Between 2016 and 2019, there were significant changes in the agriculture industry. From the players at the upstream to those at the downstream, investors and consumers witnessed massive improvement in returns and food sufficiency in some parts of the country. However, the emergence of COVID-19 in the early 2020 impacted and still affecting the industry. The industry contribution to the Gross Domestic Product between Q1 and Q4 during the year was not encouraging despite various interventions from the government.
Agritech, one of the sectors in the industry, was not spared from the negative impacts of the pandemic. Before the pandemic, the sector was the favourite of investors, especially the middle-income earners who want extra income. The critical trust they have in the sector before the pandemic was largely due to the innovative ways of farming activities driven by new technologies being used by the players and promise of sustainable return on investment.
The pandemic struck and operational activities were disrupted. The outcome was the inability to pay the investors as scheduled. A significant number of the players experienced this, which further increased customers and members of the public’s fear about the credibility of the players. This and other issues ravaging the sector contributed to the position of a writer who noted that the Nigerian agritech/fintech startups have a big customer education problem.
Some of the issues raised by the writer were examined and analysed by our analyst using recent customer reviews of some of the players. Customer feelings about Thrive Agric, FarmKonnect, Farm Agric and Agrorite are mined and analysed. Our analyst also examines an online forum’s rating of the players. Analysis of 48 players reveals that 29.17% are on the critical watchlist, while 22.92% are having serious issues as at January 7, 2021 [see Exhibit 2]. According to the forum, players on the critical watchlist are those found as suspected scammers. Those found for not paying their investors as promised are tagged as serial defaulters. The forum states that Goldvest, Foxygreen, Kenfarms & Agrovet, Shopagric, Farmnow, Farm4me, Farmkonnect, Abadini, Green fold, Farmtrove, DivaRice and Eatrich are the new performing farms [still under observation for now].
In our analysis, it emerged that customer attitudinal dispositions in terms of being positive, negative and neutral towards processes, solutions and employees are impacting the players. For instance, one of the results establishes 76.5% higher risk of negative disposition on the smart farming and digital finance solutions.
Exhibit 1: Sentiment Dominance by Brand
Note: 2 is expected score of sentiment dominance
Exhibit 2: Number of Performing Agritech Companies and Those with Problems
The Complaints and Insurance Companies
When the pandemic started and operational activities were disrupted, expectation among the investors and business analysts was that the companies should be able to pay their investors having insured investors’ funds [as stated in their marketing communication materials] with insurance companies. However, an insurance professional bemoaned the fact that various Agritech platforms use insurance protection claim to lure investors. A national newspaper also described the insurance statement of the companies as half-truths. There is no doubt these two positions and the negative reviews in the public domain would continue to have damaging impacts on the players’ equity and profitability.
What Should Be Done?
There is a need for the integration of customer reviews into the management of investors’ complaints. This is necessary as our analysis shows that employees in charge of managing customer reviews on an online forum [Google Review] are not using the right response strategies. Our expectation is that when this is considered in addition to internal processes and people that need reengineering customers would have increased satisfaction with direct returns to the players.