In Conversation with Ajay Kumar Tannirkulam, Founder, Magasool
After completing his Ph.D. in Astronomy & Astrophysics from the University of Michigan, Ajay Kumar Tannirkulam (also an IIT Bombay alum) came India to manage a socio-economic study of more than 5000 rural in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu. During his tenure, he got close to the . Ajay also found out that even though 60% of Indians are working in agriculture, their contribution to the GDP had fallen by 30% in the last 40 years.to
During the course of the study, his former colleague, (now co-founder) Jayaram Venkatesan and Ajay observed that the farmers were Magasool was born in 2012. His love for the Indian and Indian culture is clearly visible in the name of his venture as Magasool, in Tamil, means ‘yield’.40 years old techniques. The duo made a determined to make and to the farmers. Thus,
caught up with Ajay Kumar Tannirkulam and to him about how he raised the agricultural yield of the farmers in Tamil Nadu.
OF: We know that the drive to improve the lives of small and marginal farmers in Tamil Nadu gave birth to Magasool. Could yousome light on the means by which you plan to achieve this?
AKT: From decreasing productivity levels, ever-increasing input, to poor price realization of their produce, there are many ills that bother a small farmer in a developing country like India. Magasool addresses these issues by providing -on agricultural support and extension that are personalized and adapted to prevailing farming conditions in each region. Our vision is to with universities, non-government institutions, and industry and government to provide 10000 farmers of Tamil Nadu direct support and services to realize higher productivity, lowered drudgery and nutrition; and to impact over 1.5 million farmers in India through policy .
Our current set of, developed in close partnership with local farmer groups and universities and carefully tested in local conditions, are broadly divided into:
- Modern sowing techniques
- Soil improvement techniques
- Technical training and consulting services
Our support system consists of regional coordinators who continuouslywith farmers to solve their problems. We build a trust-based , offer our services for nominal rates, and work with each farmer to make sure that they benefit from our services.
OF: Changing the agricultural space is a challengingin itself. However, what major issues did you in terms of existing schemes and working individually with farmers?
AKT: The Indian government, agricultural universities, and NGOs have introduced several schemes. However, there are two major problems with such schemes,
- Their recommendations are not tested on agricultural under local conditions
- They do not provide proactive support and extension systems to ensure good reach and uptake
To help the small farmer effectivelyscientific practices, it is necessary to continuously work with the farmers, build trust, and help them overcome their -aversion by introducing them to role models. Being dwellers, the farmers were skeptical about our motives and the intent to work for long term. However, with time and effort, we eventually to overcome this roadblock and build the strong of trust.
OF: Could you tell us something aboutfunds for your venture? And, what are your for future funding?
As mentioned, Magasool is a not-for-profit initiative. The founders do notany salary or stipend. All our capital expenses are funded through generous from and family operated under Magasool Trust and Magasool Agro Foundation.
Our work is entirely constrained by our ability to raise grants. Thus, since last year we have also started tapping the CSR. Our expenses are covered from highly subsidized fees charged to the farmers for the work we do. We started with 12 farmers in 2012 and have currently outreached to about 1200 farmers and . Since, our reach is quite limited, in the short term we are hoping to increase funding through CSR. In the long-term, we want to provide processing and facilities for the farmers on a profit share basis. The profits can partly subsidize the farm services.
OF: What would you consider as the epitome of achievement for your company?
Making agriculture profitable for farmers, farm workers and sustainable for the environment would be the epitome of achievement for us. We would like to partner with the government to modernize the extension system and make it personalized. Also, agriculture uses almost 80% of the freshand a lot of electricity. We want to see the environmental footprint of agriculture reduced. We have started the government for water efforts too.
OF: As a changemaker, what are you most proud of your contribution to the agriculture and nutrition space?
Albeit at a very tiny scale, we are most proud of demonstrating theof a farmer services system that is highly and caters to individual farmer and farm worker needs. Some of our early farm-worker employees have become agro-entrepreneurs in their own right which is very .