Episode 98 / January 3, 2021

Inside the mind of Krishna Kumar, Founder, CropIn- the largest Agritech SaaS startup of India

hr min

Episode 98 / January 3, 2021

Inside the mind of Krishna Kumar, Founder, CropIn- the largest Agritech SaaS startup of India

hr min
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In this episode of 100xEntrepreneur Podcast, we chat with Krishna Kumar, Founder & CEO, CropIn Technology- a leading “Full-Stack AgriTech”​ organization that provides SaaS-based solutions to agribusinesses globally.

CropIn serves 220+ agribusinesses and numerous governments and non-government organizations present in over 52 countries. CropIn has digitized over 5 million acres of farmland, enriched the lives of nearly 2.1 million farmers, and gathered data on 265 crops and 3,500 crop varieties.

In this episode, Krishna shares his journey of being the change-maker and being one of the first entrepreneurs to step into Agritech in India.

Listen to this podcast to learn about:

01:57 – Intro of Krishna & his journey

04:08 – Interacting with farmers and key-stakeholders within the Agri-Ecosystem

05:10 – Identifying the problem statement

06:43 – Building the team at CropIn

10:30 – First project with Safal- a subsidiary of the National Dairy Development Board

15:12 – Pooling initial $10k from his friends

19:50 – Scaling up from first few clients to going global in 52 countries

28:56 – Enabling banking ecosystem for lending & insurance for farmers

34:55 – Tech Products & offerings from CropIn for farmers

42:49 – Leveraging AI to transforming agriculture at scale

45:15 – Potential for upcoming Agritech startups in India

47:18 – Adoption of Agritech offerings by Enterprises

Read the full transcript here:

Siddhartha 0:00

Hi, this is Siddhartha Ahluwalia. Welcome to the 100 x entrepreneur podcast. Today we have with us Krishna Kumar, Founder, and CEO, CropIn. Krishna founded CropIn in 2010, along with Kunal Prasad. CropIn is a SaaS-based service provider for Agribusinesses. It enables data-driven farming through the Smart Farm platform, which helps derive real-time insight on standing crop and projects across geographies based on local weather information, and high-resolution satellite imagery. Welcome, Krishna to the podcast.


Krishna 0:33

Thanks, Siddhartha.


Siddhartha 0:35

Krishna, would love to know about your journey, you know why you started CropIn? How has the last 10 years been when nobody knew about Agritech business? What’s the term agri tech, you built an Agritech business at that point in time in India? What was your purpose of starting it? Right? How are the first most tough years been and now when you are scaling up?


Krishna 0:56

Sure. So you know, I come from GE. So, GE was my first job that’s General Electric, I joined their Innovation Center, and then later moved into their leadership program, rotated in multiple businesses starting from GE appliances, then move to GE steel and then to GE energy. Now, while I was in the job, I always wanted to build something which has a larger impact on society, on the planet. And, I was always in a discovery mode. I did a lot of study on different sectors, and I found agriculture to be, you know, more suited for our venture. And this decision was mostly EQ based then the IQ based, we saw a big problem. And we know this is real, and somebody has to solve it, right. And I was reading about the plight of the farmers, smallholder farmers, who doesn’t have a support, their crop fails, they get into the trap of moneylenders. Sometimes the price of the crop is less than, you know, there’s that than a cent. And when you buy those same crops, or fruits and vegetables in the market, you pay more than that, right, you know, multiple of 40, or multiple 100 times the price. And when I looked around, I felt, you know, this is cut off from the mainstream. And we don’t see a lot of technology, which comes in support of agriculture. And that’s what the thought, you know, I mean, we started with, can we make this industry more data-driven, and democratize the data for all the key stakeholder in this value chain. And that’s the concept of Smart Farm came in. And in 2010, in a mid of year, I left the job and started conceptualizing CropIn. And by the way, I didn’t have any plan, I just left the job without any having a proper business plan or Excel sheet, and how this business is going to shape up. And


Siddhartha 3:04

Were you interacting with the farmers at that point in time, like real-time in fields?


Krishna 3:11

Not the time I was in the GE when I left the job, I started interacting with the real ecosystem guys, the businesses who are into agriculture the farmers, visited most part of India, interacted with the farmers, tried to understand their problem statements like yeah, so we did that all post, you know, putting up the paper and leaving the company and wanted to really get started. Prior to that, most of the knowledge which I gather was through reading


Siddhartha 3:43

Got it and once you started, how do you pick the problem, because Agritech is one of the largest GDP contribute? How did you pick up what problem did you want to solve in the domain?


