What we have been doing
Gham Power has been working towards uplifting rural smallholder farmers by helping them adopt modern farming practices and shift to commercial farming. In order to do so, we have been providing farmers with reliable solar irrigation and tailored agri-advisory through our team of agri-experts. Furthermore, since rural farmers cannot make a significant investment of a large scale, we have also been working alongside our microfinance partners in providing affordable financing solutions to the farmers.
All of our efforts towards improving the livelihood of farmers were heavily disrupted in more ways than one with the COVID-related lockdowns. Our microfinance partners, who were crucial to our social mobilization efforts, were in a pinch. They had been taking on extra load because of the piled-up backlog that they needed to address. They were spending more time on repayment collection than ever before and were unable to clear out time to talk about our solutions to their farmer members. On the other hand, the farmers had also been struggling with unsold produce and limited access to essential agri inputs, and therefore, were reluctant to make new purchases or investments.
How we approached the problem
We realized that in order to get the ball rolling again, we needed to reinvent and reevaluate our approach. Embracing a design thinking mindset, we began working on identifying and understanding the problem of our partners and our end users. We conducted preliminary research, created questionnaires that would provide clear and quantitative answers, selected regions that would act as a sample of our partner population, and visited the field to decipher the ground-level reality.
This exercise led to a lot of new opportunities to check our assumptions and get a wider view of the situation. With the new-found understanding, we created a map of all the actors in our value chain, a list of problems each actor would face, and brainstormed possible solutions for each problem. The solutions were then prioritized in terms of their feasibility. Then, a tentative timeline for a month was created and the responsibilities were delegated to our team members.
The output of this exercise was remarkable. Our existing marketing materials were refined so that the farmers would be able to understand the value provided by our service clearly. An easy narration was put together which would aid our partners in communicating about our service to the farmers in less than five minutes. We also redesigned our lead collecting application with the aim to make it as simple and fast as possible, thus, reducing the time spent by our partners on it.
The results we have obtained in our sample test regions so far have been extremely promising. We were always trying to work digitally and had developed an application that enabled our MFI partners to share leads. However, our previous lead collection form had 27 fields that needed to be filled in the best-case scenario. In the new application, we brought it down to 2 fields in the best case and 4 fields in the worst-case scenario. That drastically reduced the average lead collection time from 6 minutes 40 seconds to 20 seconds.
Not just the duration of the lead collection, but the number of leads also went up. By utilizing our marketing materials, the average lead number went from 13 leads a region per month to 50 leads a region per month.