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Alok Duggal: Building an 'Amazon' for the Farming Community

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Alok Duggal,Founder & COO

Alok Duggal

Founder & COO

For any industry, the key to building a sustainable market boils down to making lives easier. Which some call customer-experience. The huge convenience brought in by the e-commerce and healthcare-IT industries resulting in the exponential growth of the respective markets is a case in point. Making the lives of farmers easier and providing them with the service experience they deserve is the key for the agritech industry to really take off. Executing this vision into perfection through ‘FAARMS’ is Alok Duggal (Founder & COO). FAARMS is a bespoke e-commerce marketplace – a one-stop solution for farmers that offers everything from doorstep delivery of seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, and animal feed among others to critical crop related knowledge, in addition to market access for selling crops. In other words, FAARMS is becoming the amazon.com of farmers!

From kick-starting his journey in the banking sector to savoring extensive cross-functional international experience and even setting up business for a European giant in India, and starting his own start-up, Alok boasts of an interesting journey that spans across the past two decades. Alok’s ability to find and work with likeminded people to come up with unique solutions has been instrumental in him growing as an exceptional leader. Today, he is all set to ensure financial inclusion for the community through FAARMS, banking on his experience in the BFSI segment. CIO Insider is delighted to engage in an exclusive interview with Alok.

In conversation with Alok Duggal, Founder & COO, FAARMS

What was your inspiration to become a technology professional in the AgriTech domain and what drives you today?

I am originally from Punjab. It was during one of my extended stays with my father I got an opportunity to visit farmers in the absolute interior of the Punjab-Haryana-Himachal belt and realized how cut off most of those regions are from the rest of the world. I spent time with the farmers, heard about their challenges, saw the gaps first hand and this experience in many ways sowed the seed to explore an end-to-end solution for the challenges of farmers.

I am convinced that Agritech can not only help solve farmers' challenges, but could actually double their in-come. Mobile-friendly solutions have become the need for every individual, and being a banker, I have been a part of the digital transition and know the potential it has and the benefits it could offer to the farmers.

Faarms is like the amazon.com of the farming community that gives them access to not only seeds, agrochemicals, animal feed and bio-fertilizer at the click of a button, but also a huge inventory of well-known brands available directly from the manufacturers

What is FAARMS? How do you make sure that your interventions in the agriculture market are unique?
Faarms is an e-commerce marketplace specifically designed to help farmers. It is an app and website enabled platform that offers a one-stop solution – a complete spectrum of services to the farmers – from doorstep delivery of farming inputs including seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, animal feed etc. to providing critical crop related advice and availing market access to sell crops.

In addition, over the medium term, the platform will provide farmers access to important services such as procuring farming equipment and credit. Over the long term, Faarms aims to ensure financial inclusion by providing its consumer base with linkages into insurance, microfinance, healthcare, agri-related staples and agri e-retail. The ultimate goal of our platform is to make the farmers complete ‘e-citizens’ with

the empowerment of technology.

Tell us about the team that you have been able to build within your organization.
Most of our core team members have some exposure or other to the challenges that rural India faces every day. We are a bunch of people who are passionate about bringing a change and have actually spent many hours talking to farmers and their families. It would be fair to say that the inspiration behind each additional feature is coming directly from the farmers. Each member of our team was handpicked based on their domain knowledge across technology, supply chain, logistics and so on.

How close do they work with the farmers?
Over the past one year, we have built strong connections with the farming community by delivering more than 1000+ products at the farmer’s door-step on a daily basis and are today connected to more than eight lakh farmers with our strong and deep coverage of more than 20,000+ villages.

We say this with absolute pride that during the peak period of the pandemic, our entire team continued to deliver products to farmers at their homes in their villages, covering more than 200 pin codes in the interiors of the rural hinder-lands possible.

Tell us about the underlying technology framework behind your platform? How do you use the benefits of futuristic technologies?
The power of the internet and mobiles is an undisputed phenomenon, but what we don’t always realize is how slow the pace of adoption is in the rural areas.

This is where our team comes in. We try to understand the farmers’ behavior and develop applications that we know will appeal to them and genuinely help them on a day-to-day basis. Today, we are one of the very few companies to come out with apps for the farming community which is available in both android and iOS plat-forms. We have used open-source and cloud-native tools and technologies like VS Code, Postman, Swagger, Gitlab, Terraform, Python, React Native, Docker, MySQL to build our applications and we rely on AWS for our cloud infrastructure. In terms of futuristic technologies, we have started working on microservices architecture, data cleaning to apply AI/ML, and exploring Amazon Alexa to integrate our services at the same time.

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