The Facebook farmer

Harish Bijoor | Updated on November 14, 2017

Farmers can use social media to empower themselves with information on their crops and weather as well as trends, practices and pricing from around the world, cutting out middlemen and retaining larger margins for their produce.   -  The Hindu Business Line

Social networks can give agriculturists a real-time feel of the market, prices, customers et al.

Do you see social networking sites spreading their applications and wings? If so, where is the opportunity?

- P. Malik Krishna, New Delhi

Malik, social networking sites hold immense potential for a range of applications. These applications need not necessarily be for urban educated folk alone. The opportunity is ripe for the rural farmer as well.

Take the large agrarian community in India. Most live distanced from physical marketplaces. Facebook or Twitter or, for that matter, any other robust social networking format that attracts eyeballs and visits that are robust (we are told FB has 423 million daily visitors and users) can help bridge the gap between the physical and the virtual. Staying far away from physical markets can no longer be a disadvantage. In many ways, geography is history. If a farmer is on FB, he can experience real-time prices, a real-time feel of the market, and indeed a real-time interface with buyers and sellers alike. To that extent, buying and selling and information facilitation is just but one of the many applications that can be farmer-friendly.

On the other hand, for the corporate, the social networking site does away with the one big issue most organisations grapple with: access to market. Access today is defined not by physical product presence in the market as much as the access to information about the product. Imagine a fertiliser or a seeds company that can network with the farmer online, offer prices on quantities, offer consulting and counselling services, and then finally sell. All this is today possible, thanks to the social networking site.

In the old days, a corporate entity would define for itself the urban market space as the space it could manage to cater to, due to distance. Today, every corporate can have an e-presence and an e-commerce, e-consulting and e-counselling plan in place. This means that no corporate is too far away or too close to the market. In many ways, the social networking site re-invents the model of pure competition, where no player is too far or too close to the market. The potential is, therefore, immense.

Farmers can use these sites in several steps. Step one would be to garner information. This can relate to weather, cropping patterns, crop-volume-estimation across growing areas, rainfall patterns and more. In addition, farmers can network with brethren farmers across the world and utilise the power of peer group influence in terms of buying and selling. Add to it the possibility of a more knowledge-enriched farmer, and you have the potential of a shift of power back to the farmer, from the current days where the power and margin largely rests with the middleman. In many ways social networking sites can help disintermediate the market and help the farmer retain larger margins.

Premium and luxury brands do not advertise on radio as a medium. Why?

- Shephali B. Raghavachar, Hyderabad

Shephali, yes, premium advertisers view radio as a non-premium medium. There is just too much of it, and there is ample research available that tells you that the premium-category shopper does not depend on awareness scores for luxury brands from radio. In fact, radio tends to negate effort for luxury brands as of now. It proves counter-productive to effort. Radio is much too mass for luxury brands.

Premium luxury brands will still depend on niche mediums. Niche mediums such as niche print for instance. Airline in-flight magazines work beautifully here. Even for the small town traveller. In fact, he carries away these in-flight magazines and salivates and shops. Works better than radio for sure.

How big is the e-retail industry today and how does its future potential look?

- Nalin Vaidyanathan, Chennai

Nalin, e-retail is today growing differentially across categories. Since the base is small, in some categories you witness a 600 per cent growth and in some a 220 per cent growth. Today, we have 143 million Indians on the Web. Of these, we have 49 million people who are the prime audience for e-retail mechanisms as of now. My prognosis is that we will have 320 million Internet users by December 2014. As this happens, expect e-retail to boom.

9Harish Bijoor is a business strategy specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc. >

Published on February 29, 2012

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