by Shubhra Rishi

Make in India: SourceTrace Systems

Dec 10, 20143 mins
Agriculture IndustryBusinessCareers

The company helps agribusinesses and cooperatives capture all kinds of transactions using technology for bringing visibility and traceability to farmer interactions.

In the last decade, the farmer population has fallen by a staggering 9 million, for which farmer suicides can be adequately blamed. They are the highest in areas like Telangana, Maharashtra, and Orissa, where the poorest are the debt-ridden, cash crop farmers—growing coffee, cotton, and cocoa—with smallholdings of less than a hectare. These cash crops are highly prone to global market fluctuations, leading farmers into taking paltry loans which they are unable to pay off.

To avoid this kind of a situation, a number of agribusinesses and cooperatives today are capturing all kinds of transactions in order to bring visibility and traceability to farmer interactions—all with the help of technology.

One such startups is SourceTrace Systems. Its CEO, Venkat Maroju, who grew up in a small town in Telangana, is personally involved in the cause. Prior to joining the company, Maroju worked for several years in the US and eventually left the job—at a time when farmer suicides were at an all-time high in the region—in order to start a social enterprise in agriculture in his homeland.

Driving an innovative model, he launched a for-profit agribusiness company with the cooperative spirit of providing the farmers with ownership and profit sharing interests.

Today, spearheading a company such as SourceTrace allows Maroju to enable several agribusinesses and cooperatives to reach and collaborate with smallholder farmers. “With the help of these solutions, agribusinesses are able to capture every transaction with farmers at the field level which ensures that they are treated fairly without any scope for leakages in the value chain,” Maroju says.

The company works with startups like Farms n Farmers, started by an IIT Kharagpur and IIT Delhi alumni to improve land profitability and revenue generation of land owners, farmers, and farm laborers, and Aditi Certifications, which is accredited with retaining quality among national and international certifiers in agriculture. SourceTrace helps them manage their certification processes and obtain timely and accurate farmer information for conducting inspections.

Additionally, the company works with a number of social enterprises across the world, one of them being Aarong, which engages in the business of retailing handicraft products sourced from small producers throughout Bangladesh.

Maroju also stresses on the importance of protecting intellectual property in India. Talking about the Make in India government initiative, he feels that the manufacturing sector has tremendous potential to provide wages to millions of Indians.  “Unlike China, India’s economic success for the past 20 years has been confined to high-skilled sectors like IT and to knowledge workers in places like BPOs and high-technology research centers.”

“Though the IT sector has stimulated Indian economy and was responsible for generating a great deal of wealth in the past two decades, we failed in distributing the enormous amount of new wealth equally. This resulted in the worsening of income inequalities. The manufacturing sector has the potential to distribute the fruits of liberal economic policies to low-skilled workers and thus, improving the lives of the people at the bottom of the pyramid,” he adds.

Source Trace is headquartered in the US, with offices in India, Costa Rica, and Bangladesh.