Alum Ventures: Kamal Kisan – Devi Murthy, MPEFB 2011
Devi Murthy started Kamal Kisan as she wanted to use her knowledge and ability to be able to create products that added value. She wanted to empower farmers with machinery – tools of the trade that has the potential to change and bring advancements in the field of agriculture. She leaves no stone unturned when it comes to meeting the demands of her customers – the farmers. Her passion for work and the vision that drives it is so evident when you speak to her.
A sneak peek into her entrepreneurial journey.
Can you please us something about yourself and your venture Kamal Kisan?
I have done my engineering from Drexel University in the US and came back to India in 2008. I later went on to do an MPEFB course at IIMB in 2010. I was then working alongside my father in his company Kamal Bells, a sheet metal fabrications and components manufacturing company. I also used to travel extensively across the country and meeting people from different sectors engaging with people, institutions, farmers, manufacturers just to educate myself before I got into the business.
I started Kamal Kisan in 2013. A friend & batchmate at IIMB, who came from an agriculture background approached me to help design tools for their factories. Since I came from an automotive background, it was an expertise I could provide. But soon after more people approached me which got me thinking about the huge gaps that were in the space in terms of requirement and product quality. We began with 3 members and grown to a 15 member team now. We are looking to expand our numbers to meet the work demand.
What was the first product manufactured by Kamal Kisan and What are the different products offered now?
The first-ever product that Kamal Kisan rolled out was a very simple handtool called the Vegetable Planter. This planter helps in planting seeds and saplings and reducing manual labor time by 60%. It’s very easy to use handheld, portable device.
We offer 10 products right now, all targeted for horticultural farming purposes. Our portfolio of products is currently equipped to cover all ranges of horticulture farming needs ranging all the way from soil preparation to crop management. We are now looking to expanding to other elements in the production process like harvesting and post-harvesting. In short, we want to become a one-stop solution for all farming mechanized needs and requirements.
How are farmers/ cultivators using Kamal Kisan products for improving yield and efficiency?
The scarcity of manual labor is a bottleneck in today’s time. Even if you do not consider the cost involved, finding labor to work in the fields has become a bigger challenge with each passing day. All the farmers that I have interacted with are most pleased to learn that our products reduce the need for manual intervention. For example, our product a Raised Bed Maker (a tractor implementation tool) requires only 30 mins of manual labor to work on 1 acre of land as against 80 hours using conventional methods. Reduced manual intervention means Cost Reduction which is an added bonus.
India gets its 50-55% income from agriculture but contributes to only 17% of GDP, which reflects a very inefficient system. So freeing up more people from the agrarian sector will benefit the country’s economic growth by using this segment in other developing areas.
What is the unique offering of Kamal Kisan compared to its competitors?
We are working on something on what’s called an customization model. In a conventional setup whenever you need to mechanise any process you have to buy new equipment. We want to eliminate the need to buy new equipment thereby reducing the cost incurred by the farmers.
We are working on providing a base model for our machines, that works with most of our enhancement implements/ accessories, so essentially end users only need to buy one base model and add these accessories/ plugins instead of investing a large sum to acquire a new machine.
Kamal Kisan is also working with various state governments. Can you please tell us more about it?
We are working with many state governments currently. We have also enlisted with Karnataka govt for a subsidy, wherein farmers get a discount for buying our products through these channels. In my opinion, joining hands with the authorities is a crucial step for creating a path for newer methodologies.
Kamal Kisan has a presence in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu. We have recently collaborated with the UP & Bihar Govt for some exciting projects and are looking forward to it. We have products PAN across the industry verticals, manually handled equipment, power tools and tractor implements. Most of these are targeted towards horticultural growers as it has the most amount of income capability. The idea is to help the farmers/ cultivators capitalize on the existing assets.
What kind of R&D is involved in creating the product line?
Product innovation is a key element in our line of work. It is done keeping in mind the needs and requirements of the end-user i.e., the farmer. Our focus is on making the equipment as simple and user-friendly as possible, with the least maintenance required. Our team visits farms regularly to interact with people working in the fields for getting a better understanding of the process and production.
Does one require any training/ assistance in using or setting up your implements?
Our products are fairly simple to use, but said that we were providing a lot of hand holding in terms on educating and instructing pre-covid times, now we have taken all of this online. If anything positive has come out of the pandemic it is the adaptability of digital mediums to the most micro level in the country – reaching nooks and corners.
We have created partnerships with people working in similar fields of education and acknowledgment of farmers covering essential topics like – how to grow and expedite the process. This micro-entrepreneurship model will help to make our products available through local vendors & franchises. This also helps is job creation in the local regions & areas.
We are experimenting with different models on how we can deliver these interventions to the last mile.
Any Aha moments that you would like to share?
I work and interact with the working force on a regular basis. When they say that Kamal Kisan is making their work easier, and they see a promise that the future generations/ youth will follow suit and take up agriculture, it makes me feel very positive. It validates all the hard work put into this venture and brings me one step closer to my goals.
How has IIMB been a part of your entrepreneurial journey?
It all began with my days at IIMB. I remember sitting in Prof Srinivasan’s class and him asking, “What’s your vision?” “What is the value proposition?” “Where are you headed?”. It got me thinking that being in the automotive sector, what we envision and what it trcikles down to by the time it reaches the ground are very different, and that it definitely needs improving. So credit to this awakening goes to those thought-provoking days at IIMB.
Taking the course at IIMB was an eye-opener, as I began to question the value proposition I am creating, and how as an engineer, was I contributing towards my community and by and large my country. A small hobby project changed my course and helped me find my path to what I am doing now. I discovered there were so many glaring gaps in the agriculture industry that doesn’t seem obvious to people. Understanding what the agriculture sector in India currently looks like – the small farmers struggling to meet ends meet, bigger expenses, market fluctuations. Keeping in mind the small farmers, We started working towards developing equipment & tools with a promise to reduce their costs by 50% thereby increasing their profitability.
Any fond memories from your days at IIMB.
I fondly recall walking around the beautiful campus and eating anda parantha & maggi at the shop inside the campus. There was also this one instance where all our batchmates ended having a fun water fight with one another in the corridors. Those days were very special.