Krishna 3:55

So, going by my past experience in GE also, data was the key right? So, we worked on six sigma, Lean Six Sigma trying to make the process efficient, make it more profitable, right. When I looked at the farm, I felt the same, right, every farm is a factory that is producing something, but can we, you know, make it traceable predictable and sustainable. So, these are three principal questions we asked. And, can we connect them to the mainstream right with a whole ecosystem that works around this farms. So, the idea was can we remove the gut-based farming toward decision-based farming right with enabling with the data and for that, you needed a platform which is very, you know, which can connect the farms and other players like bank, insurance companies, food processes, and they can work connected farming, right. So that was the problem we picked because the you know, we call it as you know, dark data so that nobody knows about the farms, there is no information about it. And until you have information, how do you go and reach out to these 500 million smallholder farmers and bring help to their doorstep. So we know that we have to solve this digitally. And we chose the problem of building the smart farm in 2010. And, and at that point of time, Agritech was not a buzzword. We didn’t know what Agritech is. But we were the first company globally to talk about data-driven farming in US and Europe also, many startups has come up, but they came after 2012.


Siddhartha 5:41

And Krishna, how did you build about you know, choosing your co-founder and then the first founding team at CropIn?


Krishna 5:49

Yeah, so, I and Kunal go back in the school days, right, so we come from Hazaribag, which is, which is a hilly area, part of Jharkhand. And we did our schooling from Xviours. And that’s how I know Kunal from my childhood, then Kunal, after his plus two, he did his Mechanical Engineering from BIT Mesra. And I did my electronics and instrumentation engineering from Visvesvaraya Technological University. And we always know, since we are friends, we always keep discussing some ideas. And that’s how we formed this company. So when we had this idea, and we were very sure that let’s solve this big problem. And we both jumped into it.


Siddhartha 6:39

And who were the first founding team members in CropIn?


Krishna 6:44

so, it was me and Kunal, there was one more friend, who said, He will come and join, but he never joined. It’s actually it was me and Kunal, who founded the company.


Siddhartha 6:58

And, you know, can you share about how did you onboard your first customers at CropIn? And like, what are the challenges you face because you had a very young startup, and back then, and nobody was doing anything related to technology in agriculture? So how did you convince the farmers, the various stakeholders, which geography did the first farmers belong to when you started?


Krishna 7:23

Yeah. so this part really helped us because nobody knew about what is Agritech and data in agriculture. So what I did was, when I left the job, while we were thinking about the platform and product, I also started connecting with the very large players in the country who has been in agriculture for 100 years or 50 years. Right, and started meeting their leadership to understand what are the challenges they are facing. And then we also presented what we intend to do. And there was an emotional connection. And they said, we are looking for this kind of solution for a very long, but we never see any technology, which has been built for this, right. And they started saying, you know, happy to help you or happy to, you know, walk on a POC and initial days, you know, nobody pays for the POCs, right. So that was another gap. But we got lot of support from the industry in terms of, because this, they saw some new kind of people coming to agriculture, they always interacted with the farmers or the, you know, agriculture graduates. They never interacted with technology people those days, nobody wants to come into agriculture. And the Fed these guys are some trying to something, disrupt something. And they started giving us an idea that these are some of the challenges we face, for example, you know, the traceability? How do we reach out to the farmer when he actually needs help? How do we impact the quality and productivity at the farm gate? How do we bring down the losses? Right? So there are key challenges they were facing? How do we have visibility in real-time throughout the season? So, if there is a problem, we can address it? How do we enable our people to get rid of the pen and paper and use, you know, platforms or apps to work with? So we got a lot of support in that case because nobody was doing it? Nobody was talking it and here are two guys who want to really do something. I remember our first project was with the National Dairy development board. They have a subsidiary called Safal, which does fruits and vegetables. I hope you’ve seen their frozen peas?


Siddhartha 9:36

Very famous.


