Amit Mehra, the CEO of agri-information service and marketplace venture RML Information Services Pvt Ltd, has resigned.
“For a host of reasons, I had decided to resign from the position of the CEO in September and I formally move on in December,” Mehra, who founded the venture in 2006, said in a goodbye email he sent out earlier this month.
“After years of wait – that entailed many pivots in competitive strategy, business model, and organisation/governance structure – smartphone penetration is finally accelerating in the farming community and I believe the (RML) team is well prepared to ride this growth,” Mehra wrote.
When contacted by Techcircle.in, Mehra declined to elaborate. He remains a significant shareholder in the venture. An email sent to RML did not elicit a response. RML was formerly called Reuters Market Light.
Mumbai-based RML was one of India’s first ventures to disseminate information on spot prices of crops across markets in addition to providing localised weather forecasts through SMS alerts.
Its offerings include RMLdirect (a SMS/app-based information and advisory service) and Krishidoot (a technology marketplace for agri-goods). RML also provides web-based analytic tools and data, besides a news services focused on the agriculture sector.
RML claims to have 1.7 million subscribers in about 50,000 villages across 18 states. It provides coverage on 450 crop varieties in 1,300 markets. Details of its financial performance couldn’t be ascertained though the firm has seen a dramatic downsizing of its staff this past year.
An alumnus of London Business School, Mehra started RML as a mobile media venture incubated within Reuters (now Thomson Reuters) in 2006. Before starting RML, Mehra was vice president of the content group at Reuters.
In 2013, Thomson Reuters joined hands with venture capital firm IvyCap Ventures to support the continued development of Reuters Market Light. A new entity called RML Information Services Pvt Ltd (with IvyCap Ventures as lead investor and Thomson Reuters as a shareholder) was formed and Mehra was named as the CEO of the new entity.
Thanks to mobile growth, such phone-based agro-advisory services are in vogue in India though monetisation remains a significant challenge due to dispersed customers and extreme price sensitivity to offerings.
RML competes with other mobile agro-advisory platforms such as mKrishi (from Tata Consultancy Services) and iKisan (from Nagarjuna Group) besides the Government of India’s Kisaan SMS portal. It also competes with tech startups such as Farmily and AgroStar, which directly connect farmers with consumers/suppliers of agricultural goods.
Investor interest has been steadily rising in the agri-tech space. Pune-based AgroStar, a direct-to-farmer mobile-based retail channel, raised $3.6 million (Rs 24 crore) in August from IDG Ventures India and existing investor Aavishkaar Venture Management.
Private investment in the core food and agriculture sector has hit a record high, both in terms of the volume of transactions and the total value of announced deals. As on October 21, 88 deals were recorded for 2015 as against the previous high of 66 deals in 2014, data from VCCEdge shows.