CEO roundtable discussing trends in Indian agriculture and food

ThinkAg, a food and AgTech platform held its first CEO roundtable on 26th June discussing trends in the Indian Agriculture and Food sector expected in this decade. The roundtable saw participation from leading voices in the sector. D Narain, MD and CEO of Bayer CropScience, Hemant Mallick, Divisional Chief Executive Foods, ITC Ltd, Rajan Anandan, MD Sequoia Capital, Karthik Jayaraman, President & Co-Founder Waycool foods and Products, Krishna Kumar, Founder and CEO Cropin Technology, Dr Harsh Kumar Bhanwala, former Chairman of Nabard, Siraj Chaudhury, MD & CEO, NCML and Damodar Mall, CEO Grocery, Reliance Retail. The panel was moderated by Rama Bijapurkar, an independent management consultant.

While the panel concluded on a note that technology and agriculture are destined to be intertwined, established companies, AgTech enterprises and financial institutions may form alliances and create closed loop systems which will be beneficial for the farmer, the anchor businessman and the entire value chain thus driving changes in an age old sector. Consumers will play a critical role as their demands change not only in what they want to eat but also on how food gets to them and where it comes from. The full value chain is expected to undergo dramatic digitization from seed to farm to fork.

The key points discussed were:

  • Accelerated digitization of consumer behaviour is being seen. This will increase in its velocity further. Direct to Consumer brands will grow. Value chain will grow on the basis of contact less transactions, digitization and massive adoption of change. FMCGs have not so far looked at carrying out their operations with touchless and paperless transactions. This will now be the focus for them in all their transactions.
  • Modern technology including biotechnology will be used to enhance farmers yields and make them comparable to the global yields. This will make them more competitive. The costs have to be reduced through technological interventions with science & technology, new products, services, agronomic practices, mechanization, digitization, etc.
  • Traceability of food and trust in brands will gain more importance. But questions of how those costs will be absorbed remain to be seen.
  • Digital will become a necessary condition for enabling the partnerships. Digital start-ups will play a huge role in combination with established companies in bridging the gaps and making it a smooth flow in the value chain.
  • Pure hardware solutions like warehouses will be combined with software solutions like digital technologies, new business models, etc to maximize the value.
  • Usage of data is very important and this will only pick up speed now. Data can help in: Increasing Traceability of production, Improved Predictability of farming operations, Increased risk management of farmer and reducing the costs of farmers. A trillion data points generated annually is expected to grow.
  • Active internet users, now around 500m is expected to grow to 1B by 2025-27. Most of this growth will come from rural areas and farmers. Acceleration of digitization of farmers lives will take place and investments will flow more into AgTech enterprises.
  • End to end play in food and agri value chains through partnership is likely to be more frequent than seen before. The total crop system approach has to be aimed at farmer profitability and sustainability (of environment and incomes). All eco system partners have to work together.
  • Role of government in output markets will come down progressively because of the new reforms. Competition from private players will bring out greater efficiencies in APMCs, FCI, CCI and other government organizations that procure agricultural produce. Farmers price discovery will improve. The reforms will help in bringing greater economic activity closer to the farmer. Warehouses will become small scale private mandis and activity centres instead of just being storage spaces. Linking farmers to markets will pick up speed. FPOs will fructify more. Exotic and labour intensive crops will suffer in the short run. Private sector and Agri Tech will join hands and will increase their importance in the output markets considerably.
  • The recently announced reforms are good for banks. Rural infrastructure is also a part of the priority sector lending. The new Infrastructure  fund of Rs. 1 lakh cr will be a big boon for priority sector lending. Contract farming and closed loop system will suit the banks very well to extend lending. Warehouses, Packhouses, Cold storages, etc will all get a boost under priority sector lending. Contract farming will help in funding small farmers. Opportunities to increase agri exports will be enormous. Market segmentation and demand driven production of crops will give better returns to the farmers. 

“We are very happy to have hosted this CEO Round Table. It brought together some of the best minds in the sector and provided some unbelievable insights into the likely scenario in this decade. This is invaluable for innovators and entrepreneurs who are venturing out into the Agri Tech space” said Ram Kaundinya, one of the Co-Founders of ThinkAg.

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