‘Uberising’ agri produce delivery

Naveen Khajanchi | Updated on August 03, 2020

Utilising the idle public transport to connect farm producers with urban consumers will be a win-win for all

On a recent trip to the outskirts of Kolkata, I noticed my driver was morose. I asked him what was wrong. “You are scared and so am I, yet we have to work,” he said. Smiling, he added: “You are lucky that you have work and sufficient salary to run your household…I have neither.”

This is the plight of almost all those who are driving public transport vehicles for a living, be it cycle rickshaw, auto, taxi or bus drivers. There isn’t much work, there is no inflow of money and yet they have the liability of EMI, rent, school fees, ration, electric bills etc.

We stopped at a small field, where a middle-aged woman was selling some tomatoes and puffed rice, at half the market price. I buy some for the driver and myself, but I wonder what will happen tomorrow for him and families like his? India is going to soon become the most populous. It is clearthat jobs are not going to keep pace with the population growth. Our rural and agro economy needs an overall booster.

One can do this by connecting people like the cab driver, who needs additional income, with farm producers like the tomato-seller and customers like myself. In other words, utilise the idling public transport capacity in our metros and towns to connect with farm producers in the hinterland and bring produce directly to urban consumers, who benefit by lower prices.

This can benefit drivers, semi-skilled workers etc; farmers and consumers. It will also help harness the semi-retired and those looking for a job.

It will enable pollution control by using green vehicles and carpooling, green packaging, organic farming and reduced carbon footprint.

Consumers will get fresh products and services reasonably priced at her doorstep.

The concept can be expanded to provide basic services as per local need for value addition. This network can be used to deliver, during the current times, basic Covid checks or immunity boosters by government/ agencies.

This entire ecosystem can function via an app too.For example, I look into the offerings for the day, book my needs and receive a presorted box. Say I also need a plumber/electrician etc, who I can also call via this app. Hence, all the serrvices offered by Amazon, Ola, Uber and Urban Company, are consolidated in one app.

Using green vehicles ie electric or hybrid vehicles, environmentally-friendly packaging and the concept of shared services will be a plus for the environment and reduce carbon footprint.

The writer is an alumnus of INSEAD and CEO of NKH Foundation Pvt Ltd

Published on August 03, 2020

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