Can phygital interventions lead to sustainability in agribusiness?

Phygital, a combination of physical and digital, started doing the rounds during the COVID-19 pandemic. The reason? Simple. Several companies adjusted their strategies to accomplish tasks digitally that have been previously accomplished physically, i.e., in-person. Several tools and technologies exist across industries that can lead to sustainability in specific sectors. But can the agribusiness sector benefit from a phygital strategy? Potentially, yes. Phygital is about bridging the relationship between a user (human) and activity (company) and making that experience so effortless that your customers don’t even notice that their life has become easier.

The technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), precision agriculture, remote sensing, the Internet of Things (IoT), etc., provide innovative solutions to solve challenges across the agri-food value chain. However, their adoption is limited by heavy dependence on physical mode for several activities across the value chain. COVID-19 pandemic provided insights into how phygital platforms can be leveraged to accomplish tasks that were earlier possible only physically as indicated in figure 1. The key element in adopting phygital strategies by stakeholders in the agribusiness sector will be customer experience.

Figure 1: Strategic components of phygital platforms and its co-benefits

The advent of tech-enabled startups has shown the capacity and capability to incorporate phygital strategies in the agribusiness sector. Such companies reduce the dependence of farmers and other stakeholders on in-person connections and provide options to accomplish the tasks digitally. For example, the convenience that mobile apps, websites, customer portals etc., offer farmers and marketers for procurement of inputs and farm output is being increasingly embraced. Coupled with increased digital payments (UPI based apps), it has helped the stakeholders across the agri-food value chain sustain their businesses during COVID-19.

Though the phygital strategy seems to be working well in retail, banking, healthcare, more needs to be done to be at the forefront in agribusiness. Creating a phygital strategy for agribusiness or any other sector must begin with evaluating the customer experience gained in the last two years. The challenges customers face, which areas they would like companies to invest in, and many more questions need to be answered. Such insights will provide companies willing to adopt phygital strategy a lot to work with and guide them in the direction necessary to create a phygital experience that exceeds customer expectations. Blurred lines between physical and digital experiences in the post-COVID world will enhance the user experience and help companies attain sustainable business models over the years.


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