Ahead of the planting season which begins from June, these companies usually have an army of field officers fanning out for one-on-one meetings with farmers, hold demonstrations at village level and address queries on the product line. The lockdown has made that impossible for them as well as sales and marketing teams to have face-to-face interactions with farmers, but the virtual meetings have picked up, said companies.
“Digital platforms and rural connectivity are a blessing for us as we had no idea how we will be able to connect with farmers once the lockdown was announced. Now, our territory managers are encouraging farmers to use Zoom or Microsoft Team to interact with them during the lockdown. The farmers are being confident to use the apps and it is helping us to market and sell products,” said Rahul Pandey, head of strategic marketing, UPL Limited that manufactures and markets agrochemicals.
The virtual interactions are not on large scale and are conducted for batches of 50-100 farmers at one time. “This is very beneficial as we are able to engage only with potential buyers,” added Pandey.
Companies are also using text and audio message to send messages to farmers. "The Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Limited (IFFCO) has strengthened its digital platform and we have around 2.54 crore farmer members who all are connected via their mobile phones. We broadcast all messages via the same. In fact we created one digital platform for farmers and cooperatives to interact, which is now known as iffcobazar.in,” said U S Awasthi, MD, IFFCO.
Companies said mobile technology will be extremely helpful in the coming months when the crops grow and farmers have doubts on pest infestation, plant diseases, unpredictable weather and changing market trends.
The mobile technology and apps help pass advisories to farmers on the crop to grow based on the price trends, seeds to be brought and solutions for any pest infestation, said Pramod Kumar Singh, GM – vegetables, Nuziveedu Seeds Private Limited.
“In the initial days, to attract farmers to attend session on whatsapp and zoom, we started giving them offers. These, we have now extended to even when they place orders online. Cotton, okra, paddy and bajra farmers in Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Telengana and Madhya Pradesh are actively using the mobile apps to interract with us,” said Singh.
Digital interaction and marketing will also help push sales, said Priyanka Mallick, MD of agriculture market research firm Q&Q Research Insights. She said a interaction with retailers found companies like FMC Corporation, Bayer India and Corteva Agriscience have been giving discounts and schemes on WhatsApp.
Also, Mallick said companies from Lead Crop Science to Coromondal Agrico were connecting with big farmers and retailers through various apps during the lockdown.
“The agri input companies are also trying to directly reach out to the farmers through agri e-commerce companies to sell products,” she said.
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