Inside our 2022 agri-tech special

From assessing the impact of digital technology on farmers offered by agritech to the way drones are starting to impact agriculture, and so on. Every year, our Agri-Tech issue is packed with in-depth analysis and reportsIf there’s one industry which has been crying out for digital technology and intervention the agriculture sector is it. Take into account that India’s agri industry makes up less than 16 percent of its economy and more than half of work force. 

The reasons for low efficiency range from the inadequacy of market infrastructure, post-harvest wastage to fluctuating pricing and insufficient crop management.
The government is taking steps to boost productivity in agriculture in the past year; for instance it launched the “Digital Agriculture mission 2021-24′ which aims to use technology like blockchain, artificial intelligence and drones.

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And then there are the agricultural startups, who pull out all the stops to provide digital solutions for farmers.This is the subject of this fortnight’s special deal. Naandika Tripathi visited some of the nation’s agriculture districts-from Botad within Gujarat from Junnar in Maharashtra-to see how technology is transforming the lives of farmers. Her conclusion: Technology has led to perhaps the biggest change that has occurred since in the Green Revolution, but a many more steps are required to enhance the quality of life in the field.

One technology that is beginning to change the world is drones. Naini Thaker visited south India to learn how drones that are not piloted can help growers in their Kuttanad area in Kerala as well as Tumkur district of Karnataka decrease costs while increasing production and yields.

In other reports Harichandan Arakali delved into India’s top highly-rated agritech startups, including those that are feeling the stress of a financial slowdown. Also, Salil Panchal decodes why the sector hasn’t had the first unicorn. One reason is that it’s an endurance game. There’s plenty more in this agricultural special which starts with page 32.

The Business Headers  The cover story focuses on an organization whose fortunes are closely tied to income from agriculture. The problem of Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL) an international subsidiary that has been operating for close to 90 years in India is to remain relevant to changing consumer demands and preferences over time. When it became an enormous consumer goods company–the top line reached over Rs50,000 crore during the fiscal year 2022–through mergers, acquisitions and the introduction of into new markets, innovation needed to continue to come.

In many cases it was the case that the Unilever branch was pushed aside by smaller competitors in the local market. For instance, decades ago it was a chemist-turned-entrepreneur from Ahmedabad in Gujarat, Karsanbhai Patel, who gave the HUL marketing machine a wakeup call by launching detergents and later soaps at prices lower than those of the leader. HUL was forced to respond, and it did creating a Wheel to compete with Nirma and did it with grace. Similarly, HUL had little choice but to follow the pioneers in the sachet revolution from the south, including the Chennai-headquartered CavinKare, to protect its leadership status.

In the present, HUL may be gearing to face an uphill battle against a new set of competitors that are more agile, who have a digital edge. Direct-to-consumer (D2C) brigade is a model of business that removes distribution channels or retailers. The younger and more informed consumer is becoming more attracted by these brands that are emerging, many offer an assurance of being healthy, safe and eco-friendly.
These new trends in consumer behavior aren’t missed by HUL and its ongoing experiments with a range of brands within the D2C area that are organic and acquired.

 In the words of Samar Srivastava writes in ‘Futureproofing HUL’, the company’s Indian subsidiary is reacting to the change by rethinking how it operates and also rewiring its distribution structure to go directly to consumers, not only but as well to retailers. In the case of retailers, for instance, it’s looking at the huge amounts of data generated in its various business units and has designed an app that lets 800,000 retailers to order online. To learn more about that digital era, visit page 22.

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