Krishna 9:37

Yeah. So I met, I think, the CIO of the company that time, you know, there was a person NDDB I kind of got connected on the LinkedIn during my search, when should I do and talk and he said he met me in Delhi office. He said, Krishna, we are into dairy. But we have got a subsidiary and I am going to connect you to the CEO of the company, go and meet him and talk about this, I think he will be interested. So I met him, he called me in his room and said, Tell me what magic you guys are doing. And we explained, this is what we can do for you. And he said, okay, pick up a region, which region you want to work with, and I am happy to extend a POC, and go and talk to the, you know, the general manager of that plant, where all the procurement is happening. So we selected, you know, Bangalore, Karnataka, met the guy and explained him, he said, you know, happy to give you the opportunity, but will not pay you before, show me in three months, what you can do this season, and then we’ll get into the engagement. So we did all the hard work, by the time we were trying to work with them, we build the platform also, because after three to four months, you have to show it right, so we launched the beta product, went to the farms, actually did the farm manager work. We did it ourselves. And we built the platform. And we showcased him that how you can actually monitor every asset and impact the quality and productivity of it right and have complete traceability, predictability and ensure the sustainability of that farm. And we presented the four months, we logged in into a system which is SaaS based. And he was able to see all his farm plots, the progress, the risks, and other stuff. And they really liked it. But one of the questions, they asked that you know, being a, you know, semi-government, kind of a company is too early for us to adopt this kind of technology. And we don’t have a budget for this, right? Because at the time, they didn’t have a budget for the tech or a platform. Yeah. So he said, You have to wait for this. And, and they gave us a good certificate, right? That we really did a good job in their farm. And we were very happy with that. We didn’t want the money. But it opened up a lot of doors for us. So, we met the second customer. And these connections were helping us to connect with other, you know, enterprise clients. And the next time was a paid client. It was a feel fresh, which was, you know, the, I think it was a tie-up between Bharti and Delmonte that time. And we got the first paycheck from them. Right. And after that, we always decided that we will never do a free POC. And every client paid us. And actually, that funded our whole, you know, initial days when we didn’t have the funding.


Siddhartha 12:39

So initially, it was just to have you were even coding the platform or you have developers?


Krishna 12:47

So, I think initial days, we had one developer from IIT Madras. So we were like four people who were just working. And one other friend who didn’t join the company, while he was walking the company, he was also giving his input on the platform. So these are 3-4 people who are working late nights and building that platform. Yeah, and I come from a tech background. So, it was not a challenge.


Siddhartha 13:16

So, till the first product, you had a paid customer for the first beta, it was just the four of you, four of


Krishna 13:24

Four of us. And actually, two people were working from the office. Kunal was doing his MBA that time. So when I started the company he was the co-founder. But he was doing his MBA from Great Lakes. And the plan was once he gets his passing certificate, he will come and do the full time. So me and the developer were two guys who were building that. So I was doing the same thing. Yeah. And the technology with all the three Product Manager. So we were playing all the hats. Yeah.



And how are you funding like from your own savings because it required a lot of travel and paying for salary?



Yeah, so you know, I didn’t get any savings. The only thing I had was my PF and my last salary. But what I did was I wrote to all my friends that I am going to do a start-up in agriculture. While I was in GE, I made friends and all over the group. Because I was a part of the leadership program as well. And I had friends from my college who were placed, placed well, so I wrote an email, I still see that email where I said, you know, this is what I’m going to do for the farmers and the country. And there is a noble goal. And I don’t have money to start the company if you can contribute, whatever you can. I know you guys don’t have any savings. But you decide what you want to fund. And I’ll make sure that if CropIn makes money, you make money. If our CropIn goes down, you go down. Yeah, right. So there is a risk. To my surprise, I think at that time I pooled around $10,000. With that capital, I started the company. So one room, one table chair, our college this PCs, two tables, there’s a 10 by 10 room with one attached bathroom. That was the company that time.


Siddhartha 15:23

And all these friends who pulled in roughly seven lakh rupees of money became shareholders, the first shareholders in CropIn?


Krishna 15:31

Yeah, so, you know, in eight months, we raised the capital. That was a good part. And the moment we put the formal structure, the first thing I did, I gave everyone shares in the company. Okay.


Siddhartha 15:46

Fantastic. And who was the first investor who believed in you outside your friends?


Krishna 15:52

Yeah, so, so I there was a, you know, seed capital company called Seeders run by two entrepreneurs called Pallav Nadhani and Abhishek Rungta. They basically wrote the first check, which was a $40,000 at that time, and they said, you know, Krishna, we don’t understand agriculture, but what you guys set out to do is going to help the country and the farmers is a noble cause. And I’m sure the problem is very big. If you guys are able to crack it, this can become large. And here is the check, see what you can do. So that’s how they believed in us. And it was a couple of discussions, and he wrote the check. And he became the first investor. And he still doesn’t want to go out. We had a secondary opportunity. And he said, he wants to be there. That’s the belief he had. And, you know, we didn’t turn it down.


Siddhartha 16:59

And all these friends also continue to be shareholders in the company along with Seeder.


