“Farmer is on d way,” a message lights up my phone screen. It further informs, “Please note farmer will leave in 1 hr. Pls pick up ur orders.”
Residents of the Tata Sherwood apartment complex in Bengaluru receive the same message on their phones. We are members of a WhatsApp group that connects us with farmers who supply fresh produce from their farms that are at least a 100 miles away. The orders are quickly sampled and pictures of the season’s first Banganapalli mangoes are joyously shared.
The lockdown in India and its strict social distancing norms brought the fragile transportation and logistics network in the country to a standstill. Farmers across the country were stuck with produce that would soon rot. WhatsApp helped connect the farmer directly with his buyer. Empowered to circumvent the middle man, farmers gained access to clusters of consumers in large residential apartments. Now, they could sell their produce at prices they had never commanded via their regular supply chains.
Across Bengaluru, WhatsApp groups were quickly created by enthusiastic admins who diligently searched for farmers in a fix. Quickly adapting to a new system of selling, the farmers set up delivery processes after a few months of experimenting to check demand.
A case in point is a group of farmers from the Hassan region of Karnataka who created a system that helped them bring down costs as well as reduce delivery time. They bolstered their offerings by sourcing and aggregating everyday essentials—including rice, dal, oil, coconut and tamarind—from smaller farmers in the region. The items are cleaned and packed based on pre-orders from customers, and payments are made online. During delivery, residents collect their orders using a token number, helping farmers complete their deliveries in the city within a single day.
Madhulika Gautama is a learning and development professional, entrepreneur and writer. She runs EnglishCoach Services, a corporate training company that specialises in Business Communication.