Cash cow: Cattle trade in India gets a digital twist

Cattle Farm

Image: Shutterstock

Despite an agro economy like India being hugely reliant on cattle, animal husbandry had not received the type of digital support it needs. In the last few years though, a plethora of online apps and portals are using everything from veterinarians to Machine Learning to fill this gap finds Satyen K. Bordoloi


For agrarian societies cattle rearing and trading is one the oldest extant professions. On the health of livestock, civilisations have soared or crumbled. More so in India which isn't just the world's largest producer of milk but has even turned cows into symbols of faith.

India also has one of the world's youngest, most digitally literate populations aided and abetted by good internet penetration. The meeting of these facts has given the country something unique: apps and digital marketplace for cattle like Pashushala, Animall, MoooFarm, PashuLok, Pashu Mall, Pashu Mela, Pashu Vyapar among others that use everything from veterinarians to Machine Learning to mooo i.e. woo, cattle farmers.

These portals and apps make buying and selling cattle as easy as say buying a laptop online. And just like you would get all kinds of details of the laptop to satisfy you before you buy, here too you get every detail a cattle buyer might need to make an informed choice, from information about age, size, weight, breed, children etc. to photos, including close-ups of teeth and udders.  

Origin Stories

Animall says they were "first conceptualized in Jun 2019 as a part of an internal hackathon in Pratilipi (a storytelling platform) where Animall won both the jury and audience award." It has generated over Rs. 150 crore venture capital and angel investor funding from the likes of Sequoia, Nexus, SIG, Omnivore, Beenext, Rocketship, and WEH among others.

Image: Animall

Meanwhile, MoooFarm – in 2020 – won the Animal Husbandry Start-up Grand challenge launched by PM Modi and the Department of Animal Husbandry.

Despite their varying origin stories, what they do is solve a major problem in India. Traditionally, anyone wanting to buy or sell cattle went to one of the hundreds of thousands of cattle markets or fairs anywhere in the country where they'd look around or show their animals throughout the day and pay anywhere up to 10,000 to a middleman to find the right buyer. This is not just a tedious process, but an extremely inefficient one with scope for slippages.  

What these apps do is make it easier and cheaper for both buyers and sellers. Not only are prices, photographs and histories of the animals listed in advance, but many of them also offer regular services to the cattle owners where veterinarians check and certify the animals.

The Market

As Pashushala's about us page states, "Livestock is an integral part of the Indian economic, cultural, and social setup. About 20.5 million people depend upon it for their livelihood - close to two-third of rural India." It provides employment to about 8.8 % of the population and contributes 4.11% to India's GDP and 25.6% of total Agriculture GDP.

Despite this, India's livestock market is not just unregulated, but highly unorganized and distributed with price arbitrage ruling the roost due to information disparity. These digital apps and platforms thus offer an innovative business model to unlock the value and income potential of livestock by leveraging internet penetration in the country.

Image: PashuShala

The huge market has led to a good influx of startups. Many have got good traction. Animall app on Google Play app store shows over five million downloads, MoooFarm has a million, PashuPal just over 100,000 and Pashu Mela, Pashushala, Pashu Mall etc. still under the 100,000 mark but growing fast. The government's own app - e-GOPALA - created by the National Dairy Development Board, has over 100,000 downloads. The market pie these apps are chasing, is huge.

India has nearly 100 million dairy farmers and its livestock population, as per govt. data, is 192 million cows, 100 million buffaloes and over 500 million other animals like sheep, goats, mules, horses etc. India is the world's largest milk producer with about 22% of global production. Our dairy market was valued at ₹13,174 billion in 2021, growing at a CAGR of around 15.4% and thus expected to reach over ₹30,000 billion by 2027.

This means the livestock market will grow rapidly as well. Jitesh Arora, co-founder and chief technology officer of MoooFarm, is quoted in Mint as saying that the livestock management industry in India is a $70-80 billion opportunity.  

Advantages of Cattle Trading online

Cattle trading online really picked up during the pandemic. E.g. Animall which only traded 50 cattle in the first 30 days of launch, saw 50,000 cattle changing hands in January 2021. This despite trading only in three states: Haryana, UP and Rajasthan.

There are limitations e.g. most farmers don't feel confident of buying an animal till they see one before them. A photo does not suffice. Hence these apps have been offering multiple services like transportation, online consultation, veterinary, etc. with the intention of creating an ecosystem.

Image: MoooFarm

Yet, there are advantages. These apps charge very little to do a lot e.g. a typical veterinarian consultation online is Rs. 25. They also cut away the middleman and the needless money he takes. It democratizes the whole process with anyone being able to buy and sell online. And best of all with complex transportation rules, cow vigilantes roaming the countryside and strict animal protection laws making it difficult to trade in cattle, these apps are proving handy.  

Most of these apps are not earning much right now. But these are the early days of trying to penetrate a traditional market that is centuries old. Building trust with farmers in the digital landscape will naturally take time.  

But they have time and technology on their side e.g. MoooFarm is trying a pilot to use video and image-based machine learning (ML) to recommend cattle and has an algorithm that can differentiate cow breed on a live feed.

Unsurprisingly, the marketplace for cattle trading apps is gradually getting crowded. Most of these apps will not survive the mastication of the market. However, those that do, have a bright future ahead of them. For whatever be the past, old cows in new bottles of tech, is the future of cattle trading in India.

About the author:
Satyen is an award-winning scriptwriter, journalist based in Mumbai. He loves to let his pen roam the intersection of artificial intelligence, consciousness, and quantum mechanics. His written words have appeared in many Indian and foreign publications.

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