From Berlin to India

From Berlin to Indore: Why did one of the top German female co-founders and CEOs relocate to India?

Leading female CEO of the world's largest ag-tech app, Simone Strey, moves her residence to India to be closer to her stakeholders. India has been the focus of her company's commercial activities. "I do believe that you have to be where your customers are to understand their needs and problems truly," she says as she settles in her new Indore office.

Strey's move to India with her husband, Rob Strey (CTO and Plantix co-founder), doesn't come as a surprise. Simone was always determined to be where she can create a real impact in agriculture. As an expert in soil science with a background in geography and botanical studies, her career took her from Berlin, Amazon Rainforest, to West Africa, the Gambia and India. These places, experiences and local encounters helped Strey shape her founding mission – to help small-scale struggling farmers, neglected at the end of the agricultural chain, with no access to information or advanced and expensive technologies.

In 2015, Strey created Plantix – a free agricultural app that helps users identify plant diseases within a second. Whether their crops are suffering from a pest, disease or nutrient deficiency, the easy functionality of ‘click a photo of your crop and upload' allows farmers to instantly find a solution for their sick crop and get free expert advice. Combining her agricultural expertise and the world-leading AI-based image recognition, the free app was a much needed digital solution for growers, making them more independent, productive and efficient.

Fast forward to today, Plantix has become the world's largest free agricultural app for farmers, with more than 200 employees and offices in Berlin, Hyderabad and Indore. Available in 150 countries and 18 different languages, the Plantix app has been downloaded more than 15 million times. Plantix's revenue grew by close to 4x over the course of 2020. For the first quarter of 2021, Plantix saw over ten times revenue growth.

But how did Simone Strey make Plantix into one of the best agri-tech apps in the world? Making a meaningful difference that addresses the agricultural issues was always crucial for Simone. Like most female entrepreneurs, Stray is willing to take risks and also empower her experts and teams. It is her humbleness and ability to learn quickly, she says, what has helped her business grow and, in turn, led Plantix to ongoing success.

Success by numbers

Despite the coronavirus effect on the global economy and the slowdown for all industries, Plantix experienced substantial growth in 2020 and 2021. This strong growth is primarily due to Plantix's cutting-edge technologies that can generate unprecedented data-driven insights for the entire value chain of agri-inputs and scale quickly, as shown below:

  • Plantix saw ten times gross revenue growth compared to the previous year.
  • Millions of farmers use Plantix computer vision to identify the diseases, pest damages and nutrient deficiencies affecting their crops.
  • In 2020, Plantix answered more than 20 million crop-related questions from farmers
  • In 2021, Plantix grew the biggest agri-input retailer network in India
  • Plantix Partner network covers more than 80% of India, including more than 25,000 local retailers.
  • The network serves more than 10 thousand retailers that made 50 thousand purchases on their platform, and the number is multiplying.
  • Plantix Partner app's huge test success in India prompted its quicker nationwide launch by the end of 2021.

A win-win situation for all

Google took notice of this success and named Plantix as one of the few ‘Editors' choice' apps for farmers. Slowing down and enjoying her achievements didn't seem to fit Strey's nature. Last year, Plantix launched another app called Plantix Partner to enrich the agricultural retailers' ecosystem.

Plantix analysed more than 35 million images in total. Most pictures are tagged with GPS coordinates, so Plantix experts can see in real-time where plant pests and diseases are spreading. It was a logical next step for the company to develop the Plantix Partner app specifically for agricultural retailers to optimise their inventory and business.

The current Plantix business model is simple. It connects farmers and retailers with a product solution through its digital channels. Plantix is in a unique position to understand the farmer demand and the retailer supply simultaneously.

In India alone, tens of thousands of farmers upload images of their sick crop every day. The Plantix app analyses these images and offers a free individual diagnosis and the best possible treatment recommendation from a nearby retailer. With the Plantix Partner app, agricultural retailers get new farmer orders, know what product to sell and improve their sales. Plus, they can purchase new stock through the app as well.

"Ag retailers were often not sure about the disease or pest that is striking, so they sold broadband insecticides or pesticides to their customers. Using the Plantix Partner app, we can help retailers choose the least toxic and most efficient product tailored to their customer's needs. This creates a win-win situation for everyone and the environment," Strey explains and adds, "With this approach, we have built the biggest network of agri-input retail shops in India, all free of cost.

Next phase for Plantix

Strey's relocation to India will allow her to receive firsthand experience with stakeholders, fully identify their problems and understand them. When asked about the future and her next steps, Strey says, "My primary goal is building for the long term. Focusing on organisation alignment and building closer relationships with internal and external stakeholders will help us optimise better."

Considering that there are more than 150 million farmers in India, new relationships with partners and potential users could unlock tremendous growth and business expansion opportunities.

While Strey is enjoying her new life in India and her favourite Paneer Tikka, her mind is set on creating a lasting impact with Plantix. After all, moving to India for Strey is moving closer to her vision – bringing a free agricultural digital solution that improves farmers' livelihood and makes a significant contribution to feeding the generations to come.