Fasal: A Free SMS Service to Boost Farmers’ Income

Photo Credit: Intuit Fasal

Over 500 000 rural farmers in India can now access free daily market information and weather services on their cell phones with the help of Intuit Fasal platform, an SMS based mobile service.

Fasal begun as an experiment after it was recognized that rural farmers in Karnataka, India lack price information in relevant multiple markets; have issues with price transparency in markets; and also lack knowledge of potential buyers of their farm produce.

After a period of interaction between some company executives and the farmers in their rural setting, it was identified that the above challenges lead to information gaps that have a huge impact on the livelihood of the farmers and their families who often look at existing means of livelihood as one that does not provide sufficient returns.

The opportunity to provide a service where actionable information on price, potential buyer, weather, etc. would be invaluable to farming communities while also helping bridge the gap for large organizations to reach out with relevant offerings and advisory services in India was irresistible and therein was born Fasal.

Fasal has a single objective of helping farmers make more money or save more money! And this is being achieved through a business model that ensures that Fasal is a free for the farmer while companies providing household items to these rural communities, consumer durables, automotive equipments, agriculture implement and inputs, financial service, consumer goods, and other advertisers are rather charged for the service.

How it Works

Step One: A farmer calls toll free number in their respective local languages to register for Fasal. The farmer is then profiled by the staffs of Fasal based on information such as the commodity s/he grows, current crop season, land size under cultivation, etc. The farmer’s profile is then mapped to the markets that s/he visits to sell his or her produce.

Step Two: Based on this highly personalized information of each farmer, regular market and weather information are sent in their preferred local language at a time that it is most actionable. Additional relevant messaging is also sent on the basis of farmers’ profile such as use of irrigation facilities or ownership of farm equipments, etc.

Step Three: Using a complex and patented matching algorithms, Fasal service connects farmers to potential buyers/agents/institutions who would like to connect directly with farmers and make a purchase – creating an engaged and busy marketplace. The service using complex matching algorithms ensures that the multiple service messages reach the farmer every day, providing him/her data so that s/he can make informed decisions.

Impact

Even though the service is still at its infancy, its social and economic impact on the rural communities is being closely monitored, including the use of independent third-party research. According to Fasal, the vast majority of Fasal customers in Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat found the service useful and it is helping them earn an average of 20% more with the service.

For more information, visit Fasal site and also read this interesting article about the innovation.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Bhaumik Shah says:

    Good initiative. However illiteracy and language compatibility of mobile phones are still the major issues in rural india. Most of the mobile phones are not compatible with local language and hence SMS is still not very favorable medium of communication among farmers.

    Also, sustainability is an issue. How long service will be free? In India Reuters Market Light has developed subscription based business model to earn revenue. Not sure how financially it is sustainable as of now though.

    1. Hello Bhaumik Shah,

      Thanks for your comment and for sharing your experience on the subject from context – India.

      I totally agree with you that SMS is not the best medium for getting information to farmers in our part of the world due to the illiteracy barrier. Which medium/media do you think work better apart from the traditional agricultural extension work? Feel free to share any successful integration of ICTs in India’s agriculture for our audience.

      On sustainability, my understanding of the fasal service is that it is an embedded service business model. It is free to the farmer but other companies pay for the service. Of course, I don’t think it is the best business model for sustainability but believe it acts as an incentive for rural farmers to see the value of ICTs. When farmers see the value of this free services, they will then be convinced to pay in the future.

      We will like to hear you experience with the RML model and see how farmers are patronizing it – especially the type of farmers.

      Thanks

      Ben

      1. Bhaumik Shah says:

        Hi Ben

        Combination of SMS and IVRs seems to be better. SMS has an obvious advantage of being cost effective and it can be stored and reviewed at convenient time. In India IFFCO Kisaan Sanchar Ltd has adopted combined SMS and IVR model. However the generalized content and 5 voice SMS per day is surely irrelevant and information overload for the farmers.

        Also, the problem with voice / IVR is farmer might not be free at the time of call and he might miss to listen. In that case Avaaj otalo & Awaaz.De’s technology seems to be the most suitable. Avaaj otalo is a voice-based community forum for farmers to access relevant and timely agricultural information over the phone. By dialing a phone number and navigating through simple audio prompts, farmers can record questions, review and respond to others, or access content published by agricultural experts and institutions. In this technology even if a farmer misses the broadcasted call, later on he can dial in and listen to the content. Earlier it was kept free but now it has been made subscription based for the farmers. Worth noting down that when farmer calls in to ask question or listen to the message the airtime is paid by farmer. Hence it is a cost sharing model between the end user ant the organization.

        RML is a great service in terms of its localized, relevant and highly customized information. But since it is only text based, the impact would be very low on farming community.

        Thanks
        Bhaumik

  2. B K Prusty says:

    Government of India, Ministry of Agriculture has operating a Market Information System popularly named as Marketing Research and Information Network, a fully centrally funded project covered more than 3000 agricultural marketsacross the country. Presently 1900 markets are reporting data to this portal.More than 300 commodities and 2000 varieties of crops are available in this site.In order to empower the farmers on the prevailing daily market price, Government has launched the SMS and Voice services on the mobile phones through the organisations like IIT,Kanpur, IFFICO Kissan Sanchal Lts, NOKIA Life Tools etc. Currently around 15 lakh messages on SMS or Voice mode being provides daily by IFFICO Kissal Sanchar Ltd, more than 10 lakh SMS being provided by NOKIA Life Tools. Recently Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur has initiated a Programme called Digital Mandi for Indian Kissan to provide Markrt information to Indian farmers in their local language in SMS and Voice Response mode. All these informations are being usedprovided by the central Server of Government of Indiahttp:agmarknet.nic.in. The basic objective is to collect and desseminate daily market information for the benefit of Indian farmers specifically in agricultural produce in India.

    1. Hello B.K Prusty,

      Thanks so much for the information on the use of ICTs in agriculture in India. I am sure you are aware of the database that we are working on here at GBI. I would be very grateful if you can submit information on some of these innovations at the portal so that we can add it to the database.

      We currently have over 120 ICT solutions for agriculture mapped along the agricultural value chain. Some of the initiatives that you have mentioned are already in the database but I noticed some new ones in your comments.

      Please browse through the databases and use the form at the right pane to submit information on the new ones and we will update at the portal – the link to the database if you are not aware: http://agriculture.gbiportal.net/icts-along-the-ag-value-chain/

      Thanks

      Ben

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