Bringing transparency in agritrade for Indian farmers and traders
How do you bring a user-friendly app experience to small farmers and suppliers in rural India to trade in agricultural commodities? Here is how we made Bijak an easy to use app for an audience we don’t usually work with.
Where does the potato on your plate come from? It has travelled hundreds of kilometres and tumbled through various mandis, trucks and sacks in its long journey to become a part of your biryani. Who are the people to make that happen and reach you at the price you paid per kilo? The farmers who work in different places across the year with seasons and soils to harvest their produce; those who load the harvest into trucks for the marketplace; and those who bring the trucks to the marketplace and bid for prices.
In the last few years, agri-technology in India has taken root to help these different players in the agricultural sector bring food to the table in cost-effective ways with strategies and solutions to work around logistical challenges.
In 2019, we helped build the android platform for Bijak, a B2B app that intervenes in this arena of agricultural trading and supply. We worked with Bijak end-to-end, from android development to engineering and product practices.Bijak is a new player in the agro-tech industry, helping buyers and sellers of agricultural commodities come together in a pan-Indian B2B platform. They help their users – traders, wholesalers, food processors – keep track of their transactions, access pricing and bring offline transactions online, and find other traders.
Bijak has raised over $12 million from top investment firms such as Sequoia Capital and others including Omnivore and Omidyar Network India. Bijak was also a part of the Sequoia Surge Cohort two.
We took on the challenge of bringing the world of trading in agricultural commodities into the small screen of an app willingly. Our first task entailed a thorough understanding of the users of the app and their contexts. We rigorously interviewed our clients to understand the nature of the transactions on the ground.
Our questions ranged from the basic to the specific: Who are the users? What is the nature of their business and how do they interact and can farmers be traders? Are they individuals, or groups, and how do they make payments? We learnt about the volume of credit players, factors that influence user ratings, and the cash flow cycles of traders in the present. We needed to understand how mandis (marketplaces) worked in order to account for varied scenarios. A key question had to do with whether we would be changing user behaviour from the ways they usually go about their business.
The edge case as the norm
or minimising the gap between the producer and user
The app had to be built from the ground-up and cater to the simplest device. Our end-users used low-technology smartphones with low screen resolution and small screens, and used their phones for calls or occasionally WhatsApp. Our UI/UX patterns had to keep this very specific audience in mind.