In April, the six finalists in GFAR and YPARD’s Youth Agripreneur Project headed back to their homes in the four corners of the world after an intense week of orientation and skills building at the GCARD3 Global Event, to embark on their personal adventures–and tackle their particular challenges–in agricultural entrepreneurship. Over the last three months, Jax, Anil, Nikki, Lillian, Jony, and Kellyann have taken what they learned in the YAP induction workshop and used it to fine-tune their business plans and set realistic milestones for progress; they have channeled the excitement of the pitches they delivered at GCARD3 into campaigning for support through social media, crowdfunding, and getting their names out in their communities; and they have started forming relationships with their mentors who will support and challenge them during this year, and help them identify the resources they will need to make their businesses successful.
Now, with a little more experience under their belts, we asked the YAPpers to reflect on where they have come since GCARD3. Anil Regmi’s from Nepal impressed voters with his team’s mobile app, “Smart Krishi” which serves as a platform for farmers and any citizens interested in agriculture to get information with a single touch. Using a Wi-Fi/3G connection, the app automatically syncs with the latest information in the Smart Krishi database, to allow information to be viewed in offline mode. With it, farmers can get location-specific information on crop and farming techniques and market prices of agricultural and horticultural products. Here is what he has to say about where she has come thus far…
A concrete business plan has helped me to grow to counterbalance emotions so much in last few months. My team and I were so passionate about our ideas, thinking that all the app’s features were going to work. Having a business plan helped us to step back and take an objective look at what we are doing and why, what we know for a fact and what we are trying to figure out.
From starting with a basic idea of vision generation to designing a business canvas template and reframing SMART goals, I have learned so much. Not only have I been able to divide work among my team and refine my vision down to concrete details, but I have also learned to express myself.
Cal Foulner from Australia has been assigned as our mentor, who has a wealth of experience in working in remote villages of Nepal. His current project is based in the Nepalese district of Manang, on an apple orchard. Since we haven’t been able to make our presence in those areas, we are not very aware of how to train them or deal with them during promotional activities.
Since he has wealth of experience about how to grow a startup and progressively making a business around it, we seek his help in areas like monetizing business in the agricultural domain, mainly in developing countries. Establishing connections with agricultural INGOs for strategic partnerships is another goal we wish to realize with help of Cal.
Another possible mentor is John Keiti, who is himself a founder of an ICT startup based in agriculture. Since our country is also an underdeveloped one, the technology adoption trend and culture among farmers is similar to cases he has worked with. His successful project execution can surely help us to scale our startup to grassroots level.
Recently we conducted a survey about the overall user experience, possible features to include in the app updates and conducting training. Most notably, we asked a question specifically of Nepalese people living abroad: “If you were given sufficient opportunity to start your own farm in Nepal, would you think to return back to your country immediately?” 62.3% answered “Yes, I will immediately return to my country.” Around 5 million able-bodied youth are living abroad for employment purposes. We have realized people are not happy only with money, they want to do something in their own land together with their families. The remaining 35% answered that they are looking for more political stability before considering investment. Our team hopes to use this knowledge to guide our development of Smart Krishi’s features in order to attract young people with the idea of easier access to markets through use of our app.
The main setbacks we have experienced in the first three months are related to local partnerships and revenue generation. Since there is not much smartphone penetration among farmers in the young age group, we are not able to accelerate our growth rapidly. Because of this we so far have not been able to convince vendors to place advertisements on our app. However, businesses are now able to interact with possible customers in Facebook comments. So, we have started promoting agro tools and other input suppliers in our Facebook page and Instagram account, which is promising. Facebook users in Nepal itself number almost 5.5 million, and we have followers abroad also.
Our future plan is to promote a recently launched marketplace named ‘Krishibajar.com’ for agriculture tools, inputs and services, which is one of our projects and will be integrated into the Smart Krishi mobile application later. We are currently bringing our service to four clients who are paying us to promote their products and services. Altogether we are focused on integrating ICT with agriculture for increasing productivity, improving economy of farmers and betterment of this sector and country.
Blogpost by Anil Regmi (waytomeanil(at)gmail.com), one of six finalists in the Youth Agripreneurs Project, a pilot project targeting young agricultural entrepreneurs (“agripreneurs”), co-organized by GFAR and YPARD.
Watch Anil’s pitch video:
Read the original YAP proposal here.
Photo credit : Fintrac Inc. / USAID Nepal Calendar 2013