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Cloud is fundamental to our business success: A K Gupta, ED – IT Services, IFFCO

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One of the world’s largest manufacturers of fertilizers has used the power of Oracle cloud to empower its employees and customers; financial transactions are now two times faster, while productivity levels have gone up by 30%. A K Gupta, Executive Director – IT Services, IFFCO, shares how IFFCO has leveraged the full potential of the cloud, while taking advantage of emerging technologies such as conversational AI to make a huge impact on the lives of farmers

Some edited excerpts:

What are your views on tech trends that are reshaping the Indian agriculture sector?
Thanks to technology advancements, agriculture has become far more modern today, and agricultural operations have become much more efficient in India. Our farmers are steadily getting more technology savvy and data-driven in their operations. There is a lot more emphasis on studying data and services – based on land, crop, climate conditions, finance availability, irrigation facilities etc. – which can help in improving crop production. Technologies such as Conversational AI, ML, IoT, Big Data, RPA, Block chain etc. are helping Indian agriculture become more productive, profitable, cost effective, safer, and more environment-friendly.

What is the power of conversational AI in the agriculture sector?
With Conversational AI solutions such as a voice-enabled digital assistant (or Chabot, as popularly referred to), farmers can quickly and easily access timely information and accurate data – regarding market prices, soil quality, crop and fertilizer availability, weather, credit and insurance details amongst others – in a language they easily understand and are comfortable doing business with, such as Hindi, Punjabi, Gujarati, Telugu and others, apart from English.

What is IFFCO doing to change the lives of the farmers?
IFFCO has been a key contributor in modernizing Indian agriculture. In addition to being the world’s largest cooperative fertilizer manufacturer, we also manufacture pesticides and insecticides. We empower over 5 million Indian farmers with access to quality seeds, insurance, and advisory services. We are committed to provide innovative, effective, affordable and environment-friendly crop solutions to farmers. Our foray into food processing and organic food segments is intended to provide farmers with better market access and better realization of their agri-produce.

IFFCO is always at the forefront of adopting technology and bringing the fruits of digitalization and technology to Indian farmers. IFFCO BAZAR, the subsidiary of IFFCO, has launched an e-Commerce portal for farmers in 12 regional languages (including Hindi, English, Punjabi, Gujarati, Telugu, Assamese, amongst others) along with free home delivery facility to deliver agri-inputs at farmers’ doorstep. It covers around 26,000 PIN codes across India. Since its launch in December 2019, the platform has attracted thousands of farmers all across the country and executed 70K+ orders. Farmers can also get their queries resolved from agri-experts online.

How important is cloud as an element in your overall innovation strategy?
Cloud is fundamental to our business success. We are on track to transform into a digital-first business, with cloud-led innovation as the beachhead. Because, we realized, in the last few years, there has been a rise in the number of integrated/interconnected and interdependent technology systems and platforms in our country’s agriculture ecosystem, including ours. For instance, our core systems are linked to a number of key government portals like a fertilizer management system, the e-way bill system for goods transportation, as well as the GST system. So we needed a more robust and reliable IT foundation, with high availability being a basic prerequisite.

After assessing the capabilities of a number of cloud providers, we selected the robust, highly secure, second-generation Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI). All our manufacturing plant’s nearly 95 applications run on OCI. With OCI, we have realized extreme performance, low latency, high availability and ease of management, along with improved process efficiencies – plus superior cloud economics. We have seen cost savings to the tune of 20-30%. Also, our employees have been able to save more time. For instance, our IT staff are able to create time-sensitive reports significantly faster, reducing both overtime as well as stress levels, remotely. This has also led to improved employee confidence.

What are the business benefits of using chatbots? How is this impacting your end customer experience?
We wanted to make sure the benefits of technology reaches all stakeholders – employees, members, transporters, and farmers – and some of them have limited literacy levels. For example, employees in our packaging division (product bagging) at some of our plants were having to request some of their more literate colleagues to place a leave application/entry on their behalf, given the formers’ difficulty to interact with IT systems. Such discoveries prompted us to add a voice interface to our applications.

Oracle Digital Assistant provided us with voice based Chabot functionality that could easily integrate with our back-end systems. Also, it helped abstract the complexity of developing voice commands for accessing data and services. This has benefited our employees, cooperative societies as well as transporters, who can just provide voice commands in Hindi or English, and get the information or perform an action they want. We will plan to add more language capabilities in due course.

We are now looking to extend this to farmers possibly integrating it with IFFCOBazar.in, to enable voice-activated order placement for doorstep delivery.


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