Would you farm – or for that matter stick to any business or profession – if it continuously fails to earn what you need for your breadwinning?
Perhaps you won't.
Mohammad Zakir, a farmer of Singair Upazila, Manikganj, thinks otherwise.
Having its own delivery mechanism, Krishi Shwapno delivers the products directly to the markets. In doing so, it pays the farmers more than what the middlemen would pay and has created a scope in the market for customers to buy fresh agro products at a lower price.
Having worked in the gulf kingdom of Saudi Arabia as a migrant worker for years, Zakir thought of returning home with the small savings that he made. He wanted to try his luck in farming--the profession of his ancestors.
His plan however failed to reap the benefits as after months of hard work and investment in farming, he couldn't cash in. "My profit wouldn't even come nearer to the sum that I invested," said Zakir.
The continuous loss-making went on for a few years and at one point he thought of pulling the plug on his farm and taking up another job.
"I couldn't do it though. I had this great affection for farming and I planned to stick to it no matter what profit it brings me home." he said.
Zakir's luck started to change in 2019 after he met a young man named Abdullah Hossain Roni from his locality. Roni introduced him to a platform called Krishi Shwapno--a tech-based one-stop solution for the agricultural sector.
"After working with Krishi Shawpno, I slowly started making profit from my farm," A happy Zakir told this correspondent, "They changed the fate of my farming business."
What is Krishi Shawpno?
Sayed Zubaer Hasan, the Cofounder and CEO of Krishi Shwapno told The Business Standard that at Krishi Shwapno, they ensure a fair price for farmers and safe food for consumers.
Explaining Krishi Shawpno, he said, over 76 percent of Bangladesh's farmers are small and marginal and they sell their products to local middlemen at a lower price.
"As a result, farmers lose their fair share. Besides, the unorganised traditional supply chain allows unscrupulous traders to adulterate food and damage consumers' health."
"We connect farmers directly with business and ensure safe food for the consumers. By using Blockchain technology, we monitor foods from the fields to the market," Zubaer said.
"It is both a B2B (business to business) and B2C (business to customer) blockchain-based agricultural technology platform," he further added.
How does Krishi Shwapno work?
From land traceability testing, pre-harvesting assistance to reaching products in the market, this startup has created a mechanism to spread its helping hands in multiple sectors.
This benefits a range of people including farmers, businessmen, customers, and some less-educated young guys like Manikganj's Abdullah Hossain Roni who got a way of earning in their locality as micro-entrepreneurs.
Farmers make some common mistakes. For example, each piece of land is not suited for all sorts of crops. Many farmers cultivate wrong crops in wrong lands. Consequently, at harvesting, the despair among the farmers is obvious, and predictable.
"As we prioritise community welfare, our work basically begins from the soil testing stage to help them understand if they are cultivating the correct crops," said Zubaer Hasan.
Beginning with soil testing, Hasan said, they help the farmers with agricultural knowledge in every stage of the production. They even offer interest-free loans to the farmers, which is currently happening on a pilot basis.
The farmers are usually asked to pay back only after harvesting.
Fair pricing for the customers as well
Krishi Shawpno provides the customers with fresh products dodging the middlemen, which saves both money and chances of adulteration.
As Krishi Shwapno has their delivery mechanism, they deliver the products directly to the markets at a lower price than regular.
In doing so, they paid the farmers more than what the middlemen would pay and created a scope in the market for customers to buy agro products at a lower price.
Unfortunately, customers don't always end up reaping the benefit of this solution provided by Krishi Shawpno.
"When we deliver the products at a lower price, we request the businessmen to sell these products at a lowered price as well. But often that doesn't happen. Instead, they tend to sell these products at a higher price since they are fresh from the fields," Zubaer Hasan lamented.
To ensure that the customers also reap the benefits of our venture, Krishi Shwapno has planned to deliver the products directly to the customers.
In the recent past, they collaborated with Japan Garden City in Mohammadpur to home-deliver their products as per a pilot project. Now they seek to dive into the business properly.
In that pursuit, they have bought three vans from Thailand.
"A breakaway from startups' funding obsession"
Zubaer told The Business Standard that they are not like just another startup in terms of seeking funding from the fundraisers or angel investors.
"The idea of Kirshi Shwapno is derived from a personal connection that inspires us to look beyond funding culture and work for the farmers who really are in need of our help."
Zubaer's connection with his family roots inspired him to work for the farmers in the first place. He saw how the middlemen, wrong seedling and lack of proper knowledge of agriculture held back the growth of our farming class people first-hand.
"So, unlike many other startups who are desperate for funding, Krishi Shwapno is a breakaway from startups' funding obsession. Our primary goal is to serve the community; we cannot just show this to investors for the sake of funding" said Zubaer.
A fast journey and high ambition
Krishi Shwapno's journey so far has been speedy.
Established in 2019, this startup has already connected more than 6,000 farmers in its network within two years and employed some 40 micro-entrepreneurs who work for them at the local level.
In the very first year of their journey, this agro-based startup won an award from Youth Co:Lab, a project jointly led by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Citi Foundation. This project works to empower the youth in Asia-Pacific region, promote entrepreneurship and social innovation.
"From fundraising strategy, business development, sales distribution pipeline to marketing strategy, UNDP has helped us learn many things through one to one sessions with top business leaders. They helped us learn how to turn into a successful venture from a minimum viable product," said Zubaer.
"When you want to step up from an ideation stage to growth stage, you will face many problems, UNDP taught us how to face those problems," added Partha Pratim, the Co-Founder & CFO of Krishi Shwapno.
What is the vision of this fast-paced agro-based startup? We asked its CFO.
"Agriculture is a bigger industry than garments. But our younger generation neglects this sector. We want that new generation to move to modern agriculture. Krishi Shwapno's vision is to represent our agriculture sector as glamorous as the garment sector in the world," Partha replied.