A digital learning platform for enhancing salesforce capabilities at Coromandel

Coromandel International Limited / Murugappa Group – Management Development Centre

– SILVER WINNER OF THE 2020 EXCELLENCE IN PRACTICE AWARDS –

Coromandel International Limited, an Indian corporation founded in the early 1960s, is among India’s pioneers and leading agricultural solutions provider, offering diverse products and services across the agricultural inputs value chain.

Coromandel International Limited has the largest network (for coverage across India) in the country to deliver sustainable farming solutions encompassing soil health improvement, nutrition balancing and providing responsible crop protection and care through a series of interventions.

Coromandel’s desire to offer better solutions to farmers has led to adding more Agricultural Graduates addressing two key field functions, namely Agronomists and Marketing Officers.

Coromandel has partnered with Murugappa Group’s MDC (Management Development Center), since MDC’s consistent emphasis has been to capture, compile, communicate and disseminate knowledge to all stakeholders. This includes newcomers and those who have been transferred or part of job rotation, job enrichment, cross-functional teams and so on.

One of the challenges here was to train and keep these associates up to date with the latest products and agricultural practices. The Indian farming community is not well-versed with latest farming techniques and technologies and most Indian farmers operate in small land holdings.

As a solution, MDC developed e-learning modules through which the knowledge would be disseminated to various learners, empowering them to learn at their pace from their place.
Challenges pertaining to the time and space constraints were successfully overcome by VidhyaOnline e-learning initiative as it enables learners to learn and relearn before disseminating the knowledge to the farming ecosystem. Learners were given access to the modules relating to not only the products, technical features and consultative contents, but also to the modules on behavioral and sales, which translated into better business results.

Costs and challenges in disseminating knowledge

One of the prime responsibilities of agronomists is to help farmers understand more about the soils properties and the crops they grow. Based on that, they provide advice on the required nutrition to the plants at different stages, strategies to handle pests and weeds, solutions to challenges that they may face, such as floods and droughts.

Marketing officers focus on identifying the needs and challenges to provide the solutions by selling the right products to the farmers at the right time and place. They are also responsible for increasing the market coverage by appointing more channel network for servicing more farmers.

Freshly hired executives (both students and executives with minimal experience) are expected to gain a great deal of practical knowledge in a very short span of time and be able to operate independently and deliver results in a shorter cycle time.

Apart from huge investments towards classroom training, the logistics of getting all the participants for training was becoming a challenge. Traditionally, successful SMEs in Coromandel are taken on as faculty for the newcomers so that the productivity of SMEs is reduced due to their focus on training. Learners operate in remotest of locations and are under constant pressure to cover widely scattered farmers.

New-age learning ecosystem for new-age learners!

Coromandel L&D (learning and development) Teams and MDC E-learning teams jointly identified the key stakeholders and set up kickstart meetings with them. This was to ensure that the digital lessons were built properly, with the help of Coromandel’s subject matter experts from each of the business units.

MDC was involved in the knowledge sharing meetings to learn about the intricacies of the educational contents, so that the contents don’t just deliver “what”, “how” and “when” but the most critical “why” part of it. All the three stakeholders (Coromandel SMEs, Coromandel L&D and MDC) worked closely through the different stages of e-learning production.

The approved e-learning module with the necessary assessments is uploaded on to the homegrown cloud-based LMS (Learning Management System), where the modules are assigned to the learners under the VidhyaOnline digital initiative. The learners can access the contents from any of their smart devices (smartphones, tabs, office laptops, home PCs, etc.)

Coromandel L&D also conducts contests and schemes to encourage competitive learning. Apart from this, user-based or module-based completion reports are generated by both Coromandel L&D directly and MDC. Rewards and gifts are awarded by Coromandel L&D for contest winners on a periodical basis.

Pilot study to improve digital adoption

Instead of going for a large-scale launch directly for hundreds of users, Coromandel L&D did a pilot study in the first year (2016-17) when two modules were launched. Pilot phase included playing the e-learning module on the screen in the classroom, followed by encouraging the users to login into the LMS portal and taking up the digital assessments.

Receiving feedback from the learners on the contents ensured timely enrichments. In the next session, users are asked to study from the e-learning module directly and ask questions, if any, to the facilitator, followed by the online assessment. Once they have enjoyed their power and freedom of learning, the executives showed greater interest to learn other modules from the digital platform smoothly.

Owing to the success of the pilot study with two modules, MDC and Coromandel L&D teams have co-created 60 modules in the last four years catering to learners at different levels and touchpoints under the umbrella of VidhyaOnline.

Digital breakthrough evolved into long-term benefits

Freshers and experienced executives earned consistent knowledge through the digital medium “at their pace, from their place”. They also gained insights about various product offerings and were able to expand their knowledge base beyond their area of expertise.

Agronomists were able to guide the farmers better with necessary knowhow. They were able to refer to the knowledge management system at any time for any queries. There is huge amount of buy-in from learners.

The knowledge transfer to the farming ecosystem was agile, smooth and effective, leading to stronger relationships. The gained knowledge has encouraged farmers to reap results by using appropriate solutions. Solutions to various problems at different stages of crop growth are educated to them hence helping in increasing their yield. Influencers in the farming ecosystem, such as village leaders, families and local shops are also educated simultaneously.

Coromandel has become the first choice for the farmers. The farmers place huge trust in the Coromandel agronomists and marketing officers as consultants and partners, which eventually brought in more business, as shown in the table.

With many key learnings over these years of implementing digital learning across the company and Murugappa Group, Coromandel has already begun to scale up e-learning initiative by including many other stakeholders as learners, such as the farmers, their families, village community leaders, executives in corporate head office, etc., while MDC continues to create and deliver e-learning modules to other functions and companies of the group to disseminate knowledge digitally.

Watch the partnership project video.

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