With five manufacturing units having an annual production capacity of 1.4 crore metric tons of fertiliser, 4,800 employees, and 36,000 cooperative members, the Rs 27,852 crore Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Ltd (IFFCO) is among India’s largest cooperative societies.
AK Gupta, Head-IT at IFFCO envisions to transform the organisation’s core functions and create newer avenues for the company’s ecosystem -- farmers, retailers, transporters etc.
“Fifteen years ago, IFFCO’s manpower strength was close to 7300 and the production capacity was 70 metric ton. Now, the employee count is 4700 and the output has reached 1.40 crore metric ton. Technology can be a game-changer for every organisation, leading to efficient operations as well as cost savings,” says Gupta.
According to Gupta, the Indian agriculture setup still operates traditionally, which leads to crop failures and low yield. With the availability of tech-based solutions, farmers can get more accurate information leading to lower risks.
“Though the Indian government is pushing for modern technologies in this sector, the low illiteracy rate proves to be a big challenge,” says Gupta.
Keeping various aspects in mind, IFFCO is working on a voice-enabled platform for helping its various stakeholders -- employees, retailers, and farmers.
“We have partnered with Oracle to develop voice-enabled chatbots. We are looking at their Autonomous Data Warehouse to utilize our data of the last 30-35 years in the most efficient way,” avers Gupta.
With Oracle, IFFCO is creating a backend system of data that the transactional bot leverages and assists farmers with their queries.
“We went for voice integration so that our users should be able to access the required information using mobile via voice," he says.
Created last year, the chatbot has been successfully deployed within IFFCO where all employees across different verticals are using it.
"All verticals are integrated with Oracle chatbot, Google Assistant and our own Oracle EBS and the legacy applications," Gupta says..
Gupta wants to take this (voice-enabled chatbot) technology to IFFCO’s ecosystem of 5.5 crore farmers. Using the chatbot (integrated with Oracle Database), a farmer would be able to get relevant agricultural information around soil, weather, and irrigation.
“They would also be able to check which store within his proximity has the desired stock (fertilizers) available in real-time,” he explains.
Apart from that, IFFCO has also launched a portal called IFFCO e-Bazaar, where a farmer can sell products and a buyer can buy those directly at the digital marketplace. This is a multi-lingual platform, available in 13 languages.
“We are serving 97% of the pin code areas across the country, without any delivery charge. We are helping the farmers at their doorstep, just the way urban people benefit from e-commerce shopping. The same way, we want the rural people to benefit from the same,” he asserts.
Innovating to transform how the industry operates
The company also has a strong focus on R&D. IFFCO has developed nano fertilizers to boost farmers’ income and cut usage of excessive chemical fertilisers.
The new ‘nano-technology’ based products are capable of reducing usage of traditional chemical fertilisers by 50 per cent and raise crop output by up to 15 to 30 percent.
Comparing traditional fertiliser and nano-fertilisers on weight basis, Gupta explains that close to 50 kilograms of urea could be replaced by just a single bottle of nano-fertilizer.
“If the impact cost to the produce is less, but the output cost is more or remains the same, even then the income will increase. These products will also help in reducing transportation costs,” adds Gupta.
According to Gupta, IFFCO is making investments to set up three plants for producing nano-tech based products.