Krishna 17:05

They are, but we are planning to give them an exit now. It’s going to be a good exit for them. Yeah. And I’m so happy that the guys who believe me and you know when they funded me, they said, We don’t have any expectation, even if you don’t return money. It’s okay. Right. So they wrote me back and they transferred the money. But today, I’m so glad that, you know, I learned one thing, accountability in GE, right. So we use so many terms, accountability. And I learned when I was taking this money from my friends, and one of the guys who gave me the money was, my friend’s father was about to retire. And he was giving his retirement money that day felt accountability, he was giving the check. And I saw there is an old man who’s believing in me, I made a promise that I will not let him down, I will return this money back. And I’m so glad that we are now in a position today to give them a better return of their money if the secondary happens. Yeah.


Siddhartha 18:11

That’s such a wonderful, you know, I would say, relationship, because they believe in you 10 years ago, and after 10 years, it just helps the ecosystem, you know, belief in founders, that if friends and family come together, it might result in a wonderful outcome over a long period of time for everyone.


Krishna 18:34

Yeah, Yeah. Totally agree. And it’s where nobody has mentioned, it’s very difficult to get the venture money because there’s no parallel to it. Today, a lot of investment happened because there’s a parallel in US or somewhere it has worked, or in a similar market. But when you are starting something new, which has got a lot of risks, there is a policy that the government risk policy risk climate risk, it’s a and in those, the first one who takes the step, take the bigger risk. And the first one who writes the check is taking the biggest risk, right, because he believes that something will change. And this has to change for the good. And you’ll find some people there.


Siddhartha 19:18

And tell us about, you know, the scale-up journey from those two clients to scale up after that?


Krishna 19:29

Yeah, so you know, Agritech was quite slow in the early days, because the people who are trying to adopt was early experimenters and large enterprise because they can bring change. This was a big change in the ecosystem. I mean, imagine a farm manager who has been using a farm diary and he has a basic phone. He has never seen a touch phone, and Internet, and I’m talking about 2010 where 2G was rarely found in the villages. Nobody had the touch phone was, you know, very expensive phones at that time. And, they have never used the software. Right? So there was there are infrastructure challenges, there are ecosystem challenges, and the users were not so educated, because the guys who work in the farm has never interacted with the, you know, software’s and also not very tech educated right. Now, when we were given the training first time, the biggest question they used to ask the enterprise clients, how are you going to train my people? They never use them, right? So whether they want to work? How do I make it happen? And we always, you know, people say, when you are in a startup, goodwill, smaller companies who can write a check quickly take a decision quickly. And this was the advice I got from many of my mentors, but I went against it, I went to the enterprise, because in GE, I know, to bring a change, it’s a big task. And that can only be done by the enterprise, because they have gone through so many multiple changes in their organization. This will take time and patience. Because if I fail with the small company, there’s a bad name. But if I work closely with a large enterprise, and if they are successful, that creates the story. And that’s why we chose enterprise. As a rule, we were okay to not have the revenue. But it really paid off. Because they were able to bring the change, they brought all the farm managers, they said why we are adopting technology, you know, you have been doing this work for last, you know, 10 years, 20 years, but pen and paper, here is the upgrade. Now you can go to your family, go to your friend and say, Hey, I’m using the software on the farm. This is how they were motivating people. And when we were training the people on the smartphones, they were reluctant to test the screen, they thought it will break because the test ones were not there. And initial days, the 2G they have these two other questions that you know how much it will cost for one month in terms of data, because data will paid right and costly. So these are the questions which we get. So there are less than 100 users, okay, we have to buy 2G networks for all these users phones for all these users. So those were some decisions they had to take, and then you have to train it. But adoption was very, very fast. What I saw was, if you make a good product, with a good UI, which understands the user, the adoption will be very, very, very fast, and it happened, I saw people who had not even, you know, 10th passed, you know, they say who are the farm managers or field officers in the villages, they were able to use the software on the phone. And that’s how it started. Right. So you know, so we went after the enterprise, and to our success, almost all the large enterprises started working with us because they always dreamed of this kind of platform. And, then we wanted to go global. We had that aspiration, we raised our series A, we built, made changes in our product for going global. And in 2017 we started doing the preparation and 2018, we went completely global. And to our surprise, we are in 52 countries today, almost all the large enterprises are using our product not only in one country but in multiple countries. We manage around 8 million acres of production on our platform with 400 different crops and 9000 different varieties from these 52 countries. And yeah, so the problems were same, we build a product in India, and it is serving globally.


Siddhartha 23:39

Wonderful. And how much time did it take you to get your first $1 million ARR milestone for CropIn?


Krishna 23:48

It took long, because as I mentioned, you know, actually the Agtech picked up after 2015 when the reliance was launched. I mean, at that time, smartphones were cheaper. Internet became cheaper not only in India but globally. So I think after that it took one and a half years for us to reach a million and then after that, the story was totally different.


