Riding a motorbike from Hyderabad to his native village in Warangal district on a weekend in 2016, V Naveen Kumar stopped midway on noticing a group of farmers standing near a field. He was shocked to find a farmer lying dead. He had committed suicide, unable to repay loan due to the crop loss he suffered because of spurious seeds. Disturbed by what he saw, the MBA graduate started thinking if he could anyway help prevent such tragedies.
Cut to 2019. NaPanta, a mobile platform developed by him, is being used by over 1.30 lakh farmers in the states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh while states like Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, and Arunachal Pradesh are also evincing keen interest in using its services for their farmers.
The model developed by this young social entrepreneur is impacting the lives of farmers by addressing their needs at the grassroots level, through a wide array of advisory services, helping them cut their cultivation costs. He is showing the way how a change can be brought by addressing the real pain points.
Unlike various apps developed by, NaPanta covers the entire gamut of agriculture activity ranging from selection of crop to weather information and from advisory services to market prices and e-commerce.
Contrary to the general perception that farmers will have no access to a technology platform offered on smart phones, NaPanta downloads show the penetration of handset devices. The boom in use of WhatsApp and other social media tools aided by the drop in voice and data tariff with the entry of Reliance Jio led to more and more farmers hooking on to the mobile app.
Crop expenditure tool
Crop expenditure tool on the app helps farmers track their expenses in an organized manner. All farm related communication on a single platform has the potential to significantly reduce the time and cost of cultivation. V Naveen Kumar, founder and managing director, NaPanta believes that a farmer by using his platform can save 20 percent on expenditure and get 10 per cent additional yield.
The app also offers tips for crop protection and gives weekly agro advisory. The digital platform offering the comprehensive agri eco-system also has tools like soil testing information, weather, crop insurance, agri e-commerce and food processing technologies.
The app helps farmers access real-time information pertaining to daily market prices of over 3,500 markets and 300 agri commodities.
Currently available in Telugu and English, NaPanta App provides complete pest and disease management details, covering 90 crops and with suggestions about 3000 pesticide products.
It provides information about geo-climatic conditions of a particular location made available by Agriculture University of Telangana. It guides farmers in how and where to get the soil test done free of cost and depending on the nature of soil what will be quantity of urea to be used.
He believes such information will take care of the needs of majority of farmers but for specific doubts they can still get in touch with Agriculture Forum of NaPanta, comprising agriculture scientists, retired agriculture officers and other experts.
A farmer can also buy or rent an agri equipment as per the requirements of his crop cycle and can also sell his produce for the highest price without any middleman as the app brings directly brings together the buyer and the seller.
“Farming is not dependent on single advisory. From seed, fertilizer and pesticide recommendation to market linkage and equipment, it is a combination of various services. We identified these and tried to provide what all important things a farmer needs in his day to day life,” he told The Federal.
From someone who had no knowledge of agriculture when he started in 2016, Naveen Kumar has come a long way and developed good insights into the sector and what ails the system. “Small and marginal farmers depend on third parties for their every need. The representatives of seed, fertilizer and pest control companies try to push the products for an extra profit landing the farmers in trouble,” he said.
Naveen Kumar, who earlier worked as a credit relationship manager in ICICI Bank and later as credit risk manager with HDFC Bank, also co-founded apnaloanbazaar.com, a retail loan distribution services portal, before launching NaPanta.
Incubated at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), NaPanta received the institute’s help in business activity, reaching the farmers and engagement with agri input companies.
However, as nobody was ready to invest in advisory services to farmers, the startup had to find its own revenue model through equipment rentals. While for farmers it is free service, NaPanta charges a small sum from those want to rent out the equipment.
Marathi, Hindi and Tamil
Maharashtra Government has invited NaPanta with a proposal to rollout its digital platform in Marathi for entire state to help the 12 million farmers. The work is on for making the platform available in Marathi, Hindi and Tamil. Marathi and Hindi versions are likely to be rolled out in July.
Tamil Nadu Agriculture University (TNAU) and Madurai Agri Business Incubation Centre have also assures support NaPanta to convert the platform in Tamil. Naveen hopes the work to be completed by August.
NaPanta is getting several investment offers from various stake holders. It is among four companies shortlisted by Bayer Crop Sciences and Omnivore for their proposed Agri Startup consortium for India. This collaboration is expected to fetch the funding in coming days. Social Alpha is also discussing with NaPanta for Seed level funding.
“For this financial year, we are now focussing on collaborating with various partners, we have already executed an agreement with SBI for their digital initiation YONO app. For all agri related advisory and market prices, they are going to re-direct it to NaPanta,” he said.
Final discussions are on for an agreement with a farm insurance company to provide advisory for their farmer base. States like Arunachal Pradesh also looking forward to associate with NaPanta towards providing the update advisory services for farmers. He is confident that if everything goes well, NaPanta will be there in 7-9 states in next 3 to 5 years.
He is also working on individual crop land satellite image analysis based advisory services to be provided to farmer for less than Rs.1000 for a crop season. “We have to see the viability of this initiative,” he said.
Naveen is also building big data architecture. With over a million transactions per month, the platform is already generate huge data. “We are getting crowd sourcing information from the real farmers like their major crops, insects affecting crop in a particular area, copping system, area under cultivation, sequential cropping model, pesticides and where they sell their produce.”
“The work on big data is a long term game plan. The database we want to build will be goldmine. This sort of crowd sourcing information in agriculture is not available in India,” he said.
Right now government agencies and others get some data from third parties but not directly from farmers. This data, he believes, will help all stakeholders in reorienting their strategies to address the farmers’ needs.