Yesterday, I put out a slide deck in the Internet which summarized the article I wrote on Seven Steps to Design, Build and Scale Traceability Systems. My intent was simple. I wanted to help the key decision makers of agri-input firms understand the bigger picture, as they kick start the conversations with their internal teams on the Traceability agenda.
There was one particular slide which was my favourite.
Typically, when customers approach us, each of them start their journey from where they are. From the problems they find challenging. From the goals they find meaningful. From the stakeholder who has given green signal to champion Traceability.
It takes a while for them to see that there are various roads to Traceability and the whole essential point of Traceability is that it is a journey towards the future, irrespective of which road you started from.
This may sound strange. The purpose of Traceability is not about QR Code or Blockchain. Those are simply technologies, the “How” which deliver Traceability. Today, it makes economic sense to go ahead with QR code. Tomorrow, it will make a lot of sense to proceed with Blockchain.
The purpose of Traceability is not even about applying cutting edge tools and techniques from Theory of Constraints or Lean Manufacturing to manage the inventory of agri-inputs while managing the working capital efficiently. There are more than handful of techniques and ideas out there which have worked well in the world of manufacturing and FMCG Retail and can be helpful in the world of agribusiness.
The real purpose of Traceability is to take agribusiness leaders through a series of paradigm shifts in their relationship to Technology, Knowledge and Data in a brave new world of Digital Agribusiness that is changing faster than ever before.
And let me assure you, it is extremely difficult to engineer these paradigm shifts. You can never predict when someone will “get it”. The crux of the problem is, everything you are seeing right now comes from the very paradigm you are trying to change. Which means unless you have your own experience from your journey, you will never “get it”. You have to get into the water to understand what it is to swim.
These are the three biggest paradigm shifts we’ve witnessed as our customers who have built Traceability systems experience in their working lives.
1. Captive Data Vs Non-Captive Data
Essentially, you do Traceability to capture “non-captive data” – data from your channel, field and farmers and hone your instincts to make better business decisions. Once you understand the limitations of your current captive data ( Data from Factory and Warehouse), you learn to capture non-captive data from your primary customer, i.e. farmer, secondary customer, i.e. retailer and your tertiary customer, i.e., distributor and build decision support systems which can tap into these non-captive data on a near-real-time basis and make sensible business decisions pertaining to channel, field and market.
2. Design Workflows with Lego Blocks using Data
Once you’ve understood the importance of capturing “Non-captive data”, you play the strategic game by designing workflows with the lego blocks at your disposal.
Do you see a particular pattern in the way a spurious manufacturer floods the market with a similar looking version of your block buster crop protection product?
Can you start putting together an approach in which you are outsmarting your adversary by a unique labeling approach that only your team would know and track the implementation of this approach by tracking your inventory at a batch level?
Do you struggle to keep up with your marketing efforts on the field every time you change your Zone, Region, Territory in your Sales Planning cycle?
Are you looking for a smart Go-to-Market- strategy for your latest product you are about to launch?
Can you put together a workflow using Lego blocks of Retailer Inventory Data, Retailer Liquidation Data, Spatial-Level Distribution patterns and plan your marketing operations with your field staff at a granular Taluka level?
3.Agility or the Art of Near-Real Time Decision Making
In a market that is evolving, there is no choice but to master agility or the art of near-real time decision making. And in order to do that, situation awareness is essential. Here is how such a process of decision making works,
The shelf life of data is limited and so if you want to do short term course correction in sales and marketing strategies, you need to understand how you can gain situation awareness from your channel and market to address key questions such as
1) Which Taluka is seeing increase in agri-input sales?
2) Which product packs are finding greater traction in sales?
3) When product packs are being bought by farmers?
4) How to manage receivables and forecast receivables planning at distributor and retailer level?
5) What consumption factors (at a crop and pest level) drive the sales of agri-inputs during a particular season?