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October 2015 Startup Scene

Published on: 2015-10-11 15:36:37     1024 times read    0  Comments

Sibjan Chaulagain, Executive Director and founder, Ask FoundationSibjan Chaulagain
Executive Director
and founder
Ask Foundation

Sibjan Chaulagain, Executive Director and founder of Ask Foundation took up a challenge by leaving his engineering career and going back to his village to serve his community. While living with his family in a village in Sindhupalchowk, he came across many problems that farmers from his community were facing. 
“The problems were mostly related to the inefficient distribution of knowledge, expertise and information,” says Chaulagain. Due to this, local people were unable to diagnose diseases in animals and plants—let along using proper medication. As a result, crop failure was a looming threat, and given the change in climatic conditions, the subsistence of farmers had been threatened. 

Chaulagain then came up with an idea to bridge the information gap using his knowledge and expertise in IT. As a member of the American Embassy’s Youth Council, it was not difficult for him to form a team of likeminded people. 

“In the inception period, we hired a few interns to compete in the Ncell App Camp, 2015,” says Chaulagain.“But after winning the competition, along with colleagues Avinash Jha and Kanchan Kharel,I formed a new team to drive the organisation forward,” he explains.

About the App
ICT for Agriculture is an Android application that can fetch a range of information pertaining to agriculture. The app allows users to access information related to vermi compost, symptoms as well as preventive measures of diseases seen in crops, vegetables and animals. Similarly, it gives information on weather and harve sttime for crops. The app also provides information related to pricing of local produce, as well as local markets. This enables farmers to access information regarding the nearest market, and to contact the market seller for the best price for their products. The farmers can also select a particular vegetable market and witness live trading prices, and contact the market seller directly.

Farmers Outreach
The company has been able to prepare a concrete strategy to connect with the farmers. R&D director of the company, Avinash Jha says that the major organisations for outreach are microfinance companies and cooperatives. “As the application is not able to function effectively in online mode in remote villages, SMS is used to provide information,” says Jha.

The cooperatives help farmers download the application and provide basic training on how to use the application. Once the application is installed, the farmers can see live trading prices, cultivation techniques, and expert advice, among others.

Revenue Model
Though an online application, the young minds have even been able to establish a source of revenue for themselves as well. The cooperatives, the suppliers and the market sellers are required to subscribe to the application in order to list their contact info on the application. “As there are no other such businesses in the country, the demand for subscription is sure to increase,” says Chaulagain. 

With the tag ‘Ncell App Camp Grand Winner’, the company enjoys many advantages like good linkage with communication giant Ncell, among others. 

Future Plans
The main focus of the organisation is to make communication more effective and efficient. The company wants its customers to get up-to-date information regarding pricing, market access, policy changes, and subsidies from the government or any other organisation. 

By collaborating with mobile companies and integrating the application, the company plans to extend its outreach capacity. In the current scenario, lack of dissemination of reliable and proper information is seen as a handicap in the agro-industry of Nepal, says Kharel. Thus the most important focus of our organisation is to enhance the communication channel for effective and efficient flow of information to our customers, he added.

Ncell App Camp
Ncell App Camp is one of Nepal’s biggest app development conclaves and competitions. This year, apps will be judged under four categories — games and entertainment, tourism, health, and utilities. All categories, except for tourism, are new to this year’s Ncell App Camp. The best team in each category will win a cash prize of Rs 250,000 and the grand winner will win an additional cash prize of Rs 500,000.Ncell has already announced the names of 150 teams selected to take part in the event this year.


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