IFFCO (Indian Farmers Fertilizer Cooperative) is the world’s largest cooperative fertilizer manufacturer. Founded in 1967 with just 57 cooperatives, IFFCO has grown into a 36,000-member organization, with $4 billion in annual revenues and 5,000 employees. In addition to fertilizer, IFFCO also manufactures pesticides and insecticides, and provides seeds, insurance, and advisory services to 5.5 million Indian farmers. In short, IFFCO is central to India’s agricultural ecosystem.
The company faced two key technology challenges. First, it needed a more reliable IT foundation. During the last few years, a number of technology systems and platforms in India’s agriculture ecosystem, including IFFCO’s, have become dependent and integrated with each other. For example, IFFCO’s core systems are linked to key government portals such as a fertilizer management system, the E-way Bill system for transporting goods, and the GST nation’s taxation platform. Given the inter-connectedness of the ecosystem, it is vital that IFFCO’s systems are highly available, so the co-op planned to move about 95 applications from on-premises infrastructure to cloud infrastructure.
Second, it needed to provide the benefits of its technology to all its stakeholders, including employees, members, transporters, and farmers, some of whom have limited literacy. For example, product bagging employees in some of IFFCO’s plants had to ask more literate colleagues to place a request on their behalf when they wanted to apply for leave, as they find it difficult to interact with IT systems because of the varied levels of literacy. As a result, IFFCO wanted to add a voice interface to its applications.
“Our mantra is to leverage the latest technology for the benefits of farmers and employees and management,” says A.K. Gupta, executive director of IT services for IFFCO. And the company intended to live up to that mantra.
The board, management, and our stakeholders are very confident that IFFCO has a robust IT system, one that operates around the clock, pandemic or not. And that system is powered by Oracle.
Executive Director of IT Services, IFFCO
For cloud infrastructure, IFFCO chose Oracle after vetting multiple cloud providers. The combination of OCI’s capabilities plus Oracle’s service and price tipped the scales. OCI ensured that IFFCO’s plant and corporate applications ran on robust, high-performance, low latency, highly available, easy-to-manage, and cost-effective infrastructure. IFFCO was also impressed with how Oracle continues innovating and evolving its solutions.
For the voice interface, IFFCO chose Oracle Digital Assistant because it provides chatbot functionality that integrates with back-end systems, abstracting the complexity of developing voice commands to access data and services.
By using Oracle Digital Assistant, IFFCO employees can speak to their mobile devices (in Hindi or English, for now) if they need to interact with IT systems. “This integration of voice with a chatbot has really changed the lives of our employees,” Gupta says. The functionality is used by IFFCO employees, cooperative societies, and transporters. The IFFCO team intends to extend it to farmers next, in the hopes of integrating it with IFFCOBazar.in, the company’s ecommerce portal for farmers that enables voice-activated ordering. Once Oracle Digital Assistant capabilities are extended to farmers, Gupta estimates that IFFCO could generate an additional $300 million to $400 million in sales.
Moving to OCI introduced a host of benefits. It reduced overhead costs 30% to 40%, including data center space, power, and cooling. Because Oracle Cloud Infrastructure requires much less hands-on IT maintenance and hardware support, IFFCO needs only a third of the IT staffing it would have if it stuck with an on-premises data center infrastructure.
The transition to OCI creates other new efficiencies that save employees time. For example, IT staff can now prepare time-sensitive reports much faster, eliminating overtime and high stress levels. IT staffers can also offer support without being tied to the office because they are always connected and the systems are consistently available.
OCI also guarantees that infrastructure requirements automatically scale up during month-end and year-end peak loads. Running applications on OCI increased confidence among employees that applications would be available when they’re needed and perform at the required speed.
The Oracle team stood with us like a rock. They were with us on every step of the journey…ensuring we met our objectives and targets and were instrumental in ensuring our success.
Executive Director of IT Services, IFFCO