New Delhi: With the dipping popularity of cattle fairs, which have been a century-old tradition in rural India, online sale and purchase of bovines is slowly gaining ground.
Several cattle trading apps such as Animall, Pashushala, PashuLok, Pashu Mall, Pashu Mela, Pashu Vyapar, among others, have been generating curiosity among farmers.
For instance, Animall has been downloaded by more than 40 lakh users in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan since it was launched in November 2019, said its co-founder Neetu Yadav.
In the first 30 days of its launch, the app could only trade 50 cattle heads, but the number has has since reached 5 lakh.
“After the Covid-19 lockdown relaxations, the numbers picked up. In January 2021, (we) traded 50,000 (cattle heads), in November (2020) 30,000 and in December 40,000,” said Yadav, an IIT-Delhi graduate.
Animall’s services are available only in three states — Haryana, UP and Rajasthan.
“We were apprehensive in the beginning as once upon a time nobody considered buying clothes online. But here we are. In this business as well, the trust will be earned slowly and steadily,” she said.
Another cattle trading app, Pashushala, got 15,000 calls from farmers during the Covid pandemic as they wanted to know how they could sell or buy cattle online, said its co-founder and IIM-Ranchi alumnus Gaurav Choudhary.
Founded in 2018, Pashushala’s services are available in Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh.
The app has so far facilitated “fully assisted” sale and purchase of 1,000 cattle heads — 65 per cent cows and 35 per cent buffaloes.
Choudhary, however, said these numbers do not reflect success, adding that what matters is “efficiency”.
According to animal husbandry data from the central government, India has 535.7 million livestock population as of 2019, of which 303.3 million is the bovine population, which includes 55 million adult female buffaloes and 81.4 million cows.
Apart from private players, the central government also launched its own portal for cattle trade — E-pashuhaat — in 2016.
The app, however, isn’t properly functional as it lists 584 cattle on its home page, but only eight cows of Sahiwal breed are actually available on the portal.
Moreover, these eight cows belong to one farmer in Haryana who didn’t seem to know how the government portal works.
Jitendra Singh, the farmer from Fatehabad, told ThePrint: “My veterinarian must have clicked photos (of the cows) and uploaded them.”
Reached for comment about the functioning of the portal, an official in the animal husbandry department told ThePrint: “We have been working on the technical issues. But it is not easy to bring the farmers on digital mediums for cattle sale.”
“After launching the portal, we need to actively upgrade the data, fix the glitches, pay attention to the feedback. But due to pandemic, the focus has been shifted from this.”
Farmers may have been taking interest in trading cattle online but they also said a photo with a price tag is not enough to convince them to buy cattle through apps.
‘Cattle buying is not like car buying’
Singh told ThePrint the listing of the cattle matters a lot. “In a traditional purchase, we personally visit and verify the claims such as milk production, health, colour and other features of the cattle. But on online platforms, a photo with a price tag is not enough,” he said.
“If I have not milked the cow once myself, then there is no possibility that I will invest in online buying. I will also need to speak with the experts. Cattle buying is not like car buying,” said a farmer from Haryana’s Mahendragarh, Ram Mehar Singh.
Animall app’s co-founder Yadav admitted to the limitation of online buying. “We have to actively work to improve the technical issues.” She said they are planning to add a video option feature for better viewing of the products.
The cattle trading apps list the prices of the cattle, their colour, milk production, pregnancy status, breed name, photograph, location and the owners’ details.
The average price of cattle differs based on the quality of the breed. For example, Sahiwal and Gir cows are available for Rs 50,000 to upto Rs 1 lakh each, while the average price of a buffalo varies from Rs 60,000 to Rs 1.5 lakh.
Features on the apps
Animall has three major features — trading, online consultation and knowledge sharing.
The trading and knowledge sharing features are free of cost for the farmers, but they have to pay Rs 25 to consult with veterinarians.
Pashushala also provides transportation services, besides trading and online consultation.
“Number games will not benefit the business in the long run. We need to create an ecosystem, which includes veterinary facilities and transportation. This is the only way to earn the trust of farmers in the e-market at the backdrop of declining glory of cattle fairs,” Choudhary told ThePrint.
Talking about the sustainability of these apps, Choudhary said, “Right now, the revenue model is based on sales, service charges and transaction charges.”
Yadav also said their revenue is generated through trading and online veterinary consultations.
Talking about the challenges of the e-commerce market, Yadav said, “To gain efficiency, we need to keep experimenting. Only then we will be able to build trust. Once we get the trust of the farmers, this market can thrive.”
Cattle fairs losing sheen
The rise of cattle trading apps highlights the declining popularity of cattle fairs in the wake of complex transportation rules, strict animal laws and cow vigilantes, said experts and government officials.
“Rajasthan has declared camels as state animals. Now the new Act (Rajasthan Camel Act, 2015) prohibits the export and trade of camels. This has affected the cattle fairs,” Himmata Singh, a cattle trade expert from Nagaur, told ThePrint.
Nagaur cattle fair, which takes place every year in February, is one of the most popular animal fairs in the country. This year, the fair concluded on 3 March.
Nagaur’s animal husbandry department’s data showed that the total number of registered cattle at the fair has been declining over the years. In 2010-11, the total number of registered cattle was 18,677, but the number reduced to just 4,783 in 2019-20.
According to Nagaur District Magistrate Jitendra Kumar Soni, the number of total cattle registered at the fair this year was almost 2,000 — 50 per cent less than the previous year.
The trade volume of the fair has also gone down over the years.
An animal husbandry official in Nagaur said the trade volume of the fair was Rs 4.16 crore in 2016-17, which came down to Rs 3.9 crore in 2017-18, Rs 2.27 crore in 2018-19, and Rs 1.93 crore in 2019-20. This year, the trade volume reduced even further to Rs 57 lakh, the official added.
“One of the major reasons (for the decline) is transportation. People from UP and Bihar have stopped coming. (Even though) we give them affidavits and passes, they face difficulties from Hindu groups and policemen,” said the official, who didn’t want to be named, referring to incidents of cow vigilante groups allegedly attacking those transporting cattle.
In Bihar too, the situation is similar. The Sonepur cattle fair, touted as Asia’s largest cattle fair that takes place in November every year, has also seen its trade go down over the years.
Data shared by the animal husbandry department of Saran district showed that the turnover of the fair fell to Rs 5.4 crore in 2019 from around Rs 10.3 crore in 2018.
District officials too blamed transportation rules and strict animal laws for declining popularity of the fair.
Animall co-founder Yadav said they want to experiment to find out if technology and cattle fairs can work in collaboration.
“We are not here to replace the cattle fairs. We will experiment if the technology and cattle fairs can work in a combination to meet the needs of the future,” she said.
(Edited by Debalina Dey)