By Anusha Ashwin
The intervention of mobile phones has simplified our lives to a large extent, by enabling calling, messaging, transacting and much more. But what’s catching our attention these days is the ability of a mobile phone playing a significant part in India’s evolving agriculture practices. It has become an indispensable tool for a farmer, so much so that it can evade human intervention send commands or can automate agricultural equipment switching these on/off. Here is Mobitech Wireless Solutions that includes a farmer in Digital India's dreams.
Coming from a South Indian family with deeprooted agriculture practices, S P Raja Kumaran, the Founder and CEO of Salem-based Mobitech Wireless Solution, envisaged the large scope of agriculture automation. Kumaran is a combination of an agriculturist and an Engineering-MBA graduate. Being an agriculturist, he knew the hardship of a farmer travelling a distance, especially midnight, between home and fields just to operate the pumps to ensure adequate water supply to the crops. He desperately wanted to create a solution to automate those functions, with the convenience of operating through a mobile phone. He researched, did solid groundwork and came up with a prototype for a plug-n-play product that can control the function of motors and valves.
Around 2008-2009, Raja Kumaran joined hands with T Kumar and K S Nallasivam to develop the product that he had in mind. They quickly developed a product that could take commands from a mobile phone. By 2010, Kumaran had a working product in hand and incorporated Mobitech Wireless Solutions. Using GSM technology, Mobitech began operations by extending Electronic Embedded Systems-based automation products. Today, the company has grown to offer a slew of automation products in irrigation and industrial belts with products like Cell Phone Motor Starter; Drip Irrigation Valve Controller; Wireless Generator Monitor and Control; and Wireless Room Temperature Monitor and Control.
Making technology work for farmers
Overcoming all the difficulties in R&D, Kumaran achieved a breakthrough and launched his product in July 2010. The product was incubated at Salem-based Kongu Engineering College’s Technology Business Incubator. The product was rolled out into the market after 6-9 months of incubation.
The company’s flagship product is cell phone motor starter controller that simplifies the farmer’s job by operating the motor through a missed call or SMS from the mobile phone. Besides, switching on/off a motor, through an SMS, the farmer through his mobile phone can receive additional information like status of electricity supply at the field, voltage values, number of phases available and pump set switching off due to dry run. Kumaran offers his plug-n-play connectors with flexible wiring kit priced Rs 4,500 onwards to the farmers.
Speaking about his products’ advantage, Kumaran says, “My aim is to provide a trouble-free solution to the farmer while connecting Mobitech’s add-on device. We have plug-n-play type wiring kit to bridge cell phone motor starter and the existing button starter for motors. Even at an instance of trouble with my product, the farmer need not wait for Mobitech technicians to resolve the problem. He can remove the plug-n-play wire and switch on and off the pump/motor manually. I take pride in saying that Mobitech was the first company to take such an advanced plug-n-play technology to the farmers. Farmers are extremely satisfied with Mobitech’s wireless solutions and are happy that they can manage their practice from any part of the world, just by giving a missed call from their phone. In 2013 we launched our drip irrigation valve controller to control and monitor irrigation pumps and drip irrigation valves through mobile phone. Since inception in 2010 more than 15,000 farmers are using Mobitech’s products.”
Winning 15,000 farmers’ trust has not been an easy task for Kumaran. He reveals that the company’s marketing team made their presence felt at agri exhibitions; farmer’s gatherings like pesticide shop, village milk booths and electrical pump selling shops. Kumaran did not overlook marketing his products through advertisements in exclusive agriculture magazines. “We take live demo kits to villages and call farmers through audio system and show live demo to farmers. After establishing a strong foothold in Tamil Nadu, Mobitech signed distributors in Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab and Gujarat. In the last two years, Mobitech has reached out to famers in 40% of the states in India,” said Kumaran.
After gaining confidence in automating agri equipment, Kumaran confidently entered small-time industrial automation. Just like receiving updates on electricity status at fields, an industrial owner receives updates on cell phone on status of electricity at his unit. The industrialist is also updated on information on the number of generators and machinery put to use.
R&D on wireless products for farmers continues
Over the years, spearheaded by Kumaran, Mobitech has developed and offered products for farmers who can — through the cell phone —know the level of huge water tanks; the location of farmer vehicles; switch on/off diesel generators; and the level of water received from Government water supply schemes.
Kumaran certainly knows that he needs to keep pace with the evolving technology and he is in race to offer new technologies to farmers who trust Mobitech’s wireless solution. Kumaran’s R&D division is busy working on developing a solution for fertilizer application in combination with irrigation — what is known as fertigation. This product, slated for 2017 end launch, once released should automate liquid fertilizer mixing and application for crops. Apart from expanding his product pipeline, Kumaran has ambitious plans of signing distributors in 70% of States and readying for launch in Africa, where he sees tremendous opportunity.