Start-ups and innovation-driven companies often tend to harp about the disruptions they make in their chosen domains. Today, disruption itself has been redefined and carries a new meaning altogether. World over, companies of all shapes and sizes — from new-age start-ups to established organizations, have undergone a disruption so sudden and so massive that most were even clueless on how to react and respond. Act of God or ‘Force Majeure’ are terms that were always a part of contracts and today we experience the very description.
AgroStar was no exception to this sudden and massive change that led the country to a complete standstill beginning March 25th. We were as rattled and as much affected as any other company in India. Up until now, we were not big believers in the infamous term ‘WFH’ or Work From Home! Collaboration and cross-functional work is a big part of our culture and hence we were worried about the effectiveness of our teams as they would now be required to operate remotely. How badly will this affect our productivity? This was the big question on our mind. Our Agri Advisory Centre connects with and is a lifeline of sorts to thousands of farmers across the country who call in to get advice for their crops and farming needs. Having this lifeline non-functional was NOT an option for us. However, not in our wildest of dreams had we imagined that one day, we might have to operate our Agri Advisory Centre 100% remotely!
We panicked a bit for sure but then quickly got our best minds together and formed a COVID-19 Business Continuity Task Force to fight this battle on two major fronts — SAFETY of our employees and uninterrupted SERVICE to our farmers.
Our first priority was to ensure the safety of our employees. We defined safety guidelines, implemented stringent safety measures across all our locations and created awareness among all AgroStar employees about the do’s and don’ts in a scenario like this. We made sure SOPs were in place to tackle any challenge that may affect the well being of our employees.
The next mission-critical task was to provide uninterrupted service to our farmers. We knew this would be extremely difficult and challenging as our Agri Advisory Center by design is optimized for on-premise operations. Our agri advisors operate on desktops and not laptops making portability a challenge. They require a stable internet connection to access farmer profiles on our CRM and to make calls. This infra requirement was next to impossible in an off-premise setup mostly because a majority of our agri advisors originally belong to places outside Pune and in the city live in humble shared spaces. In addition to that, low bandwidth, poor network, unstable power connections, and noisy backgrounds just made serving our customers from their homes that much more challenging!
True to the phrase ‘Impossible is nothing’, our IT support, Advisory Center leadership team along with tech and product teams did their magic by getting networks and VPN setup on all systems literally overnight and then physically moving hundreds of desktops and monitors to our advisers’ PG homes in Pune and Ahmedabad. For the advisors who had to go back to their hometowns, the teams went one step ahead to get them operational by customizing our CRM to be mobile friendly so that the farmer profiles could be accessed more easily through their smartphones. Despite all these challenges, what has been phenomenal is the team’s dedication and commitment to our mission of ‘Helping Farmers Win’. 48 hours into the lock down and our agri advisors got into the groove of working from home and connecting with our farmers despite the challenges of connectivity, internet speed and getting online through their personal mobile internet hotspot connections.
As we make essential agri inputs available to the farmers at their doorstep, it was critical that we get our delivery operations up and running as fast as possible. Our Last Mile Delivery partners, fondly known as LMD partners, could enable farmers to get access to crucial inputs like seeds for their farms without having to leave the safety of their homes. Our fulfilment centre teams and our LMD partners across the states worked on the ground with the local administrations at the state and district levels to get the required permissions and passes for us to operate. Our LMD partners showed a remarkable sense of responsibility and commitment during this hour of need by stepping out of their homes so that our farmers don’t need to! After two weeks of challenges, our operations limped back and as of today, we are successfully servicing farmers at their doorsteps in remote villages across multiple states.
These past few weeks have been a time that has tested the world’s resolve, our spirit to survive and to fight back. We drew inspiration from the stories of front line workers going all out to fulfil their call of duty and from startups like Zomato and Ola stepping up to help the larger community we live in! Our teams stuck together, collaborated better than ever before and took this challenge head-on to deliver on our commitment of ‘HelpingFarmersWin’. Read more