Notes From The Field
How two young friends are riding the digital boom to help Indian farmers succeed
Santosh Jadhav, a 28-year-old farmer from Maharashtra’s Sangli district, had never dream the would be trending on YouTube tending to his land. But as you watch his videos on Indian Farmer—the channel he runs with his friend, Akash Jadhav, 27,—you quickly understand why he is clocking in millions of views.Whether he is passionately discussing growing brightly coloured peppers in his polyhouse or meticulously explaining how to assemble a low-cost sound alarm to keep birds and beasts away from crops, Santosh’s easygoing manner and upbeat, heartfelt presentation is sure to draw you in.
Set up in 2018, Indian Farmer was a result of the two friends’ love of farming, technology and filmmaking.Their videos offer tips, advice and information on various aspects of agriculture: direct-farming techniques,agriculture-allied activities, new farming implements, agricultural apps and even IOT (Internet of things)devices that have cropped up in the sector. They cover how the agricultural markets work and share farming success stories from across the country too. Arguably the most popular section of the channel is its jugaad component,where the friends devise low-cost solutions to everyday problems and DIY mechanical quick-fixes. “We were looking to do something together.Agriculture was something we had in common. Plus, we were young and idealistic—we wanted to do something with a social impact”, says Akash.
The channel has certainly made a mark, as the numbers show. Since2018, the duo’s channel has built a 21.5-lakh-strong subscriber base,aided by the cheap cellular-data revolution and the increased penetration of smartphones across India. While Akashhelms the production side of things,Santosh offers his hands-on knowledge gleaned from running his family farm.According to them, the Indian Farmerchannel adds an average of 60,000 subscribers and earns between `70,000and 1,00,000 in revenue every month.
Akash believes their success is partly a result of their attempts to bridge the information gap plaguing the agricultural industry. Knowledge in this sector is often inter-generational:a farmer is limited to what the others in his vicinity know and do. There was very little by way of books or soft culture channels that addressed the needs, lapses and scarcities of farmers.“Social media has changed things,enabling independent cross-sharing of knowledge, all for free,” he says.
Few will deny that Indian agriculture is in need of deep structural reform.Fragmented land holdings, missing market reforms, policy interventions for the sector flow top-down drawing lopsided results, erratic prices, and the vagaries of the weather—all combine to bite the hands that feed us. Even, Santosh,whom millions tune in to watch doling out agricultural advice, talks about how his family was less than pleased when he announced his decision to cultivate his 11-acre farm in drought-prone Sangli.“My father wanted me to do anything else but farming. It took a while to convince him to see my decision as a wise,lucrative career choice”. Akash also faced stiff opposition from home when he decided to turn content creator.“In the region we come from, people believe that farmers don’t make good husbands,” he quips. “For many in our audience, watching somebody like Santosh make a success of his farm serves as a positive example, instead of the victim-narrative through which farming is largely viewed.”
The duo insist that the food on your plate can never be a product of the free market alone—government subsidies and support are imperative to make the sector thrive. “The government treats industry very differently from how it deals with agriculture. For example, if an industrial area is to be setup, roads are cleared and constructed,24x7 access to electricity is provided.
But it is the reverse in the agrarian sector: there are still farmers fighting the system to get an electricity connection for the last 10 years,” says Akash. He continues, “It is also essential that farmers build a community. Say, Punjab’s Agriculture ProduceMarket Committees mandis (markets), or Nashikwith its agri-business in grapes and onions, farmers have managed to establish more control overproduce rates because they are organized.
”But they have hope. “We would encourage more young people to take up agriculture. More talent needs to enter the domain. Our only advice: treat it like any other entrepreneurial activity; step in and take accountability. Like all businesses, risk is inherent and you will have to fight to keep your business afloat. Returns from farming can be lucrative. There are also other joys:fresh air, good quality food and living at home”, says Akash.