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Indian startup bets on drone project to tackle agriculture labour shortage

Chemical manufacturer Coromandel International (CORF.NS) is hoping that its drone company Dhaksha can assist Indian farmers deal with a persistent workforce shortage in the industry.

At a valuation of 6.25 billion rupees ($75.96 million), Coromandel acquired the bulk of Dhaksha in June, claiming the startup will “identify promising avenues of growth” for the business.

Drones from Dhaksha can spray fertiliser and pesticides on agricultural fields and are also useful in the surveillance and defence industries.

“It provides an opportunity to use agri-drones either through purchase from Dhaksha or engage them for providing services so that we can meet farmers’ requirements,” a senior Coromandel International official told the media.

Coromandel International has discussed selling their drones to high net worth farmers with dealers in a number of states, including Telangana, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

Despite accounting for a sizeable chunk of the economy, India’s farming sector has been struggling with a workforce shortage as young people in the nation increasingly favour higher paid occupations in cities.

However, Dhaksha is not expected to immediately effect a significant boost to Coromandel’s overall revenue.

On Thursday, the company, stung by decreasing sales, announced a marginal decline in revenue from operations of 57.29 billion rupees and a 1% decline in net profit after tax for the first quarter. Analysts anticipated that through the end of September, demand would be subdued.

According to Satagopan, it is unlikely that the maximum retail prices of goods will decrease significantly. Instead, government subsidies will be used as the cost of raw materials like urea and ammonia declines from its peak.

However, Coromandel International is expected to benefit if the crucial monsoon rains come up with a strong showing in July.

Coromandel International may be expected to make investments in technological fields where it does not currently have a significant presence. He said that it is too soon to give specifics on the kind of acquisitions that are currently being considered.