1. Success Story

This Risk Management Start-up Helps Farmers Increase Yield Through Their Advisories

The increased use of smartphones and more affordable data plans, which boosted access to online information, provided the main boost for WRMS in the time period between 2015 and 2016.

Shruti Kandwal
WRMS began interacting directly with farmers in 2019 by offering them a variety of input advisory services.
WRMS began interacting directly with farmers in 2019 by offering them a variety of input advisory services.

54.6% of India's workforce is employed in agriculture, which is a major contributor to the country's economy. Many farmers rely on weather forecasts to make better agricultural decisions, such as when to sow crops.

Since unexpected rains or any other extreme weather conditions can cause financial ruin, smallholder farmers are especially dependent on reliable weather information. The agritech start-up Weather Risk Management Services (WRMS), which was incubated at IIT Kanpur, claims that it is well-positioned to meet the needs of this segment.

The company, which has its headquarters in Gurugram, was founded in 2004 by Sonu Agrawal, Anuj Kumbhat, and Ashish Agarwal. Over the last 18 years, it has improved its solutions for the Indian agriculture industry. It started by offering insurance firms weather advisory services so they could use them to create crop insurance policies. Later, the start-up also began notifying farmers about the weather.

The increased use of smartphones and more affordable data plans, which boosted access to online information, provided the main boost for WRMS in the period between 2015 and 2016. It also realized that simply giving farmers weather information was insufficient for the farmers.

Anuj Kumbhat, Co-Founder and CEO, of WRMS, stated that "we realized that farmers required extra actionable information that extends beyond the meteorological services to improve agricultural productivity."

The start-up devised its technological infrastructure, which included automatic weather stations (AWS) to collect pertinent information, and also acquired other related data from a variety of sources. Over 10,000 AWS are currently engaged across the country.

Direct touch with farmers

Under the brand SecuFarm, WRMS began interacting directly with farmers in 2019 by offering them a variety of input advisory services. The organization expanded its services to include areas like soil moisture condition, pest control, water management, etc. by building on its experience in weather forecasting.

"We can now advise farmers on when to plant their seeds or how often to spray to ward off pests," he continues.

Farmers can pay WRMS for these advisory services; the charge ranges from Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,000 per season, depending on the crop and the size of the cultivated area. If people adhere to its recommendations, it also offers to buy their produce at market rates. The startup wants to reduce the dangers involved with farming.

“As long as farmers follow our advisories, there is a guarantee of higher yield outcomes in the range of 15-20 percent,” says Anuj.

He adds that by maximizing irrigation and utilizing the proper agricultural inputs, WRMS' advising services also help farmers in reducing their agricultural expenses.

We don't believe in multiple options, he says, and only recommend inputs that fit our best practices.

The package includes necessary irrigation, soil testing, nutrition management, and other timely interventions. These are supported by models of artificial intelligence and machine learning.

To date, WRMS has collaborated with many state governments as well as more than 1,30,000 farmers in 10 states, including Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Telangana. It concentrates on agricultural regions that have irrigation systems and produce two to three crops each year. These farmers usually own between two and ten acres of land.

The start-up also collaborates with agri-input companies, corporate agricultural corporate entities, farmer-producer organizations, etc.

It generates income from a variety of sources, including advisory fees, subscriptions to weather data services, and payments from agri-input providers.

Bootstrapped venture

In addition to funding from organizations like UPL, the ILO (International Labour Organization), the Ford Foundation, and most recently, Insuresilience Solutions, WRMS has mostly been a bootstrapped business.

For FY22, the firm claimed $4.2 million in revenue, and it claims to be profitable. Over the past two years, its income increased by 60%.

The start-up’s path wasn't without its share of difficulties, though. It took some time for the firm to build a rapport with farmers and win their trust. Anuj gives the example that it took them three crop seasons to reach 4,000 farmers in Haryana after they started working with 400.

WRMS, which has a team of around 300 members, also faced challenges in building market linkages for the agricultural produce that it procures from farmers. 

According to research by Bain & Company, the Indian Logitech industry would reach $35 billion by 2025. A few of the many participants in this sector are CropIn, Fasal, and DeHart. Anuj, however, believes that WRMS has a strong position in the industry due to the experience it has acquired over the years, particularly about weather-related data. He continues by saying that the startup's services are a result, especially in matching input and output links.

Anuj says, "We provide advisory services that are backed by a guarantee.

Farmers have been contacted both directly and indirectly by WRMS over the years, and WRMS expects that this connection will continue to grow in the years ahead. It has gathered a staff of experts in fields including IT, field management, remote sensing, agriculture, and metrology.

As he concludes, "In the next four years, we intend to reach out to more than 1.6 million farmers, covering four million acres."

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