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Agriculture

Published on: Aug. 23, 2021, 6:56 p.m.
Dvara’s holistic solutions
  • Dvara aims to solve farmers’ problems with the help of technology

By Lancelot Joseph. Executive Editor, Business India

Sanjay Mansabdar, founder and CEO of agri fintech Dvara E-Registry (DER) has reasons to be happy after raising Pre-Series A funding recently and charting the growth of this financial inclusion-focused start-up to its next phase. The total investment that DER has raised so far is $2.5 million.

“To empower every stakeholder in the agri value-chain we require an integrated universally accessible platform that informs, creates linkages, and generates productivity for all. DER is doing just that. We support their mission to identify and bridge critical gaps in the agri ecosystem so no farmer falls through the cracks,” observes Jinesh Shah, managing partner of Omnivore.

It all started in 2019, when this Hyderabad-based E-registry company made waves as it started providing accessible financial and agri services to smallholder farmers in rural India. The start-up was founded as an SBU (Special Business Unit) by Dvara Trust (formerly IMFR Trust), which works with a mission to ensure that every individual and every enterprise has complete access to financial services.

Dvara E-Registry offers holistic solutions for both the supply and demand side in financial services for farmers. For agricultural credit, the services offered include identification of land, land and crop analytics, credit underwriting data, cultivation area estimation and yield estimation. On the demand side, Dvara's digital solutions help the farmer produce organisations (FPOs) to connect with farmers using technology and analytics using GIS, mobile and cloud technologies. This provides precise data points to FPOs and farmers, enabling them to take profitable business decisions. These decisions include linking input and output markets, providing advisory services and much more.

In addition, Dvara E-Registry provides a digital platform that enables different stakeholders in the agri-value chain, especially smallholder farmers, to access financial products and agricultural markets. Financial institutions rely on their existing workforce and in-house data to assess the creditworthiness of farmers.

Deployment of field staff by financial institutions (FIs) to collect data is expensive and unscalable in the Indian context. Efforts such as the Kisan Credit Card (KCC) and the Joint Liability Group (JLG) model have attempted to assist farmers in meeting their credit needs. Still, most FIs are not equipped with the correct tools to carry out a thorough risk assessment, particularly of business risks pertaining to agriculture.

 “By harnessing a variety of technologies like mobile and GIS and the power of machine learning, e-registry makes the process of participating in the mainstream financial and non-financial marketplaces seamless and enables customisation of products,” explains Mansabdar, who has a team of experts from business, financial markets, agronomy and technology. Mansabdar is an alumnus of IIT and XLRI. He is currently pursuing a PhD in economics and finance from BITS-Pilani. He has over 25 years of experience across financial markets, venture capital, AI, consulting and education.

“Even as the pandemic disrupted life for the last 18 months, Dvara E-Registry has impacted over 25,000 farmers in eight states through farmer produce organisations (FPOs) by empowering FPOs, farmers and the agricultural value chain through community mobilisation by integrating fit for purpose technologies including mobile, GIS, cloud, remote sensing and AI. We also have tie-ups with numerous agri input and output companies that connect farmers and FPOs to the best processors, buyers and trading platforms (spot and future) ensuring access to relevant agri-inputs at the best prices to maximise productivity and minimise crop losses,” says Mansabdar.

So, to bridge information gaps for farmers and FPOs, they provide real-time information on crops, weather and market prices (spot and futures) to help mitigate risk and ensure better price realisation. “At present, we offer agronomic advisory for 40-plus crops, daily spot price updates of over 2,000 APMCs, daily future price updates of all listed agri-commodities, weekly weather forecasts at the block level,” adds Mansabdar.

Dvara E-Registry's product, KhetScore, is a farm report on the historical performance of land parcels and a good proxy for expected farm cash flow. “Farmers face tremendous challenges such as credit evaluation, identifying the cultivated land parcel, verifying the crop being sown, monitoring the development of the harvest and finally estimating the yield of the crop with a view to understanding loan performance. This is our solution. DER also has received a boost as it has been empanelled by all of the major three implementing agencies of the 10,000 FPO central sector scheme – NABARD, SFAC and NAFED, where Dvara E-Registry will be forming FPOs in Manipur, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh,” says Tarun Katoch, head of value chain, who has nearly a decade of experience in agriculture and trade markets.

