Anjai Lal and Sahsa Vyash are the the winners of the third Economist-InnoCentive Challenge, The Economist-InnoCentive Entrepreneurship Challenge. They presented their winning plan at The Economist’s Ideas Economy: Innovation Event on March 23-24 in Berkeley, CA. This blog post is by Anjai.
I am currently a second year MBA student at the Yale School of Management. I graduated from Indian Institute of Technology in 2006 with a major in Electrical Engineering. Thereafter, I worked with British Telecom as a consultant where I was primarily involved in strategy and planning. At BT, I held a cross functional profile that spanned around Crisis Management, Strategy, Technology, Finance and Project and Vendor Management. I am passionate about the telecom/technology sector and am extremely interested in the emerging markets. I will graduate from Yale School of Management in May, 2011.
At Yale, my interests lie in Strategy, Finance and Technology. I spent the last summer with Zephyr Management, a Private Equity fund in NYC. I also interned with IBM in Business Performance Services. I head the South Asian Business Forum at the School of Management and am also a member of the organizing team of Asia Tomorrow- Yale’s premier student run conference.
Sasha Vyash, my team mate, is a second year MBA student at Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. She has a master’s degree in Economics from Jawaharlal Nehru University (India). She is actively involved in the South Asian Business Association and consulting club at Tuck. She has extensive experience in the retail and analytics industry. Before Tuck, she worked for an Analytics firm called Dunnhumby. At Tuck, she majors in Marketing and Strategy. She spent the last summer with Fidelity and would be joining McKinsey & Co. in June, 2011. She has a huge interest in economic development and emerging markets.
Having spent a major part of lives in India, we have been constantly exploring areas and opportunities for development in the emerging markets. Emerging markets, due to the dynamic, ever changing landscape presents a challenge to the entire business community. There are principally two challenges involved here- to construct innovative business models that are sustaining and more importantly, touch the base of the pyramid. In our opinion, emerging markets are revolutionary because there is a huge room for innovation and entrepreneurship in these regions. As we challenged ourselves to come up with good solutions, we heard of the Economist Innocentive challenge. This was an excellent platform for us to showcase our idea and also gather feedback and response from the rest of the innocentive community. We have a good mix in our team. I have a background in engineering. So, I have a good grasp of things from an implementation perspective. Sasha has a background in Economics thereby proving the bigger macroscopic picture. In addition, both of us being MBAs have a fair knowledge of the other factors that are crucial for a sustainable business model. Winning the challenge has been absolutely thrilling for us and we definitely look forward to solve more challenges here!
Summary of the Proposal
Our idea revolves around leveraging the telecom revolution in emerging markets and using sophisticated analytics techniques to enhance the agriculture value chain. Our tool- Agro-Engine would help identify trends and deliver unique insight to farming communities, processing plants and retails giants that would help them in investment management and portfolio optimization. The scope of this tool is huge in emerging markets.
Background: The advent of 3G services (in developed and emerging markets) has laid the foundation of a seamless information exchange platform that would connect the rural markets. The challenge lies in bridging the huge digital divide and using this to further advance the rural population. Presently, a large number of farmers allocate their resources based on their legacy and word of mouth. Processing plants and retail majors have no ways to identify or predict future supply and thus cannot optimize their investments.
We propose the conceptualization of a data driven, Portfolio Management Tool that would help the industry identify trends based on historic data and performance. The tool is apt for developed economies where there is already sufficient telecom penetration. Agro-Engine would aid farming communities and large corporate giants in the retail and agriculture sector in allocating their resources and optimizing their portfolio. For example, a typical farmer’s portfolio would consist of crops he intends to grow on his land. Our analytics tool would incorporate multiple inputs such as previous track record, financial constraints, risk appetite and time to market. The tool would leverage the 3G revolution in developing economies through rural penetration and existing rural infrastructure. With increased usage and data availability, the tool would become more and more robust and gain credibility in identifying trends and delivering useful recommendations.