, he expressed that information dissemination must include social and cultural sensitives, gender norms, and diversity of language. Moreover, as per him, climate change and environmental degradation are major threats to agri-productivity and rural livelihoods. Thus, climate-smart agricultural practices and sustainable land management are the need of the hour.

Followed by his, Shri Rajvir Rathi, Director of Public Affairs, Science and Sustainability (South Asia) and Lead – Traits Licensing Business with Bayer CropScience shared his thoughts. He discussed that the world is drowned in the ocean of information yet there exist knowledge gaps. So, cost-effective communication resources, digital literacy, and skill development are crucial. With this, public and private partnership is important and there is a need for these players to come together with a focused approach for effective communications.

Shri Raj Kumar Gupta, Managing Director, Thakar Chemicals Ltd. was also present at the event. He simply thanked Mr Khare for the invitation.

Notably, Professor Ram Badan Singh, Former Chancellor, of CAU, Imphal, and a Padma Bhushan awardee was present on the big day. He discussed that communication for development is the most important. “In my view, communication is a social process based on dialogue that uses a broad range of tools and methods. It is all about seeking change, from listening to establishing trust.” He spoke about building policies for sustained and meaningful change that can also be based on science and reality.

The expert also shed light on engaging and empowering the key stakeholders including women. “Increasing feminization of agriculture is being witnessed. Hence, we must see what is best suited and make a road map to support equitable access to information,” he noted. He further opined that one size does not fit all and core comprehensiveness, and competencies at the ground level must be brought into play.

The first panel discussion of the day was themed, ‘Science of Communication - Understanding and bridging the communication gaps from 'Land to Lab' and from 'Labs to Lands'. The session kickstarted with the words of Dr Ujjwal Narayan, Business Editor, PTI Videos. Other speakers of the session were: Padma Shri Awardee, Dr. Arvind Kumar, Former VC, RLBCAU, Jhansi Shri Raju Kapoor, Director, FMC India Shri Sunil Sihag, MD, Synergy Technofin Pvt. Ltd. Dr. VV Sadamate, Agri. Extension Specialist & Former Advisor Agriculture Planning Commission, GOI Shri Vijay Sardana, Advocate, Supreme Court of India, Delhi High Court & Tribunals, and Shri Durgesh Chandra, Secretary General, CropLife India. Collectively, the experts highlighted the need to validate the information provided to them to be able to make the right decisions.

According to Dr Sadamate, “There exist 6 to 7 major sources of farm information. Moreover, we need stronger the communications with the rural audience that can be based on feedback.” Besides, Shri Kapoor, shared that the communications of the innovator and public systems are not in alignment for the larger business reality. There needs to be a coherence between the two. Sharing a similar sentiment, Shri Sardana expressed that clarity in communication and simplicity must be synonymous.

Finally, Shri Chandra proposed the Vote of Thanks, concluding the session.

The second panel of the day based on ‘Embracing Change & Transformation in Artificial Intelligence, Digital Infrastructure, Chemicals and Financial (Credit) Communication’ had experts like Shri Manish Sawla, Sr. Manager, IT, United Airline Shri Sanjay Nagi, Founder & Managing Director, Market Insight Consultants Shri Nalin Rawal, Director Consulting and GIS Services, Agriwatch Smt. Jyotsna Dash Nanda, AVP – Corporate Communication, DS Group and Shri Vaishnav Thakur, CMO - Digital, Snail Integral LLP.

In this tech-driven discussion, Shri Sawla expressed how Gen AI is creating content and text for the aviation sector. Furthermore, Shri Rawal spoke about how for a business to sustain itself, digitization is important.

Next, Smt. Nanda shared that AI has helped in precision-led targeting to add nuances to the narratives, analyze the data, and help organizations pivot strategies to make an impact.

During the captivating session on Media Trends 2024 – Shaping the Way Brands Communicate, industry stalwarts provided insights into the evolving landscape of brand communication within the agricultural sector. The panel highlighted key strategies aimed at putting into practice cutting-edge technologies and fostering inclusive communication practices. Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies were discussed as powerful tools for enhancing consumer engagement and brand storytelling.

Esteemed panelists, including Shri Sumit Gupta, Director (Project) at Thakar Chemicals Limited, and Shri Tarun Bhargava, Chief Operating Officer of IFFCO-MC Crop Science Pvt. Ltd., emphasized the potential of AR and VR in connecting with audiences on a deeper level.

Furthermore, the discussion noted the significance of User-Generated Content in building trust and amplifying brand messages across diverse channels. Shri Nitin Puri, Founder of Kisansay, and Dr. Shailendra Singh, COO of Zydex Industries Pvt. Ltd., shed light on the role of UGC in fostering community engagement and enhancing brand authenticity.

Moreover, the panel explored the imperative of sustainable and inclusive communication practices. Shri Anand Chandra, Co-Founder & Executive Director of Arya.ag emphasized the importance of aligning communication strategies with environmental and social responsibility. The session concluded with a thank you note from Smt. Nirmala Pathrawal, Executive Director of the Crop Care Federation of India, expressed gratitude for the enlightening discussion and valuable insights shared by the esteemed panelists.

The discussions then pivoted towards media trends, augmented reality, and the paradigm shift towards 'Vocal for Local'. Industry pioneers like Shri Sumit Gupta and Dr. Shailendra Singh shared insights on user-generated content and sustainable communication practices to amplify brand messages.

It was moderated by Shri Vipin Saini, the esteemed CEO of BASAI, who brought his extensive experience and insights to the forefront. Joining him were industry stalwarts, including Shri Dharmesh Gupta, the Managing Director of Dhanesha Crop Science Pvt. Ltd., renowned for his strategic acumen in agricultural innovation. Shri Debabrata Sarkar, CMD of MicroAlgae Solutions India & VP-APAC at AlgaEnergy, shared valuable perspectives on sustainable practices and technological advancements in agribusiness. Adding to the discourse was Shri Surendra Makhija, a seasoned Strategic Advisor & Sr. Vice President at Jain Irrigation Systems Ltd., known for his expertise in irrigation solutions and sustainable farming practices.

Shri Siddharth Gautam, the Managing Director of Rural Access & Advisor at Amar Ujala, provided unique insights into rural outreach and community engagement strategies. Finally, Shri Rahul Mathur, Head of Marketing at IPL Biological, contributed his expertise in consumer engagement and brand communication within the agricultural sector. Their collective wisdom and contributions enriched the discussion, setting the stage for a brighter future in agricultural communication and engagement.

The day concluded with a CEO panel, where leaders charted the course for prospects. Dr. RB Singh, Shri Rajveer Rathi, Dr. KC Ravi and other experts deliberated on using innovation to bridge the digital divide and promote environmental stewardship in rural areas. The program ended with an award ceremony, where visionaries were commended for their exemplary contributions to rural advancement.

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