Challenges galore

It has not been smooth sailing for DER. “One of the biggest challenges we face is catering to the spectrum of vernacular and technological needs and limitations of Indian farmers. It is necessary for us to ensure that our technology is accessible to our beneficiaries – the farmers and FPOs,” adds Mansabdar. Dvara E-Registry has appointed field representatives called Doordrishti Krishak Saathi, who help farmers and FPOs in the technical aspects like registration on the Doordrishti platform, plot digitisation, crop verification, loan processing, etc.

“We have also made SMS crop advisory services available in vernacular languages to reach farmers without smartphones and making sure they receive tailored crop advisories in an accessible manner. FPOs are farmer collectives that are designed to improve the economic and social capital of farmers. They especially serve as the aggregation point for small and marginal farmers,” says G Tharakeshwar, who has 16 years of experience in agricultural lending and is head of FI Solutions.

The Doordrishti platform reaches out to farmers via FPOs providing solutions to their problems both at an organisational and individual level. “DER helps the FPOs in digitising their business which is important in estimating the health of their crops (ie their business) and other relevant data that establishes better business linkages in a timely manner,” says Sukanta Bhattacharya, the CTO, who is currently building the technology landscape for the credit, insurance and value chain lines of businesses by harnessing the power of artificial intelligence, remote sensing and imaging technologies at scale.

The Doordrishti serves as the aggregation point for small and marginal farmers. It reaches out to farmers via FPOs providing innovative solutions to their unique problems both at an organisational and individual level. “So, the company helps the FPOs in digitising their business which is important in estimating the health of their crops and other relevant data that establishes better business linkages in a timely manner,” adds Senthil Kumar, an agronomist whose current role at Dvara E-Registry focuses on developing crop-specific analytics. Small, marginal and tenant farmers face immense challenges in getting access to credit linkages, crop insurance, inputs, market linkages and crop advisories.

“We aim to solve these challenges by providing a platform with historical and real-time land data that acts as a portfolio for vulnerable and marginalised farmers and helps them get access to credit. The platform analytics also estimates and gives real-time data of yield and damage, helping farmers get accurate crop insurance and accelerated claim settlements,” says Mansabdar, harnessing technology to reach common man.

FIs endorse  

“Doordrishti has helped us in our endeavour for financial inclusion. We lend to small and marginal farmers, tenant farmers, sharecroppers – the decision is supported by satellite imaging and remote sensing. The farm analytics report ‘KhetScore’ has added value in assessing creditworthiness and monitoring agri portfolios. We appreciate Dvara E-Registry's efforts for creating a transformative impact on agriculture loan assessment and monitoring," says Rahul Johri, the chairman of Vector Finance.

Says Vijay from Maharashtra's Temurda village in Chandrapur: “The Doordrishti services via Krushikonnati Farmer Producer Company have benefitted farmers and they get easier access to agri-inputs and crop advisories.”

“The women in our area work in the farms all day and contribute to weeding, harvesting, picking, watering, and going to the mandi. Despite working on farms, since women do not have any agricultural land in their name, they have difficulty in getting loans,” observes Usha, Board of Directors of Sakshami Mahila Farmer Producer Company (FPC) in Shirur tehsil of Pune. Working with FPCs like Sakshami Mahila, Dvara E-Registry's Doordrishti provides a range of digital services to FPOs and farmers.

According to Amit Naphade, CEO of Krushi Vikas Va Gramin Prashikshan Sanstha (KVGPS), one of the prominent FPO promoters in Maharashtra, is DER's oldest partner. “The work we have done with Dvara has been a great experience. We are expecting that Doordrishti will open avenues to work with other market players. One of the most important things Dvara is offering is an aggregation of farmer's crop and land data which helps in yield estimation. We can leverage this information to find buyers. The Dvara team is supporting us in establishing market linkages for FPOs and its member farmers. We require some agri-inputs as the sowing season is approaching. The Dvara team is helping us connect with input suppliers. I am confident that our work with Dvara will materialise into strengthening backward and forward linkages for the FPO.”

Lastly, agriculture is a vast area, and the best way to help smallholder farmers benefit from the wide range of products and services available at affordable prices is to collectivise them via FPOs and connect these collectives to services such as input markets, output markets, warehouses, finance, insurance, advice via a platform.

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