India is primarily an agrarian economy, yet its farmers continue to be among the poorest in the world. The country’s farm productivity too remains way below the global standards. A niche start-up is trying to break traditional stereotypes for increasing agricultural productivity by bringing in technology and mechanication for the farming community on a pay-for-use basis.
“Our agenda is to increase farmer prosperity by offering agricultural and farm mechanisation services and equipment that are easily accessible and affordable, via the pay per use model,” says Rohtash Mal, co-founder and CMD, EM3 Agri Services. “This allows small farmers access to high quality services without needing to buy equipment.”
Since its launch in 2013, EM3 Agri Services has made significant strides. It has raised first round of equity funding of `27.5 crore from Soros Economic Development Fund. The venture is now present in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Rajasthan. “We have impacted nearly 15,000 farmers, our equipment touches 300-plus acres of farm land everyday. Currently we have 160 employees,” says Mal, who has over 35 years of experience spanning six industries—agri-machinery, agriculture, telecom, automobiles, paper and chemicals across companies such as Bharti Airtel, Maruti and Escorts.
“During my tenure as chief executive of Escorts, I was acquainted with the challenges of small farmers with small farm holdings who could ill-afford costly tractors/farm services. I wished to bring about true mechanisation as opposed to tractorisation. In 2013, my son Adwitiya, who has over a decade of experience across multiple functions including sales, corporate strategy and corporate finance, and I set up EM3, which at its core wants to catalyse the progress of farmers in India,” says Mal, an alumnus of IIT Delhi and IIM Calcutta.
EM3 has partnerships with John Deere, which is the world’s largest manufacturer of farm equipment with a turnover of $40 billion so that all technologies can be made available to the farmer; a joint venture with Trimble that offers precision farm services; Small Farmers’ Agri-Business Consortium (SFAC), a financial consortium specialising in agriculture financing and with ITC via its e-Choupals.”
According to the EM3 co-founder, farm mechanisation is expected to cut cultivation cost by 25% and raise productivity by 20%. “Our vision is one of ‘Smart India is a Smart Kisaan’. With EM3, farmers can now access agriculture services, superior farming technologies and latest equipment at affordable costs,” says Mal.
EM3’s digital platform leverages internet technology, mobile telecom services, financial services and cloud technologies that significantly increase the reach of farm mechanisation and enables digital empowerment of the farmers. “We make use of modern technology such as geo-positioning and Big Data. All our agricultural machines are fitted with advanced sensors that allow us to monitor, measure and optimise the performance of the machines as per the need of the farmers,” he informs. “Our farmer-facing dedicated app allows for an intuitive, convenient and easy way to place orders for renting farm equipment and services, with a built-in option of paying online via the payment wallet. They can also check the latest crop prices, weather patterns and government announcements via the app.”
EM3 now plans to expand its presence via the franchise model. “We have been operating in Madhya Pradesh since July 2014 through a network of farm centres called Samadhan Kendras. We plan to increase the number to 100 from the current 10 by end of 2017 through the franchise route.”