Siddhartha 24:11

2016 mid you mentioned



Much earlier, we were at a million dollars.



Yeah, okay. But it was a long five-year journey, approx a five-year journey that took you to 1 million. What kept you up or you know, persistence. Like it’s a very hard journey being an entrepreneur and that too in a space which was not known to investors. Now, every investor is investing in Agritech because of your successes. Back then there was no success globally in Agritech, so it must have been really hard. Did you think any time of giving up back then from the period of two to 2010 2015


Krishna 24:58

To my surprise also today, we never gave up any point of time, because I’ll tell you why we believed in the problem. And the problem was not imaginary right? The problem was there, everybody today recognizes it, or today or even 10 years back from years back, there was a problem. And digital was the answer to it. And we were getting our mini successes, right. So we got all the customer support, we saw the impact of this kind of software, we knew that it has to scale.


Siddhartha 25:28

And you mentioned farm managers using mobile apps, right, were the farmers also using mobile apps to enter crop data or anything like that, on the farm manager.


Krishna 25:49

So the way the farmer is connected to the platform, they receive the actionable insight in their local language on their phone, because farmers have basic phones, right. So if they don’t have internet, they receive it through SMS. But we do have a lighter mobile application for the farmer so that the company, the farm manager, and the farmer are all connected on the single apps. And they can, but you know, it’s going to come that all the farmers will have the abs, but today, those percentages are very, very low.


Siddhartha 26:21

So mostly the data is being entered by today by the farm managers, you’re working closely with your farmers at any point in time.


Krishna 26:30

Yeah, it’ll replace the farm diary for the farm manager, but farmers are receiving all the right information on their phones.


Siddhartha 26:37

And, and once the data has been entered by the farm manager, it goes throughout the enterprise and you do various functions to data, in form of ML and AI in various forms.


Krishna 26:51

The moment we know, this is the farmer and this is a location and geotag of the boundary of the farm and the crop on it, the system automatically starts personalizing the insight for the farmer that this is the 10th day of the sowing of this variety. And at this stage, you need to put up a dose within the next three years. And this is the quantity, there are chances of our late blight, a pest in the next seven days. Be cautious. So, all the steps are guided to the farmer just based on the location of the farm conditions around the farm. And then the crop he has chosen. And that is configured on the platform. Right so all the frameworks and personalizing information is packaged and delivered to the farmer in a manner where he can consume it


Siddhartha 27:46

is it currently only text-based or also audio-based information like which you run it through audio method right now?


Krishna 27:54

So, it’s text-based. Also, we can do audio also, but in our study what we found that nobody picks the phone, and even if they pick the phone they cut because that’s the because it’s coming from some number. Yeah, so so in order to be more relevant, it’s better to have a text-based one because it’s going to be there. Yeah, or giving them the which you can interact with.


Siddhartha 28:20

And now, you know, because of CropIn, all the various stakeholders have access to the data and they can benefit the farmer, for example, you mentioned the insurance companies have, so they can get right insurance to the farm, that the banks have


Krishna 28:41

So, banks, basically, if they’re trying to give a loan to the farmer, they want to understand that on that farm, and with all the other products which we have called Smart risk, which has a capability to detect the risk of the farm not only that, but it also go into the past three years and tell the banker that on this farm these crops were grown, this is the economic value of those crops, whether it was healthy or not, how was the water stress and prepare the complete risk report for that particular asset. And based on that they do the underwriting and, for that, we don’t have to even talk to the farmer. So let’s say Amar is applying for a two-wheeler loan or a tractor loan or a crop loan and goes to the bank and fill-up the form and gives his land record ID that land record IDs is queried by the bank system in our system and automatically the AI runs on those you know asset boundaries and get the complete report to them. So this is bringing down the cost of operation for the bank because the service of small checks or small loans is not profitable for them but this is opening up a new avenue for these guys. So we are not only working in India with the banks, we are also working in Southeast Asia and did some work in the US as well, where the banks are giving loans to the farmer. And this opens up the black box, right? So for us, it’s a salary slip when we go for a loan, but for the farmer, there is no transaction history. We are providing this ultimate data to the AI. Right. And similarly, for the insurance, right, we are working with the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, where we are providing the government the information on every 10 by 10 meter of a Gram Panchayat that which crop is going there. What is the health and what could be the yield based on that they will make a decision and make the payout faster? Today, it takes even eight to nine months, or even 12 months to give the money to the farmer, even if his crop has failed because all the validation is manual. But with this kind of system, you can make the payouts within a day or 15 days when the farmer really needs some money. So this is how we are helping the insurance companies, government and bankers to understand the risk better and underwrite the risk so that they can penetrate more. Because if that elimination of information is not there, nobody wants to venture into that risk. And that’s why we build this AI product called Smart risk for the bank and insurance companies.


