In 2004, when Manav Garg founded Eka Software, India was primarily a land of IT services giants. There were hardly any consumer product companies. B2B software product firms had surfaced but the more well known were those that catered to the banking and financial services industry.
Garg came up with a software product for commodity trading and risk management. For over a decade after that, Eka Software was a profitable business with 10 global offices and large customers. Then, Garg decided to pivot into a platform company -- a Digital Commodity Management Platform with many apps.
That's where the world was moving. The platform, launched in 2018, has large enterprises such as Cargill on one side or the commodity acquirers. The platform also has other players in the commodity supply-chain, the farmers, traders and food companies.
Business Today recently met Garg. Some of the apps on its platforms are meant for farmers. There is a disease identification app, one for disease prediction, weather advisory, a yield forecast app, and a crop input optimisation app among others. The apps work on machine learning. The disease identification app, for instance, can tell something is wrong whenever a farmer clicks and uploads the picture of the crop. Nearly all of his customers are abroad. In India, it has run two pilots. This is what we found:
- A platform solution is becoming important because the world is moving towards traceability. Customers want to know where the crop was grown, how much pesticides were used. Farmers, globally, are therefore becoming important in the whole commodity supply-chain process. Farmers, meanwhile, are also demanding better prices and some of the apps aid higher productivity.
- Eka's go-to-market is through enterprises. The revenue model is driven by large corporate such as Cargill. Eka doesn't charge the farmer. The large enterprise customers, in turn, connect the farmers digitally and share the apps as a value added service as opposed to just buying their produce as was the case earlier.
- In India, Eka was running a pilot with the Coffee Board of India where about 10,000 farmers are being digitised. Another pilot was with Tata Coffee who wanted to optimise input costs. "Fertilisers form 30 per cent of the cost of production of any farm, so the question is, can you reduce the 30 per cent to 20-22 per cent.
Fertilisers cost more because nobody measures it. In India and abroad, people just throw fertilisers -- it is called the spray and pray model," Garg says. Tata Coffee plantations used the Crop Input Optimisation app, which measures many inputs beyond fertilisers such as water consumption and soil quality.