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  • 1.Case Study: Mobile Agro-advisory project in India between CABI andIFFCO Kisan Sanchar Limited (IKSL) Sharbendu BanerjeeDirector Business Development-South AsiaCABI South Asia, New Delhi, India Email: S.Banerjee@cabi.orgAbstract:During 2007 and 2008 CABI carried out a study about the Assessment of information andcommunication technology (ICT) in India to identify a role of CABI for the agriculturalinformation management for the farmers. The outcome of this study was that, mobiletelephony could be the most prolific and economically viable ICT tool to reach largenumber of farmers in the shortest possible time.To understand further about the possible applications of mobile telephony in agriculture,CABI India, in 2009 partnered with IFFCO Kisan Sanchar Limited (IKSL), which is a jointventure between Indian Farmers Fertilizer Cooperative (IFFCO) & Bharti Airtel.This paper is about CABIs insights and learning about how IKSL services, through asustainable business model, have benefitted smallholder farmers in improving theirlivelihood.Key Words: mobile enabled agro-advisory, CABI, IKSL, agriculture, infomediary,knowledge managementIntroduction:Agriculture is the main vocation in India; 60% of its population is directly or indirectlydependent on agriculture for their livelihood. From the point of food security, India feeds17.5% of world population from only 2.3% of worlds total land areai.However, over the last few years, the contribution to GDP of India by agriculture and alliedsector has declined from 17.4% in 2006-2007 to 14.2% in 2010-2011.Some of the reasons for the poor performance of the agriculture sector are; diminishingland holding size, depletion of natural resources (especially ground water) , decreasing soilfertility and above all fast changing effects of climate change (flood, drought, cyclones etc)Farmers lack basic literacy to understand new technologies and desperately need skillsand support for production, processing and marketing. Traditional agriculture extensionPage | 1

2. systems are weak and lack adequate manpower to effective support at the doorsteps offarmersiiOne way of dealing with this problem is using innovative ICT tools like mobile phone toempower the farmers with the ability of seek and source critical information in real-timeand to connect them with the other important actors in the ecosystem like markets,meteorologists and agriculture scientists.Using mobile telephony as ICT tool is also advantageous because its proliferation andgrowth is driven by the industry. Large investments are being made by mobile networkoperators (MNO) in infrastructure development and marketing (awareness generation) ofservices. According to a recent study by Deloitte, in India alone, mobile value addedservices (mVAS) is estimated at USD 158 billion annually, which by 2015 will grow to USD671 billion. For a subscriber, mobile is not just a device to communicate, its amultipurpose tool that enables users to communicate as well as provides infotainment tothem (IMRB2010)The rural market is very lucrative from the point of view of mobile network operatorsmarket share and it will be the future growth driver. Figure 1-The Economics at Bottom of Pyramidiii Rural India accounts for about 72%of the population while the mobilepenetration is around 28%, thereason why most of the mobilenetwork operators are investing indeveloping tailor made services thatappeals to rural population and beinga predominantly agrarian society,agriculture is one ofthe most sought after service for rural population.Rural India accounted for around 38-40% of the total Indian mobile handset sales by 2010.Indeed the, proliferation of phone ownership in remote and rural India means that mosthouseholds now have access to a mobile, making it the pre-eminent technology platform.16 mobile network operators (MNO) are at play in the Indian market with the race to 100%tele-density being hotly contested. VAS services are increasingly key to success in thisspaceiv.About CABI and IKSLIFFCO Kisan Sanchar Limited (IKSL)IFFCO Kisan Sanchar Limited (IKSL) is a tri-lateral venture between the Indian FarmersFertiliser Cooperative Ltd (IFFCO) - the largest farmers cooperative in India, Airtel - thelargest mobile network operator, and Star Global Resources Limited. IKSL was supportedby the GSMA mAgri Programme in 2009-2010 to provide voice-based agriculturalinformation for farmers and extension agents.IKSL distributes Airtel SIM cards branded Green SIM to its IFFCO members and otherfarmers. The Green SIM functions as a normal SIM as well as providing agricultural value-added services (Agri VAS). The user receives five recorded voice messages, free ofPage | 2 3. charge, each day covering both local and national agricultural topics. Green SIM users canalso access an Agri Helpline where they can get answers from experts in agriculture to anyfarming question. The service was launched in 2008.Figure2 -IKSL Business ModelvThe