Siddhartha 31:16

That’s something really transformational. For example, for a day, when the majority of the 500 million farmers in India are covered by this product, they don’t need to go to a Jamindar, which can you know, have a very unfair term for a loan through which farmers have been screwed for centuries, because now banks have access to this data and banks can do give loans at fair terms, and they understand the data from the farm.


Krishna 31:49

And we build this product just because we understood one thing, if the farmer doesn’t have access to financing, nothing’s going to change. If he has surplus money, he can do the experiment, if he has the money, he can use your advice and put some right, you know, input into his farm. But let’s say if you give him the best of the best advice, and he doesn’t have money to buy those chemical fertilizers or whatever growth enhancers, he will not able to do that. So be fair permission,


Siddhartha 32:18

If you’re just delivering information, and the farmer cannot act on it, then the farmer will say what use we can make?


Krishna 32:25

Yeah, so we’ve felt that, you know, if you really want to improve the agriculture ecosystem, the financing need to happen. And financing will only happen when you mitigate the risk or bring down the risk or open up the black box with more information. So that the bank and insurance companies can act upon that information and go aggressive in these markets. And it opens up a new market potential for them as well. So, low ticket size, high volume, and then be profitable.


Siddhartha 32:58

Yeah. And today how many of the 500 million farmers of India are covered by CropIn and what percentage of them?


Krishna 33:06

So in India, we have I think, 140 million farmers and today we have close to 5 million acres of activities. Farm activities is on a platform, which will account to 1.4 million farmers.


Siddhartha 33:31

Out of the total 500 million farmers you have mentioned,


Krishna 33:34

140 million farmers in the country total, we have 140 million farmers out of which we have 1.1 million farmers where their farm is getting managed. But we have processed the whole country 10 by 10 meter for the insurance and lending perspective. And we have information about almost all the farms of 18 states of the country, through AI


Siddhartha 34:01

And each is represented by geotagging in the ecosystem which a farm manager who fixes the geotag?


Krishna 34:07

Correct. So that’s the smart farm product. In the smartest product, we have mapped 18 states in the country and we refresh data of every plot of those 18 states every month. So, that accounts to 80% of the farmland and 80% of the farmer but we don’t have the information on who is the owner of that farm. But we have the information of the plot of that village that what is getting grown and what is the economic value and other stuff. So that needs to be mapped, right. So in that sense, we are impacting 80% of the farmer in the country. And with the name farmers where we have the name of those farmers, it’s around 1.4 million farmers


Siddhartha 34:51

and what are some of the new products which you are currently developing right now?


Krishna 34:57

So we are investing big time in AI and ML where are we building the capability and there are various products right. So, there is a product which helps the customer become more predictive and prescriptive, there is a product which works on sustainability, for example, carbon footprint, phenotypes, understanding the water intakes and how the water stress is playing role in a large region or a state or a district or country. What is the Deep Impact of deforestation so that’s one product, right? The other product is for the banking where we help them to underwrite a loan, then there’s the product for the insurance, then there’s a product for the commodity traders, or for the businesses to forecast the production based on the condition today in that farm, right. And if you’d be going through the product, there are at least 20 line items in terms of innovation, right from crop determine, yield production, water stress, soil moisture, these are itself the big products, irrigation scheduling, pest disease detection, not detection prediction, that what best you can expect the next 15 days with more than 90% accuracy. So, without even it has happened, we can predict that this is coming


Siddhartha 36:14

And is there a provision for the farmer than to buy or get delivered Pest Control medicines or mechanisms this data?


Krishna 36:26

So, if you look at our customer base, we have input companies, output companies bank insurance on our platform, now, we are trying to connect the dots, if there is a farmer who needs seeds, somebody can supply a farmer who needs chemical, somebody can supply, a farmer who needs capital, there is a bank who can give the loan to them. So we are working on connecting these dots on our platform because we already have those customers and farmers on the platform. Today every enterprise individually with their farmer base. Now we are trying to see if there is a Connect, can we connect the banking customer who’s on our platform to a customer who is into the production and therefore farmers who need capital or insurance coverage? Right. So we are exploring those avenues now.


Siddhartha 37:12

Krishna, you have been able to make such a deep impact on the Indian agriculture ecosystem. If an entrepreneur has to learn from you five qualities, you know, what would those be?


