Text messages boost farmers income in India
16 July 2012
The story behind Intuit Fasal, a free SMS-based service that provides rural farmers with real-time price information, which has blossomed into a program with more than 500,000 users and huge effects on the lives of Indian farmers.
"How can technology help the places I grew up in?"
That’s Deepa Bachu, describing her personal mission. Bachu was born in Bangalore, India, but spent a decade at Intuit’s Mountain View headquarters developing flagship products like Quicken. She returned home several years ago, for family reasons, and after becoming the director of emerging market innovation at Intuit, set out to build products for many of the neighbors she grew up with. "It’s so motivating," she says. "It’s just so awesome."
If Quicken is the product she felt most passionately about stateside, then Fasal--which she developed in India--has certainly become the pride of her hometown. Fasal is a free SMS-based product that connects rural farmers with buyers and provides them with real-time price information. Roughly 70% of India’s economy is tied to agriculture, but it’s a market fraught with obstacles. "The problem is that farmers didn’t know how to get the best price for their produce, nor what markets to go to and when," Bachu explains. "Nine times out of 10, farmers didn’t know if they were actually getting a fair price. 'Wow,' we thought. 'This is a huge unmet need. Let’s see if we can iterate and find a solution.'" The result is a service that has blossomed to more than 500,000 users who earn an average of 20% more income because of the technology.
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