Satyam Khagen Bose: The Contrarian Technopreneur's Quest towards Sustainable Rural Transformation (Rural-ReBoot)
Satyam Khagen Bose
Group CEO & Chairman
Although Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and the Internet of Things (IoT) are powerful enablers of Agritech, using them to digitize farming is one thing, but solving deep-rooted problems of farmers is an entirely different ball game. CEO of Virenxia, Satyam Khagen Bose is a technopreneur who believes that solving the real on-ground problems of a farmer requires building sustainable solutions and using technology as an enabler. A contrarian thinker, Satyam today is on a mission to holistically transform rural India by using Virenxia’s innovative solutions, starting right from the agriculture segment.
Formerly one of the naval aviators of Indian Navy. In his early years, Satyam was involved in pioneering consumer technology businesses in certain regions of India, thanks to his collaborations with MNCs like BPL-Sanyo, Panasonic and AT&T. He also introduced advanced fishing technology systems in the country in the mid 90s. Satyam’s latest venture Virenxia is the culmination of all the technology initiatives that he has championed for nearly three decades. The group comprises of a diverse mix of passionate individuals who stand united in formulating sustainable solutions that benefit the rural sector. Satyam and his team have framed a 360-degree mission called ‘Rural-Reboot’ that is focused on enabling revolutionary rural transformation. Virenxia also believes that true sustainability is nothing but conserving the resources that humankind require for survival for future generations by preventing them from diminishing and degrading, and instead working towards improving and increasing them. Satyam acquaints CIO Insider about his diverse technopreneurial career spanning over three decades.
In conversation with Satyam Khagen Bose, CEO & Chairman, Virenxia Group
What drew you towards the rural sector and what motivates you today?
My professional journey began as a naval aviator with the Indian Navy, wherein I was highly inspired by the high-tech aviation and naval systems. In 1994, I bid adieu to my career in the Navy and started travelling across the globe, working alongside scientists, making in-vestments in science, and immersing myself in technological advances. This eventually helped me become well-versed in the development of high-impact technologies.
My entire experience eventually boiled down to one question: how could I get these technologies to their final destination of solving real-world problems? I thought long and hard
about where active interventions or high-impact solutions could be implemented, which led me to the most pressing problems of today: food and water security. Since I began with a contrarian philosophy, I realised that the answers to the majority of the world's problems lie in rural development and transformation, and thus, my entire interest developed into rebooting rural India.
What does Virexia stand for? What are the major propositions that are offered?
‘Virentia’ originally translates to ‘green’ in Latin. Our company how-ever, replaced the ‘t’ in the name with ‘x’, meaning the X-factor of sustain-ability which is represented with the colour green. Our interventions focus on the rural sector to achieve 360-degree systemic and transformative results through a variety of solutions, which we refer to as the ‘Rural Reboot' mission. Based on a contrarian thought process, we adopted a clustered approach. The clusters – agriculture, rural industry, and the rural habitat and infrastructure which we call Eco-Smart Habitats.
Rural-Reboot refers to a concept of bringing talented individuals from the urban to the rural context by offering equal or better facilities, opportunities and comfort, when compared to the urban environments. All of this is empowered by leading new-age technologies. These talented individuals and their expertise will drive significant transformation and development through our solutions. This will eventually serve as a basis for the growth of the agricultural and industrial sectors in the rural areas and will trigger a reverse exodus of the population – from urban to rural. This would also help alleviate urban problems by reducing pollution, workforce exploitation, urban crowding and unemployment. Our commitment to the UN SDG’s also leads us to the BFSI domain in order to ensure financial inclusion of the marginalized rural population.
How would you describe your team?
Doctorates, scientists, highly qualified and trained professionals, and recent graduates make up our squad. They are diverse not only in terms of age, gender, and other demographics, but also in terms of thoughts and experiences, as we value free-thinking and free-flowing communication. VIRENXIA takes pride in having a highly motivated and a driven team of professionals who go beyond their call of duty to achieve a common goal.
Educate us on your solutions like AgriTMS and Bio-Stimulants.
Among most Indian farmers today, there is a lack of knowledge of the health of their soil and water resources. Obtaining accurate soil and water data is either too expensive for small or marginal farmers or the accuracy of this data can’t always be trusted. And then, this knowledge gap further compounds when you consider disruptive factors such as climate change. Our AgriTMS was developed to directly address this knowledge gap.
VIRENXIA’s AgriTMS is a highly standardized soil-water testing and crop monitoring system – it is a mix of hardware sensor probes along with our proprietary analysis software based on
machine learning and artificial intelligence which provides the farmer with real-time results and business intelligence driven Agri-Extension Services through desktop and mobile app UI integration. Farmers, through this service will also be receiving a soil and water Health Card that are updated in intervals to conduct health trend-analysis. We plan to provide this ground-breaking solution to small and marginal farmers in the country for free.
With Farmics™, we developed a range of all-natural, APEDA-certified organic biostimulants, to effectively act as a vaccine for crops. Our biostimulants aim to address the problems, such as land desertification and groundwater pollution, caused by prolonged use of chemical inputs. Our biostimulants ASAAVA and SOMRITH not only boost immunity but also help the plant fight abiotic and biotic stresses. The key ingredients for our biostimulant are sustainably sourced organic peat and sapropel. These raw materials are processed using our Adaptive Molecular Reengineering proprietary technology. This ensures that the available minerals, macro, micronutrients, vitamins and amino acids are easily absorbable by plants.
To demonstrate the efficacy of our product, we’ve currently engaged with governmental and private organisations to run extensive trials on about 50+ crops across India. Our Farmics™ biostimulants have proven to bring down the requirement for fertilizers by more than 50 per cent along with a considerable reduction in other agrochemicals as well. So far, we have also observed a 30-40% increase in yield and other growth parameters, which is phenomenal.
You have been on a long technopreneurial journey spanning close to three decades. How has it been so far? How do you want to take this journey forward?
After bidding adieu to my Navy career, I worked as a stockist and distributor in Goa for BPL which launched the first frost-free refrigerators in India in the mid-1990s by collaborating with Sanyo, Japan. Successively, we helped with the launch of mobile communication solutions in India with AT&T at a time when the country was only just starting to build a mobile communication infrastructure, and hence, I had to drive the market development through concept selling. When Panasonic, Japan, was the first consumer electronics MNC to launch in India, we again were chosen as one of their stockists and distributors. I always had a knack for marketing innovation.
Later, I also pioneered the electronification of the fishing industry, where I introduced fishing sonar’s, GPS, wireless radio, fish finders, into fishing vessels. Whilst I was engaged in all such endeavours, I was also at the same time, developing and curating innovations that ultimately led me to the rural sector and I began looking for systemic solutions to solve the deep-rooted problems there. Like every technopreneur, I’ve had a good mix of highs and lows in my journey, unfortunately more lows than highs, but thanks to my perseverance and hunger for innovation, I’ve always been able to move forward with my altruistic passions.