With the help of mobile apps, IoT gadgets, AI, and tech-enabled devices, ReshaMandi is empowering farmers to raise production, lower wastage, improve quality, and, thereby, increase farmers’ income. Mayank Tiwari, Co-founder & CEO, ReshaMandi speaks to Agriculture Post on how his technological interventions are bringing a silent revolution in the sericulture value chain…
What difference is ReshaMandi making in the sericulture sector and how does it impact the lives of farmers?
ReshaMandi is India’s first and largest digital ecosystem for the natural fibre supply chain, connecting farms to fashion. At ReshaMandi, we are determined to standardise the industry, starting from the grassroots, such as farmers, reelers, weavers, retailers, and finally, consumers. We are digitising the supply chain of natural fibres and eradicating hurdles faced by stakeholders across the chain.
We are offering insights to stakeholders in the natural fibre supply chain. These include weather and soil quality updates and how they could impact cocoons, market linkages of input procurement (cocoon) and selling output (yarns), maintaining ledgers, information on best practices and purchasing machine tools. ReshaMandi’s innovative technique is revolutionising natural fibre farming in India. We are successfully using the Internet of Things (IoT) to boost agricultural productivity. Since most farmers lack tech skills, any technology should be extremely easy for all parties to use.
ReshaMandi’s technological intervention and people-first approach have helped farmers improve their productivity by 20 per cent and boost incomes by nearly 30 per cent, enabling them to afford better quality raw materials, high-quality labour, fertilisers, and other essential inputs, which are pushing yields higher.
You’re creating a tech-enabled value chain for silk, how is it different from the conventional value chain?
India is the second-largest producer of raw silk in the world. Notwithstanding that, the industry still faces many hurdles such as volatile yields, price fluctuations of cocoons, and arbitrary testing methods by silk reelers. Issues such as lack of standardisation, poor database management, and a diverse range of practices leading to fluctuations in production and quality are still plaguing the sector. As we work at the grassroots levels, we have been able to gauge the needs of stakeholders to address the same. We have effectively integrated technology into the supply chain, ensuring all stakeholders reap the benefits.
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We provide IoT devices for measuring soil pH and moisture content, sunlight, air quality, humidity, and temperature. With the help of mobile apps, IoT gadgets, AI, and tech-enabled devices, ReshaMandi is empowering farmers to raise production, lower wastage, improve quality, and, thereby, increase their income. Our IoT devices assist silk farmers in analysing the silkworm-rearing process and identifying the best irrigation practices for higher yields of mulberry plants that are the main feed for worms
ReshaMandi has a network of 23 procurement centres where farmers can get in touch with representatives, either through a phone call or by visiting the centre in person with a prior appointment. Farmers have the option to pick up inputs directly or order through the app with the representative’s help. We have the flexibility to book an appointment with them to collect the cocoons from the farmer’s house to avoid a long journey to the mandis.
What technologies do you apply in creating this supply chain?
We have been incorporating several technologies such as machine learning, AI, data analytics, and IoT, to name a few. The result is the ReshaMandi super-app – one app that can be used by stakeholders across the supply chain. We recently released a new IoT device, which has been researched, developed, and engineered by ReshaMandi to improve the previous version of our IoT device for farmers. Last month, we launched the ReshaMandi App for iOS devices and stakeholders using iOS devices have begun using this app. Previously it was available only on an android platform.
Kindly describe the silk economy in India with factors like production, exports, number of farmers associated with silk cultivation, challenges in market linkages, innovations coming in, and geographical distribution.
India is the second-largest producer and largest consumer of silk with a production value amounting to 34000 MT. The market for raw silk was valued at US$2.5 billion in FY22, whereas consumption volume stood at 40,000 MT. The southern zone (Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala) accounts for 59 per cent of the total silk production. According to IBEF, The most exported silk items from India remain silk fabrics and garments, with export shares of 45.3 per cent and 36.3 per cent in 2021-22, respectively. Silk waste (11.3 per cent), silk carpets (4.3 per cent), and natural silk yarn (2.8 per cent) make up most of India’s overall silk exports.
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The silk industry is highly unorganised with problems such as price fluctuations, absence of proper markets, lack of proper logistics, no definitive advisory, minimal quality testing, and no transparency in the processes. This being a buyers’ market, farmers are often subjected to cartel practices to drive down prices. We aim to eliminate uncertainties in the ecosystem, presenting a completely transparent process to farmers.
What challenges do you face while your operations with the farmers and how do you tackle them?
