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Meet the man who 'sells' weather for a living

Last updated on: July 13, 2010 14:46 IST

Image: Angshujyoti Das.
Indrani Roy Mitra in Kolkata

He is a man who sells weather. Kolkata-based businessman Angshujyoti Das is the owner of Express Weather, a firm that sells weather forecast to farmers, corporates, agri-input-based industries and even film production companies.

With a 19-people team, Express Weather has recently launched its second office in Pune and has 17,000 farmers as its clients.

How does Express Weather operate? What is its work module? How does it ensure that the weather predictions that they get for the farmers are correct?

To get more information about this interesting venture, ...

Meet the man who 'sells' weather for a living!

Photographs: Reuters

How did Express Weather come into being?

In 2005-2006, Express Weather's parent company, Express Advisory Services Pvt Ltd, was engaged in a sustainable tourism development project in the Sundarbans, West Bengal.

The area comprises large rivers, forest areas, small creeks, tributaries and a few human settlements. People living here are at the mercy of mother Nature.

Their day-to-day struggle for food, water or (life saving) healthcare goes in vain when Nature decides to unleash its fury.

"While working on this project, we realised that the livelihood of the people living in these areas is totally dependent on weather, yet they have little or no information beforehand," Das told

"We got in touch with the India Meteorological Department and sought help for the farmers in this regard, but we were not satisfied at all with the feedback we got. Hence, we thought of launching a project ourselves," he said.

However, the concept took some time to acquire concrete shape and in 2007, Weather Express came into being.

As preliminary groundwork, Das's company did extensive field surveys in Maharashtra, Punjab, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh to come to the conclusion that weather forecast was of immense significance not only to the cultivators but also to pesticide and fertilizer manufacturing companies, agri-investors, corporates, et cetera.

. . .

Meet the man who 'sells' weather for a living!

Image: Express Weather's weather station at Khedgaon, Maharashtra.

How it works

Express Weather provides its clients advance information on weather through its forecasting technology based on numerical models like the Global Forecasting System and Weather Research and Forecast. The raw feed from satellite data, based on geo-coordinate inputs, is customised.

The entire process consists of the following components:

Forecast: Short- and medium-range location-specific forecast is the strength of the company. There is a customised domain to support various need groups with tailor-made forecast parameters.

Ground observation: Observation of various weather parameters is a vital task and keeping record for the same is even more important. Express Weather does that through its ground observatory units.

Application: Application areas of meteorology are many. Robust and user-friendly weather-based applications are made using latest technology which offers maximum economic gain to the respective user segments and for  people's well being.

Weather station: ATMOS is an automated weather station, developed and installed in various remote places by Express Weather's hardware division.

It comes in two versions, ATMOS1.1, with meteorological sensors, and ATMOS 1.2, with additional plant sensors.

These are robust and sophisticated enough to perform complicated tasks. They can send data from remote location via global system for mobile communications (GSM) or by general packet radio service (GPRS).

Dissemination: User-friendly dissemination processes have been developed to provide valuable information to beneficiaries.

Based on need, the company suggests the right mechanism for its clients.

. . .

Meet the man who 'sells' weather for a living!

Image: A man walks through the parched banks of Sukhana Lake in Chandigarh.
Photographs: Ajay Verma/Reuters

How costly are these predictions?

The predictions are not too expensive. A farmer who wants to be aware of the weather before sowing the seeds just needs to buy a monthly subscription of Rs 49 to get two SMSes a day."

"For Rs 49 a month, one gets predictions for a 12-km domain," informs Das.

For this short messaging service, the company has established a dealer network with various mobile phone operators. His farm, claims Das, can make precise predictions for up to a 100-metre domain.

The 15-day prediction is usually stable for the first 10 days with 90 per cent accuracy for rainfall, humidity and dew point measurements.

When assigned, Express Weather can install weather stations for corporates and other organisations and each weather station comes at a price of Rs 55,000 to Rs 60,000.

In the case of corporates, government and non-government bodies, the pricing is generally need-based.

. . .

Meet the man who 'sells' weather for a living!

Image: Angshujyoti Das (left) with Sarad Dokre, a grape farmer.

Initial challenges

Initially, the Express Weather was funded by its parent company Express Advisory Services Private Ltd, Das said.

Funding the new initiative was easy as Das and his family members owns 95 per cent of the shares of EASPL while the rest 5 per cent is owned by others.

However, in the first couple of years, the company ran into losses. It suffered a loss of Rs 800,000 in 2007 and of Rs 37 lakh (Rs 3.7 million) in 2008

"Though the losses were not quite unexpected, they did disappoint us. We refused to give up and went on with our research with more grit and passion," said Das.

"Our dedication however bore fruit. In 2009, Express Weather registered a Rs 30-lakh (Rs 3 million) profit with a Rs 1 crore (Rs 10 million) turnover.

"This year, we are looking at a turnover of Rs 4.5 crore (Rs 45 million)," said the Express Weather founder.

For a company which is barely three years old, this was impressive indeed.

. . .

Meet the man who 'sells' weather for a living!

Image: Farmers harvest rice.

Key to success

According to Das, following factors paved the way for his company's success:

Merit first: The company ensures that merit will lead, irrespective of age or seniority. Regular evaluation of performance is a continuous process.

Transparency: Extreme transparency is maintained throughout various layers of hierarchy internally as well as with business associates.

Innovation: Express Weather values innovation to the highest extent.

Initiative: Its initiative in unchartered territory allows the company to build on its own, without following others. Research and validation are a continuous process with scope for learning and developing the logic.

Mutual trust: Express Weather has developed mutual trust through service quality and transparent practice at every level of its operation.

. . .

Meet the man who 'sells' weather for a living!

Image: A still from the film Love Aaj Aur Kal. EW predicted weather for its outdoor shooting.

Who are its partners?

"We, at present, are working with Monsanto, DSPL, Aries Agro, Indofil Chemicals, grape farmers under the aegis of Indian Council of Agricultural Research, et al," Das said.

Besides, for the SMS service, the company maintains ties with Vodafone and Tata Telesrvices.

For the convenience of the farmers, who are not too comfortable with the English SMS script, Express Weather's IT team is currently working on a vernacular voice SMS.

"Of late, we have signed deals with CALS Refineries at Haldia and have also been granted a United Nations Development Programme project in Bangladesh's Chittagong," said Das.

However, the company has not received as much response as it would have loved to receive in the eastern parts of India.

Not too long ago, Saif Ali Khan's production house Illuminati took Express Weather's services for the outdoor shoots of Love Aaj Aur Kal and it has again signed it up for its next production.

Having started with a modest capital and an elaborate dream, Das is happy no doubt but not complacent.

"We still have a long way to go. We are hardworking and determined; confident and unrelenting. For, we have realised over the years that for someone working with the wind and the rain, sky is the limit," he signed off.

We can't but agree!