Digitalisation can help India become a major F&B exporter

Anand Rajkumar Chordia, Director (Technology and Innovation), Pravin Masalewale (Suhana), and Founder, The Eco Factory Foundation, shares his views on how digitization can be leveraged to boost export prospects for the Indian F&B industry.

Digitalization in India is becoming more effective economically with a lot of cheaper and efficient solutions that will help propel India to the forefront of the global supply chain. With great farsightedness, the government has been working on ensuring transparency through digitalization. The entire GST system now works digitally and affords more control to the government on the economical front. There has been tremendously exponential and aggressive digitalization happening in India.

On the industrial front, a lot of payment systems have now become digitalized, like SWIFT, Fedwire and TTs, thus allowing international banking transactions to happen with a lot more ease. Payment acceptance is now happening in multiple currencies where earlier, it was more or less dependent entirely on the US dollar. 

This has helped de-risk businesses a lot from the fluctuation of foreign currencies, thus allowing a far more stable operations. On the logistics front, the implementation of RFID with containers, which has ensured complete end-to-end traceability across the globe, has been another important step. 

Modes of outreach to clients and customers are also becoming increasingly digitalized. Virtual exhibitions, like what TPCI has done, have allowed Indian companies to reach out to a lot more overseas audiences and vice versa. Virtual meetings helped ensure seamless exports during the pandemic. This has now become a new normal. Communication is better, integration of services that companies are offering to importers is better, and hence the trade is becoming better. 

Coming to the F&B sector in particular, India’s massive biodiversity enhances the potential for unique value added exports like saffron and many GI-tagged products. This also means minimal competition from a global manufacturing perspective. Numerous specialized bodies created by the government, like Spices Board, Cashew Board, Coir Board, Coffee Board, have made a lot of their processes digitalized. But since India is greatly diversified geographically and product-wise too, the different Boards have different sets of requirements. This needs to be addressed.

Ease of business can be greatly increased by designing a system, whereby the filing and submission of data is done at one source and is then passed on to the Banks, Customs Department and others in a single take, instead of doing so individually. This will help the startups and the younger business community ,which is where innovations are happening right now.

Creation of a B2B platform, which rates or gives categories to the companies and exporters will make the sector more organized and will ensure that greater quality products are being sent into the export market. It will also help the global buyers to assess Indian suppliers in the correct manner. 

A single-window approach where all the queries of the manufacturers are answered clearly is the need of the hour. Using chat bots to solve the basic questions for startups will help provide clarity at single window level. The earlier physical application submission is now no longer required. Few states have implemented this successfully, thus helping companies to register themselves quickly and easily, and start business domestically or internationally. 

At the domestic business level also, especially in the issues related to the compliance and fulfilment of labor laws or the FSSAI license, going digital is highly required and recommended. Domestic digitization can enhance export business by bringing in greater traceability of raw materials. If a system is built to guarantee traceability right from the farm to the customers, a lot of issues that occurred in the past can be avoided. 

India can prove to be a much stronger global food supplier. Live dashboards to track payments, factory status, sales status etc. need to be adopted. Not only from the perspective of an organized  and branded export house, but also from the perspective of a bulk wholesale supplier, aggressive implementation of digitalization will play a vital role.

Some of the non-changeable aspects in Indian agro ecosystem like the diversified agro climatic zones and the vast biodiversity are strengths that need to be played up. Start-up India has put forth many novel and creative businesses, thus enhancing India’s potential to become a strongly export oriented economy. E-commerce and great B2B platforms will allow businesses to bridge the gaps and trade to grow at large. In the next 5 to 10 years, a very aggressive growth on the export front for Indian manufacturing is a given. 

Anand Rajkumar Chordia is Director (Technology and Innovation), Pravin Masalewale (Suhana), and Founder, The Eco Factory Foundation. He is a persona of multiple hues – a leader, a mentor, an innovator, an experienced entrepreneur, exceptional orator and a TEDx Pune speaker. As Director- Technology & Innovation, Pravin Masalewale and a true spearhead in many ways, his ideas have led Suhana to new heights of success. Inculcating the essence of Innovation and Technology to a traditional business of spices and pickles, his resilience and gratitude have made Suhana a popular brand not only in India but also across the globe. 

He is also the Founder of a non-profit making organization named The Eco Factory Foundation (TEFF) which works relentlessly on sustainability in rural, urban and industrial areas – taking steps towards Cleaner, Greener, Healthier, Sustainable and Prosperous India. His pioneering work on organic, natural farming, waste management and sustainability has been remarkable. He has conceptualized India’s first ever “Waste Management Park”, “Shashwat Bharat Krushi Rath” – a mobile centre for sustainable farming & rural entrepreneurship and “Green Directory- a compilation of green recyclers and processors” and lot more. Views expressed are personal.

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