It takes a lot of motivation to work in a sector fraught with unpredictable price fluctuations, poor storage practices, inefficient markets and farmer suicides. The agricultural sector is in dire need of management professionals who can drive process innovation through best practices.

Our next pathbreaker, Sagar, an AgriBusiness professional at Ivory Coast, did his MBA in Agriculture to make a difference in challenging environments.

Sagar talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy  from The Interview Portal about his family’s background in farming which had a great influence on his career path and inspired him to work on changes for the benefit of farmers and the larger community. Read on if you want to make a difference…

Sagar, tell us about Your background?

I hale from a small family in the Bijapur district of North Karnataka belonging to a farming community. My father is a farmer & mother is a homemaker.

My schooling was from a Kannada medium school. My extracurricular activities were playing chess and participating in debate in school days. I completed my Intermediate in science stream, followed by graduation in B.Sc. Agriculture followed by MBA (Agribusiness Management).

What did you do for graduation/post graduation?

I pursued my graduation in B.Sc. Agriculture from University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad followed by MBA (Agribusiness Management) from PJTS Agricultural University Hyderabad as a JRF Scholar.

Junior Research Fellowship (JRF) is a scholarship scheme for studying Post graduation in Agriculture. Students, after their graduation (in Agriculture) can appear for JRF exam conducted by ICAR (Indian Council of Agricultural Sciences). There will be a limited number of seats available for those who get a good rank. Students who are selected for JRF Post Graduation will get a scholarship of Rs 12,000 per month for 2 years.

There are around 20 subjects (like Agronomy, Plant Science, Plant Breeding, Agricultural Economics, Entomology, Crop Physiology etc.) to choose in Post Graduation. I chose Agribusiness Management. My all India rank was 22.

How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and unusual career?

To be honest I was not aware of a degree in Agriculture. But my dislike for Engineering and the high fees for medical college prompted me to start gathering information on alternate graduation courses. I came to know about B.Sc. in Agriculture from my seniors and other agriculture students. This course also interested me because of my family background. That is how i started my journey in the field of agriculture.

Tell us about your career path.

After my graduation I got placed on campus and started my career at Reliance Retail Ltd., Bangalore. I was recruited for the post of CC-Buyer at the collection center (where fruits and vegetables will be collected and further transferred to Reliance Fresh for sale after cleaning and grading). My job role was to source and procure standard quality Fruits and Vegetables from farmers on daily basis. 

In the mean time I attended an exam for Junior Research Fellowship JRF for Masters. The results were out after three months of my job in Reliance Retail Ltd. I was selected for JRF and allotted MBA (Agribusiness Management) admission in PJTSA University, Hyderabad. At this point in time I was confused whether to continue as Reliance employee or to pursue my Masters. To make things crystal clear I contacted the HOD of the department (MBA) in PJTSA University, Hyderabad. Based on her advice I opted for higher education.

As a part of the curriculum in MBA I worked as intern with Agribuz start-up based in Myosre, Karnataka. I worked on agriculture marketing and educational mobile apps development and promotions, and a study of farmers’ awareness and constraints.

AGRIBUZ is a mobile app based digital platform like OLX, facilitating selling and buying of agricultural goods and services. Farmers or traders can post their produce with price and contact details and buyers can access and contact sellers to get their produce. Buyers also can post their requirements of any agriculture commodity and search for relevant sellers. Its all free.

I also conducted research on farmer’s awareness and constraints in usage of digital platforms to market their produce. I also worked on ways to promote the app to reach more farmers.

After completing my MBA, I got placed in National Cooperative Consumers Federation of India Ltd. (NCCF), New Delhi, (a semi government body under ministry of consumer Affairs) as Management Trainee. Job role was to look after B2B sales, supply of grocery, stationary, textiles etc. pertaining to Government agencies and also procurement of wheat and paddy under Minimum Support Price scheme from farmers.

After NCCF my next job was with India’s largest broiler company Suguna Foods Pvt Ltd. as Assistant Manager – Purchase. Here I was looking after procurement of all herbal (Medicinal) plants like Neem, Ashwagandha, Tulasi, Amla, Lemon peel, Phyllantus etc., raw materials required for production of poultry feed. Herbs are the feed additives in poultry feed along with Maize, Soyabean etc. I used to plan, source and procure best quality herbal raw materials at right time, right price and right quantity. Management of inventory, vendor development, market survey etc.  were some other activities.

How did you get your first break?

After my graduation I joined Reliance Retail Ltd, as CC-Buyer in Bangalore. Around the same time I got an MBA seat through Junior Research Fellowship in Hyderabad. At this point in time I was very confused regarding the decision to continue to work or to to join for my Masters MBA in Hyderabad. With all the research and advise I left my job and joined the MBA program in Agribusiness Management at Hyderabad. That was the best decision of my life.

What were the challenges? How did u address them?

We come across challenges everywhere, to be successful we should accept all challenges that come our way. Some of the challenges I faced,

  • Language: India is the diverse country with multiple languages in different states. Till my graduation I was knowing only one language that is Kannada, but I got opportunity to explore different states like Telangana, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu etc. I found it very difficult to communicate with people over there, however I learned to manage and started speaking other languages too. Today I can speak Kannada, English, Hindi and Telugu. Iam now learning Tamil and French too.
  • Adaptability, food and culture: In India, there is lot of diversity in food, climate and culture. It was difficult to adjust right away in different places, but i was prepared to face every circumstance.
  • Fitting in: Every organization will have a  different culture and people, we cannot expect similarity everywhere.
  • Competition and trouble makers: We should keep updating our skills and work hard with honesty. This will help us grow and shine in our careers.

Where do you work now? 

Currently I am working with Agro commodity supply chain and export-Import company, Asia View Enterprises Pvt. Ltd. (Indian based HQ in Hong Kong), as Quality Controller in Ivory Coast, West Africa. The job role includes looking after all the warehouse operations and quality analysis of Cocoa and Cashew nuts, sourced from under developed West African countries and exported to European and Asian developing counties.

I am active on LinkedIn and other platforms to stay abreast of career opportunities for myself or for the sake of my friends. These helped in developing new connections.

Here you require knowledge of agriculture commodities like cocoa, cashew nut, coffee and understanding of quality, storage, fumigation, warehouse management etc. 

As in our studies we have studied different agro commodities and now we get on the job training on quality analysis of agri products.

Our daily routine is in the warehouse dealing with agro commodities, analyzing the quality, storage and transportation, stock report and managing the team.This job has provided me with international exposure and experience of working with African teams.

How does your work benefit the society? 

We procure Cocoa and Cashew directly from farmer cooperatives as per the price declared by the Government, this helps the farming community market their produce at the best price without facing difficulties.

Your advice to students based on your experience?

As Steve Jobs said, your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.

You get to choose what you want, but you must get clear about what you want.

Future Plans?

I believe that Agriculture is not just a degree it’s a way of life, I would like to work on transforming Agriculture into Agribusiness for uplifting the farming community.