The 30,000-plus Indian farmers in the Kisan Network control their entire crop-selling processes through online marketing, earning at least 10 percent more profits than before. Here's how.
For many people, an Ivy League education is a promise of a better future. But Aditya Agarwalla, who studied computer science at Princeton, didn’t want to limit that future to just himself. He wanted to share his good fortune and create a positive social impact in his home country of India.
When Agarwalla discovered that small farmers didn’t have ways to demand fair prices owed to them for their crops, he knew he’d found his mission. His Princeton thesis project was the basis for a solution: Kisan Network, an online marketplace that connects farmers directly to buyers for produce, eliminating middlemen and increasing farmers’ profits.
Taking a leave from Princeton, Agarwalla returned to Delhi and launched Kisan Network with his father in 2015. Agarwalla and his 70 employees—software developers as well as field employees who consult with farmers throughout India—use G Suite to record crop information from farmers, share ideas for improving Kisan Network’s Android app, and recruit new hires.
Bringing technology back to earth
“Switching to G Suite was seamless. Almost everyone is familiar with the functionality and design of it from their own personal Google accounts.” — Aditya Agarwalla, Founder, Kisan Network
Farmers in rural communities struggle to earn a living without access to information and technology. India’s independent farmers often engage in an outdated selling system involving middlemen who help set low prices that only benefit buyers. Agarwalla saw Kisan Network as a way to connect farmers directly to buyers, so that farmers could be paid fairly.
“We connect a farmer in a Northern Indian state to a buyer located in a Southern Indian state—a 1,500-mile spread,” says Agarwalla. Farmers benefit by doing business with a far broader range of produce buyers than they can reach on their own.
Talking to farmers and buyers across India demanded email and other business tools that could be accessed in a remote field, in Kisan Network’s offices just outside of Delhi, or while meeting job candidates in person. When Kisan Network started out with just four employees, Agarwalla used Microsoft Outlook for email.
“When you’re doing sales and marketing, it matters that you’re reaching out from an authorized company email address,” Agarwalla says. “It conveys a sense of professionalism and gives you validity.”
Adding email addresses with the kisannetwork.com wasn’t easy in Outlook, and once Agarwalla created the addresses, he’d still have to set up accounts and buy licenses for other productivity tools like Microsoft Word.
As Agarwalla started hiring more people, he realized that just about all of the candidates had Gmail addresses, which got him thinking about choosing G Suite for email and workplace collaboration. Since most people already knew their way around Gmail, Agarwalla wouldn’t have to teach them how to use the tools; plus, it was easier for him to manage.
“The ease of setup was important,” Agarwalla says. “Once you set up a new email address in Gmail—which only took a few minutes—that person instantly has access to everything you want them to use in G Suite. My employees needed only a single account for everything.”
Agarwalla liked the ease of creating Kisannetwork.com addresses with G Suite. Another deciding factor was that G Suite could easily integrate with other systems he and his employees used for software development and supply chain management. G Suite was also more affordable than Microsoft Office 365, finalizing Agarwalla’s decision to go with G Suite.
“Switching to G Suite was seamless,” says Agarwalla. “Almost everyone is familiar with the functionality and design of it from their own personal Google accounts.”
Filling the hiring pipeline
Agarwalla had big plans to reform the produce buying process—but he needed more people to make that vision a reality. Right out of the gate, G Suite helped streamline Kisan Network’s hiring process with secure, paper-free tools.
Every job candidate fills out a Google Form, which everyone in the hiring process can access online during interviews. Once candidates are hired, Kisan Network’s hiring team then creates email addresses for new employees through the G Suite admin console—a process that only takes a few minutes.
New hires can browse orientation materials that are shared in Docs and Sheets. The shared online documents help Kisan Network hire people quickly and get new workers up to speed on their roles.
Shrinking the distance between farms
“G Suite seamlessly flows into our everyday work, whether it’s sending emails, setting up meetings, or creating shared documents and presentations.” — Aditya Agarwalla, Founder, Kisan Network
Kisen employees travel all over India to meet with farmers, covering roughly 175,000 miles to date. “We have field presence in many rural regions,” says Agarwalla. “The employees are collecting information like land assessments when they meet farmers and explore new crops.”
Field supervisors log their deployment and destination details into Sheets for quick reference, and use Forms to record the data they collect, including photos of crops and their conditions. In rural India, home internet access is not as common as in cities, so the field supervisors access G Suite apps on their phones.
“They’re constantly working in very remote areas,” Agarwalla says. “Using G Suite on mobile devices is the only way they can do what they do.”
When field supervisors need to speak to colleagues in New Delhi about farmers and their crops, they use Hangouts Meet or Hangouts Chat. “Hangouts is a much better option than Skype for Business, as it works in a browser and can be set up directly from a Calendar event,” Agarwalla says.
Today, Kisan Network employees work across seven Indian states and more than 2,500 villages. The 30,000-plus farmers in the Kisan Network control their entire crop-selling processes through online marketing, earning at least 10 percent more profits than before.
“G Suite seamlessly flows into our everyday work,” says Agarwalla. “Whether it’s sending emails, setting up meetings, or creating shared documents and presentations, we heavily depend on G Suite for everything we do.”