service uses a Push/Pull model, tailored to the farmers location. Voice messagesconstitute the Push. The farmer receives 5 one minute recordings each day, free ofcharge. These are recorded in the local dialect and pertain to crop calendar activities (i.e.when to weed, plant and hoe), localised weather forecasts, yield increase tips, entomologyinformation, Government schemes and disease alerts.Typically, in any given days messages, the subscriber would receive 2 about crops, 1 on ageneral horticultural topic, 1 on animal husbandry and 1 reactive message that may begenerated by local news alerts or in response to a preponderance of incoming calls on thetopic to the helpline. This recording into the local language therefore bypasses thelanguage and literacy barriers.The messages are a minute in length and are recorded daily by one of the experts in thelocal agri-helpline call centre. The contents are a mix of general tips and highly localisedinformation (e.g. weather and pest alerts). In the case of weather forecasts, IKSLdeveloped strong links with the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) who providelocalised agro meteorological forecasts twice weekly Page | 3 4. Figure 3-IKSL Agro-advisory service schema PUSH : Voice BasedInformation IFFCO Database, Specialists Inputs, Universities & ResearchInstitutions PULL : Helpline viApart from the Push and Pull advisory services, IKSL also has introduced many innovativeprograms, delivered through mobile phones to keep farmers interest and adoption levelhigh.For example, on an average, every week, there is one Phone In program where aparticular local expert (not necessarily from agriculture topic, but other topics like womanand child health specialist, for example) is available between a pre-announced time periodwhen any farmer can call and get their query addressed.Similarly each week, one of the 5 voice messages is a Quiz Question about the topics ofthe messages which have been broadcasted last week. Farmers who give correct answerthrough calling up the helpline, gets about USD 2.00 worth of free talk time as reward.These innovative programs help IKSL in engaging its customers to the service andimprove overall customer experience level.IKSL employs over 500 Marketing Associates across 18 states in India to promote andsell this service. The marketing activities are predominantly Below the Line, road showsbeing the primary one. In a typical road show, a branded canopy is set up in a villagemarket or other high visibilities location from where Marketing Associates distributemarketing collaterals, answer customer questions, explain the product and conductcustomer acquisition activities.Marketing Associates are given a small, battery-powered media player which acceptsmaterial from USB sticks that is generated by IKSL Head Office. In the USB drives, a two-handed, scripted conversation between farmers discussing the benefits of the service isrecorded which is played through this small public announcement system. These arePage | 4 5. rendered into local languages to bypass the literacy barrier and immediately focus onpeer-level recommendation to lend persuasion and credibility to the service.Typically, 10-15 canopy marketing activities are organized, per state, each month.Figure 4- A farmer listening to IKSL promotion at a road showTill end of 2011, about 4 million subscribers have been cumulatively subscribed to IKSLGreen SIM Card, out of which about 1.07 million customers listen to voice messagesdailyvii.CABI (CAB International):CABI is a not-for-profit international organization that improves peoples lives by providinginformation and applying scientific expertise to solve problems in agriculture and theenvironment. CABIs mission and direction is influenced by its member countries who helpin guiding the activities undertaken. These include scientific publishing, developmentprojects and research and microbial services. CABI helps in addressing the issues ofglobal concern, such as food security through science, information and communication.CABI does this by improving crop yields and combating threats to agriculture from pestsand diseases, protecting biodiversity and safeguarding the environment, and improvingaccess to agricultural and environmental scientific knowledge.CABI has been working with India for many years; CABIs first office was established InBangalore in 1948. Today CABI is located in the capital, New Delhi, at the NationalAgricultural Science Centre. CABI works closely and in partnership with organisations likethe Indian Council of Agricultural Research, the Ministry of Agriculture, forestry-basedorganisations, NGOs and the CGIAR (Consultative Group on International AgriculturalResearch). India is one of CABIs 45 member countries and plays a key role in determiningits strategy and direction.Since 2007, CABI has been taken up Knowledge Management in agriculture as a priorityarea in India and neighbouring countries and has been actively studying the environmentfor underst