The first few days were extremely challenging. We had to educate the farmers as well as all our other stakeholders about our platform and the value it offers, including the advancement that ReshaMandi brings. Once we convinced a handful of people, it was just a matter of networking within stakeholder communities. Today, through our super app, we have successfully enabled 100 per cent of farmers on the platform to transact digitally. Most often, under the guise of low product quality, stakeholders in this ecosystem are exploited and underpaid. This is mostly because they don’t grasp the value of their produce in the market. By educating them about the latest tech solutions, such as Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, we are striving to eliminate such issues. Since our inception, tech innovations have revolutionised the country’s natural fibre supply chain, greatly enhancing the ability to control this unorganised sector.
Kindly tell us a few success stories on your interventions transforming the farmer value chain.
One such case concerns Gurumallesh, a BA graduate and a rare example of a well-educated young person choosing to forego city life to pursue a successful career in sericulture. He started on a small piece of land. Today, he owns a nice house, a 4.5-acre farm, and two silkworm-rearing houses. He now cultivates only silk and boasts 150 kg of produce every month.
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ReshaMandi’s technology intervention helped Gurumallesh and farmers like him get higher margins and enabled them to afford better quality raw materials, higher quality labour, fertilisers, and other essential inputs, which in turn are pushing yields even higher.
Do you have any plans to diversify your portfolio? If yes, kindly elucidate.
In early 2020, we began the journey with silk. In FY22, however, we added other natural fibres such as cotton, coir, jute, and banana to the portfolio, managing the entire ecosystem for all natural fibres catering to a diverse set of stakeholders.
The growing population is imposing a big pressure on natural resources. Do you also advocate sustainable practices among the farmers associated with you?
Since the beginning of our journey, we have been a proponent of sustainable fashion. We have been collaborating closely with farmers to recycle silk and cocoon wastes (produced by farmlands and reeling units, respectively), which are now being used to extract sericin – a silk protein that is used in the pharmaceutical and packaging industries. Pupae (a by-product of reeling operations) can be used for fish and poultry feeding. Earlier farmers would burn mulberry twigs as they did not know how crucial these are as raw materials in the cosmetics, pharmaceutical and FMCG industries. We are working closely with farmers to recycle agricultural waste in other businesses.
What markets do you cater to for exporting the commodities you are operating in?
We now have global footprints and plans to become a one-stop natural and recycled fibres sourcing platform in various countries including the Middle East, Europe, North and South America, and South East Asia (SEA) to replicate its successful India model. We have already entered MENA and SEA regions as both these markets are rapidly emerging and are the world’s fastest-growing apparel and textile hubs.
In what geographical areas do you operate and how many farmers benefit from your solutions?
Besides our 23 procurement centres and 4 cocoon sales centres across India, we run 25 mandis (big markets) across Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Maharashtra. We are present in four weaving clusters in some of India’s silk capitals – Varanasi, Dharmavaram, Salem, and Kanchipuram. We began working with the farmers in Sarjapura, Karnataka, and today we have expanded our operations to almost 5,000 pin codes across India. We also aim to increase our retail footprint further into Agra, Kota, Gorakhpur, Dhanbad, Ranchi, Bhopal, Indore, Jabalpur, Rajkot, Vadodara, Surat, Pune, Nagpur, Satara, Visakhapatnam, Vijayawada, Madurai, Coimbatore, Kochi, and Kannur. Currently, we are working with over 60,000 farmers.
What strategies do you apply to reach the farming community to increase their association with ReshaMandi?
Our business approach has had a substantial impact on farmers’ productivity and revenue. Being a closed community, word-of-mouth has helped us win the trust of farmers. Continuous efforts and development for the betterment of stakeholders is our only approach to maintaining an association with them. Our executives are constantly engaging in periodic activities for farmers, organising sessions to enlighten them on the benefits of technology and the empowerment we can bring to them.
What new offerings are you going to bring in the future?
We have announced our new venture ReshaMudra, which will give business partners across the ecosystem access to working capital solutions as well as long-term loans, enabling them to secure crucial funding to help grow their businesses or tide over challenging times. As mentioned earlier we have launched a unique programme called ReshaAbhivrudi which will resolve problems related to crop yields, crop loss, lack of advisories, and more.
Moreover, we have introduced an industry-first, trend forecast report that will predict fashion trends and shape the industry over a year. The report will share market intelligence and map consumer behaviour, allowing designers, exporters, and retailers to better plan inventory and manage operations well. We have already entered the global markets via Southeast Asia and the Middle East and plan to become a one-stop sourcing solution for natural fibres globally.