I am sure many of you look forward to beginning your day with a piping hot cup of coffee or tea. But did you give some thought to where the milk in your tea or coffee came from?
If you buy directly from a local tabela (dairy) the answer is easy. If you buy packet milk, then chances are, your milk came from a small farmer in rural India with 2 to 4 animals, who combines dairying with agriculture to earn a living. Whether he sells his milk to a co-operative like Amul or to a private company like Nestle, in India almost all milk is collected in this way from over 15 million farmers through more than 150,000 grass root level ‘village co-operative societies’ before it is sold loose, packaged or processed into value-added products like cheese and butter. It’s a vast, complex value chain that has frustrated many MNCs who seek to become players in the Indian dairy industry. However, it ensures the farmers earn the maximum possible for their potential.
As you must have realised by now, the smallholder dairy farmer is the lynchpin of the dairy industry, and answering his challenges and limitations are key to unlocking growth in this sector.
In today’s blog, let’s examine how mobile technology can help the dairy farmer:
- Improve production and earning by enhancing the yield from cows
Scientific advice and guidance on feeding and health can help the smallholder to upgrade milk production. This outside expertise is crucial as the dairy farmer lacks access to high-quality veterinarian help and cannot afford expensive cow feed.
Imagine an app that links farmers across a district to the local co-operative, a veterinarian organisation and dairy researchers from an industry institution like National Dairy Development Board. Such an app can form a bridge between key stakeholders in the dairy industry who would never otherwise be in touch. The researchers can share best practices, the co-operatives can motivate and farmers can share their experiences. A video/voice interface can be used to overcome language barriers. It should be noted that the NDDB already has an Android app called Pashu Poshan, which advises farmers on the right feed for their milk cows.
At a more advanced level, one can attach RFID tags to each head of cattle and use this as a unique marker which can also be used by vets for remote diagnosis. This would also help to monitor the yield and the feed given to each animal.
- Digitising the payment interface
Farmers bring their milk to a nearby collection point up to 2-3 times in a day and collect cash at the prevalent market rate. Many dairy farmers also grow crops but the income from milk sales is not seasonal unlike crops and therefore it is a crucial means of subsistence. Yet, most farmers are not aware of the economics of how much they earn and spend through dairying.
Hence it becomes harder to convince them to upgrade to better feed or give expensive medicines to cows. Chances are, they would be using expensive seeds or fertiliser for their crops, while they would be feeding by-produce from their own farms to cows. This is because of the online and offline customer education undertaken by government and fertiliser companies over several years.
With all of India going cashless, there is no reason that mobile technology cannot be used to achieve the same effect. Many farmers sell milk more than once in a day and cash in hand is important to them, however, receipting and invoicing can still happen through a digital interface. This will help farmers to keep track of their earning from dairying and can be a powerful motivator for them to invest in improving or increasing the size of their operations.
- Rural Milk Marketing
Analysis by the National Dairy Development Board reveals that there is a large market of rural milk consumers – almost double the number as urban – creating an opportunity to market milk rurally. Not only is there potential to sell raw milk (which is the cheapest item in the value chain) but also value added products like lassi, chaas, curd or paneer which can contribute to the farmers earning much more.
At Anant, we have observed that there is a potential to develop a hyperlocal market in urban India and it is no different for a rural market. In fact, rural markets have traditionally always been hyperlocal, with local growers and vendors bringing their produce to a weekly mandi where people come in from surrounding villages to purchase.
It is possible to facilitate hyperlocal milk marketing in rural India through a basic app interface. This interface could be as simple as a directory style app with a list of nearby milk producers, their phone numbers and prices, so that a vendor, bulk or retail customer can directly contact them and place the order. At a more advanced level, the app can facilitate receipt of payment through a UPI style interface also and thus serve as an e-commerce gateway. Additional produce of the farmer (including vegetable, grain or by-products like gobar) can also be sold through this app interface, helping him to become a marketer of his own produce.
- Empowerment of female dairy workers
The National Dairy Development Board observes that around 85% of rural women are engaged in livestock rearing and general agricultural activities. As such, the participation of women in the dairy sector is desirable – from the perspective to bring them recognition and support – and also because women would be crucial in the implementation of measures that involve feeding and care for cows. In fact, the NDDB has an ambitious initiative to enrol 2.5 million female women as members of dairy co-operatives over the next 10 years.
Due to many initiatives by government and non-governmental organisations, women are also in a better position to benefit from financial aid including micro-finance and saving schemes which help them to build a strong business contribution.
Mobile technology, even through a format as simple as a Whatsapp group, can help to link up female workers and provide a way to disseminate information, provide support and create a community. While a more sophisticated app would allow linking of bank accounts to receive direct payment from sales and also offer other products like cattle insurance.
I hope that even these examples serve to illustrate the role that mobile technology can play in the dairy industry. And through Anant Computing, I look forward to partnering with this and other industries to increase digital inclusion.
Anant Computing is a mobile platform provider with interest and expertise in building apps for inclusive development in India. Apps developed on Anant platform are light, fast, and work in all Indian languages even in the low network or offline conditions. Anant is India’s first indigenously built platform for app development.