Krishna 37:23

I think, one point is important which is perseverance, you know, and believe the problem which you’re trying to solve. If you’re going after the big problem, and it’s real problem, you know, the outcome will be always good? So that’s what I believe in. And when you believe in, you have to work hard. I mean, preserve is something which you require? I think so things will fall in place.


Siddhartha 37:50

And if you can share your journey, how have you grown as a leader in CropIn and outside when people look up to you? What what are the things? What are the mental models that are simulated over a period of time?


Krishna 38:06

See the biggest transition I see in myself is I was a complete tech guy and r&d guy, right. And I played a very various roles the initial days, right I was, I played the role of a product manager, I single-handedly did the sales and implementation first three, three years on the client-side, because we didn’t have the last team. So I was the sales guy. I was also a customer support guy who was traveling to the customer locations, I was the guy who was hiring. Right. So I played a various roles. But today we have a large team. And I see myself transforming to you know, from Tech to nontech. And more on the strategy side more on the, you know, financial side, now, I understand the language of the CFO. So this is one thing, as a founder, you know, you are blessed to learn about every vertical because you have done that by yourself. For example, when you are hiring the first guy for your company sitting in a one-room 10 by 10. And you’re selling a vision of a billion-dollar. Actually you learned HR, because if you’re hiring for some established companies, it’s easy to hire, but when you are hiring for a company where there is no employee, and you are selling the vision of the company, you learn the art of HR, right, when you’re setting the customer have vision without having a product and he bites into it, you learn the art of sales, he believed you he believed in your product in the vision and he ready to pay for that right. So, so you learn on the job. So I think that there is a very soft formation you will see during your journey and you have to step up for that. Right. Either you use Step up, or you bring that talent from outside to help you out.


Siddhartha 40:03

And you have now people from GE joining CropIn.


Krishna 40:07

Not really. But we have a couple of folks who come from GE. Yeah. But not really.


Siddhartha 40:14

But for your folks and friends at GE must been a really transformational journey seeing you, you know, lead a segment India, right, that’s such a large sector with so many problems.


Krishna 40:26

Yeah, I mean, I am in touch with everyone. I’m in touch with my CIO, who chose me for the DC program. And I used to discuss with him he still in touch with me, I think he is now CIO for hero group in India. And, yeah, I mean, this feels good.


Siddhartha 40:45

Tells us about your journey, you know, on getting chosen by the World Bank, as their technology partner in the public private partnership, and also getting funding from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.


Krishna 40:59

Yeah, I mean, our journey has been great. We are working with various partners, and you know, Bill and Melinda Gates have been our Series B. In Series B, they participate in the round, when they saw the impact, scale of the business, right. So we were in Africa. And so the product from India is trying to, you know, create an impact on the life of the farmer. And our goals were the same, the visions were same when it massed, you get all the helping hand from those people. So I think, yeah, I mean, because of the impact we created, the way we are delivering that impact. And because it is scalable, we attracted a lot of large, you know, enterprise and partners to work with.


Siddhartha 41:51

And recently, you know, you showcased Smart Risk at the world AgriTech Summit held in London. Tell us the experience of showcasing that.


Krishna 42:03

Yeah, I think when we launched, we launched our product in 2018 the AI product and it has a larger impact. So we decided to do a roadshow. So, we did a roadshow in Mumbai, where we called the government, the policymakers, we called the bank and insurance companies. And we showed them how we can process the whole country. So actually, we process 10 by 10 meter pixel, we divide the country India as a country to 10 by 10 meter pixels. And we tag that pixel that which what is the story of that pixel, in 2017, which crop was there, in 2018, which crops were grown? What was the health what was the risk and all this stuff, right. So, we built a stack of data on a 10 by 10 meter. And we processed that within a week’s time. And we said this is possible, right, we can use AI to transform agriculture, and this is how we can do it. And here is the outcome. And we wanted to demonstrate to all the stakeholders, and we brought them in a room and we had this large program to do that, and it was well appreciated, and after that, we got so many orders for that product. And we did the same in London because we wanted to attract the international audience, that AI can work at a scale, we are not talking about you know, doing a POC in a small, you know, 10 floors or 100 floors or all in one Village, we are talking about how AI can transform agriculture for a country and can run at scale. And we wanted to project that in the UK map. And we were quite successful. We have so many programs, we are working with the rain forest alliance in Europe, which works in Africa on cocoa and coffee, and they gave us an opportunity to work with them in those countries with AI products rights and then we are working in Southeast Asia we are working in Africa with these products India Of course, yeah. So, they are partly scaling very quickly in different markets, because we have the ability to build this model not only for India but also for different countries because we are presented in 52 countries. So, our models are learning about the crop from all those different climatic zone different countries and also building the ability to transfer learn, right, so how what they have learned from India on the paddy there, it’s also learning from Paddy Myanmar or Southeast Asia or in Nigeria, right. So the models are becoming very, very strong and that’s the edge CropIn has.


