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The digital backbone of IPM

In the last issue of the Clean India Journal, we featured the first half of a roundtable meeting between leading pest management companies about introducing sustainability in their businesses. Carrying this conversation forward, we also asked them about the role of technology in Integrated Pest Management (IPM). From training technicians to educating customers, analysing data to generating reports, tech pervades every aspect of pest management, or soon will, in the not-too-distant future.

Train technicians

Giridhar Pai, Director, PECOPP: For a very long time, the only training provided to technicians was information about the pest, what chemical should be used and how it should be used; that cannot be the entirety of training. Decades, anyone with two hands and two feet could be a technician, but we are in 2022 and this is no longer the case.

Now, apart from the above, they need to have a smartphone, know how to use it and be willing to use it. Many software-based models don’t succeed because data input doesn’t happen. This is something overlooked in training, along with other important factors like grooming and soft skills.

Today, we may be telling the technician what to do, but we are not telling him or her why they should do it. Imparting that knowledge is the first step. We are looking at how to make technicians good at smartphone use. This has to be a criterion for recruitment; we must ask beforehand if they have a smartphone, are willing to use it for work purposes and are willing to operate exclusively through the phone.

We may provide an app, but if it isn’t used, it’s not of much use. We need data at the micro level, like how much chemical was issued, how much was actually used, etc. This can come to use only through an app. We cannot go back to the log card era to log all this data.

Educate customers

Rachit Agarwal, Director, Truly Nolen India: Technicians are the face of any company. They are the ones who are going to visit the client and do the service. They have the highest impact on the client. We need ways to monitor them, check in with them. Once they recommend something to the client, it has to be executed.

Educating the client through a customer education program is extremely important. This can happen at a monthly or quarterly frequency, and should be mandatory.

New, sustainable, eco-friendly solutions are being developed everyday. As a pest control operator, we should be focusing more on maintaining the killing efficacy of the chemical, ensuring that insects don’t develop resistance quickly and so on. For this, we need to train and retrain our technicians. This will create healthy competition and a pool of clients who demand advanced solutions.

Embrace technology

Siddharth Balwani, MD, PECOPP Pest Control: Technology will be a gamechanger going forward; it will enable Integrated Pest Management in terms of monitoring and analytics. It will also help in information dissemination and training. This new tech will have both hardware and software aspects.

Jeetendra Gawde, Key Accounts Manager, Bayer: We have to have proactive plans for treatments. For example, if we are providing services to the hospitality industry, we must give them a summer, monsoon and winter plan, design the pest control program accordingly and then provide services.

Digitalisation will help reduce technicians’ stress; today, technicians are bogged down with many tasks. An app will simplify his work, allow him more freedom and give him more time to spend at the client’s site.

Sometimes, customers take the driver’s seat while PCOs sit back and allow themselves to be led. We end up following what the customer says. Instead, we should be in the driver’s seat, for which we should have the knowledge with which we can convince the customer; we should be able to demonstrate the whole effect of the pest control program, which will earn the customer’s respect and trust.

Data in the driver’s seat

Vikas Sharma, Founder, Pest Shields India: My focus is on data and information, and I drive my people that way. Only this is represented in trend reports for any facility, including callouts and their types. If a pest has been spotted, we need to do a micro analysis of what it is, which area it was spotted and so on; we then have to integrate products with technology.

Just as manufacturers have written standards in place, so should pest control agencies. We must go beyond what the customer thinks he needs. When someone asks for cockroach treatment, we need to suggest that there could be multiple pests and that they should opt for a comprehensive integrated pest management program to clear all compliances, food safety audits, import/export compliances, etc.

Data and technology will always help us build better, more efficient businesses. If we are going with a growth of 10x or 20x at a time, we will not be able to monitor it manually. We need to see how we can have control over the information that is coming to us, how we can vet that information, how real-time it is and how far the information is giving us an overall picture of the business.

Rachit Agarwal – Director, Truly Nolen India: Many clients are still not supportive of us using technology. They say they want to do things manually, or that since the services are happening at night, there is nobody available to sign. These are the basic challenges that we are facing.

Ravi Kumar, National Head – India, Truly Nolen: We should work on digital platforms which provide IPM reports, monthly audit reports, team analysis reports etc in a lesser time. When technicians visit the client sites, they sign on the reports; these can be generated automatically. Digitisation will really help save on time.

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