Why I Chose FBN: Kumud Kokal, CIO

Lori Corbari

Sep 29, 2023

Our ‘Why I Chose FBN®’ series features stories from employees across different roles, teams, and geographies on how they got to FBN, what it’s like to work here, and how their teams help fulfill our mission of putting Farmers First®.

When did you join FBN, what is your current role at FBN, where are you based, and what are your responsibilities? 

I’ve been at FBN for about a year and half. I joined as the company’s first CIO and I am based out of the Bay Area, near our headquarters in San Carlos. As the CIO, I am responsible for IT including Security at FBN. My goal is to provide vision and leadership for information technology services and initiatives that enable FBN’s overall business strategy. 

Our mission in IT is to empower the productivity of our employees, farmers and customers and our vision is to enable the execution and realization of business strategy by being a trusted thought partner. 

The IT team delivers value by building, implementing or buying global and scalable business applications that integrate seamlessly with both our customer facing platform (fbn.com) and our backend systems. We partner closely with our business and technology teams to enable and support:

  • An end-to-end eCommerce platform that provides a world class shopping experience allowing our farmers to buy the broadest collection of high value farm inputs

  • A financial services platform that provides an easy loan underwriting and crop insurance process

  • Growing and scaling our internal functions, HR, Finance, Marketing and Legal to meet their technology needs 

  • Building a world class IT organization that attracts, retains and grows the best technical talent

What was your previous work experience before joining FBN? 

I’ve had a unique background that includes an undergrad in Finance and a graduate degree in Computer Science. I started my career as a Software Engineer, transitioned to Business Systems and Business Operations across HR, Finance, Marketing and IT.

Over the past 25+ years of my career, I’ve had the pleasure of working in retail, hospitality, enterprise software, personal & small business finance and in the oil & gas industry. 

Prior to FBN, I led the IT team at Stitch Fix, an online retailer and a personal style service. Before that, I’ve led technology teams at Airbnb, Informatica and Intuit. One of the common things across these diverse set of industries has been the mission to solve customer problems leveraging technology innovatively and effectively.

What did you first find compelling about FBN that led you to want to learn more? 

While I haven't worked in Ag Tech before, I come from India where agriculture is a dominant industry and its importance is well understood. Much like the technological disruption in other industries like hospitality and transportation over the past couple of decades, Ag seemed ready for it and FBN seemed to be leading that disruption. It is a network of products and services that has the potential to change the course of the Ag industry in a meaningful way.

Why did you ultimately decide to join FBN? What did this thought process look like for you? 

As a candidate, FBN had been fascinating to me in more than one way:

  1. I am inspired by mission driven companies. I loved how committed FBN was to its mission of empowering farmers, the foundational building block of our nation

  2. I enjoyed my conversations with the amazingly talented yet humble executive leadership team. If they represented the people at FBN, I wanted to be part of that company (which, later I found to be true!) 

  3. And as I mentioned, the opportunity to be a part of something that was on the path to positively disrupt a whole industry

All of these have come to be true and I am glad to have made that decision!

Now that you’ve joined, how would you describe FBN’s culture and what it’s like to work here? 

I have thoroughly enjoyed my work at FBN. The words that describe our culture are commitment, partnership and service. We are solving some of the most interesting and complex problems in Ag eCommerce, Global Supply Chain, Financial Services, Sustainability and Security.

At FBN, all the teams are committed to our mission of empowering farmers all across the world. This commitment is enabled by a deep partnership both internally within FBN and with our partners like the Community Builders. All of this is done in service to our farmers. We are for farmers, Farmer’s First®.

What kind of impact are you and your team having on the company’s future? 

The IT and Security teams are having an impact on both the top line revenue growth and the bottom line expense management by providing the technology to scale our business. My team is responsible for building / implementing tools that enable and support our management systems for orders, transportation, warehouse, loan underwriting, insurance and customer care.

Our goal is to scale and automate our foundational systems and optimize our tech stack to enable the growth of our three pillars:  FBN Direct®, FBN® Finance and FBN Functions. We continue to improve the IT support model so that it delivers an amazing tech experience and helps achieve our vision. Similarly, we continue to improve our cybersecurity posture so that our systems, our data and our people are secure and protected. And we do all this to build a world-class IT organization that is well-equipped to serve the 21st century farmers. 

How does FBN’s mission come to life in your day-to-day work? How does your work positively impact farmers? 

In a prior life, I learned that happy and engaged employees build amazing products for customers. That leads to delighted customers which in turn leads to building a strong and lasting business. By providing appropriate tools and technology, the IT team empowers and assists all the FBN employees in creating the best products for the farmers. 

Additionally, within the IT team, whether we build the best order fulfillment process, the fastest delivery to the farm, the easiest way to capture loan and insurance documentation or provide the most delightful customer care experience, in every project that we undertake, we strive to benefit farmers in line with our company’s mission and vision. 

We know you have a life outside of work - what kinds of things do you do for fun? 

Whether it’s for work or for leisure, I love to travel, experience new places, cultures and vegetarian food options. I am also an avid photographer, having worked with both film and digital medium. During the pandemic, I took an interest in mixology with different kinds of spirits and (self bragging here) can make a mean Cucumber, Jalapeno, Mint Gin & Tonic. My guilty pleasure is to enjoy stand up comedy either live or on Netflix.

What’s one piece of advice you would give to someone considering FBN

We are one of the best kept secrets in Ag and Tech. If you have the drive to change the world, disrupt an industry, be a part of something big and help our farmers, come talk to us. In 10-15 years, you’ll reflect back with pride and say “I was part of building that”. 

Want to work for FBN?

Outstanding companies are built by outstanding people. The FBN team goes to work everyday to ensure farmers stay profitable while they feed the world.

Learn more about the open roles available at FBN.

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Lori Corbari

Sep 29, 2023