Siddhartha 44:42

And right now, you know Agritech business is booming in India. For example, in 2019 Agritech startups in India, data show that they received $248 million in funding or growth in 300%. For the same period the previous year, so, and right now India hosts more than 450 startups in Agritech in India. But do you believe like, you know, the next 10 years, we’ll see a 10 x growth in Agritech. Just because of the revolution, which CropIn started?


Krishna 45:20

I am a firm believer in that, you know, look at India, like a sandbox, where you can build products, you can experiment with products, because there are so many complex problems to solve here in agriculture, yeah. And once you solve this problem, you can scale it globally. Right. And, and if you can build a product, which can be used in India, trust me, it can be used anywhere else. And I see that Agritech is going to amplify next five to 10 years, and they will have many products from India, which will service the global market as well.


Siddhartha 45:58

And was it the really difficult and I would ask, you know, is still to sell to enterprises and government in India, like it has the attitude change over a period of time on the adoption of technology? And talking about those enterprises and government sectors to which you sell to?


Krishna 46:18

Yes, yes, they have changed a lot when we were, you know, interacting in early days, they see these things as a cost. Today, it’s not a cost for the. It’s a strategy for them to become digital. So, this transformation we have seen in enterprises, we have seen in mid-segment we have seen in government, development agencies, because whatever program they are forming, where it’s climate change, climate-resilient agriculture, or livelihood programs, they’re building with the farmer, I think the first thing they’re also creating a budget for the technology and the platform because they understand they can really deliver at scale when they infuse technology with their framework. Right? So I think adoption is increasing, and it’s going to exponentially increase in the coming days.


Siddhartha 47:06

SaaS entrepreneurs in India have said that I am talking about most of them, not all of them, that India, if you have to grow a SaaS business, you have to move out of India at some point in time because India is a poor monetization market. What’s your take on it, Krishna?


Krishna 47:26

I think that is changing. I think there was also a report I don’t remember but from Accel or some venture capital in India, the data good report where they’re saying how SAS Indian SaaS is becoming relevant in India and people are buying SaaS products right. So what was there five years back I think is a total change, there is an appetite to buy SaaS products in India as well and people are realizing why it is important because they are competing not only in India but also globally. There is a series of technology happening and they I think SaaS is bound to grow in India, I mean, from the market perspective. I don’t have numbers today, but I think it was a good report, which is eye-opener that how the adoption of SaaS products is happening in India.


Siddhartha 48:18

But do you think you know it currently in India, they are four to five SaaS companies which are more than 100 million ARR which includes Freshdesk, Dhruva that have all moved to US, because it was a lucrative market and some part of their sales coming in here, but most of the tech ann customer support is in India. And there are roughly 50 companies in India, SAS company in India who have, this is I’m talking about data from the Bain report, which recently came 50 companies as companies in India, which have a $10 million ARR and most of them are, you know, targeting US market or outside developed or failing to develop countries. Do you think that’s a possibility in future we can see in India $100 million dollar ARR company selling SaaS to Indian enterprises or the government, do you see that a future?


Krishna 49:18

That is going to happen. So, you know, while you give me the example of these companies, but you can also look at some of the companies who are coming to India to sell like Zendesk Salesforce, yeah. We being as a startup company, we have taken Salesforce products for all our sales guys globally. Right, okay. And then there are many examples, right? So, for example, AWS, it is also where we pay on the meter, right? So if you build a good product, which has a product-market fit, I think the consumers are everywhere and India is going to be a big market as well while some of the companies has migrated to US because there the market is mature and in early days they will pay for the bills right. But India digitally is getting much educated I can see even the companies with which are homegrown large companies, they are asking Bain to do a consulting and strategy on their digital roadmap. So, they have already started investing to that, the traditional companies, right that so that they need to be relevant in the market or with the competition. Now, with that kind of approach, you are going to consume a lot of digital products as well. So, I think there is a lot of room for Indian SaaS market also to grow and a lot of SaaS companies will have built a study on the Indian market as well.


Siddhartha 50:55

Thank you so much, Krishna, it’s been a wonderful conversation with you. Thank you for sharing your experience, your insights from the last 10 years of building CropIn.


Krishna 51:07

Thanks, Siddhartha. Thank you very much.


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