Pune-based brothers Shardul Sheth and Sitanshu Sheth quit their corporate jobs over five years ago to explore an opportunity within India’s agri-tech sector, specifically focusing upon how technology could improve the lives of farmers.
“We wanted to do something more meaningful with our professional lives. We wanted farmers to earn more, have better yields and experience information at their fingertips through bringing the convenience of mobile commerce to their homes,” said Sitanshu Sheth.
AgroStar is a mobile-commerce platform through which farmers can procure raw material by giving a simple missed call or through the startup’s mobile application, which it launched in June. Already, at least 40,000 farmers in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan are active on the app. For rural Indian farmers, the main hurdles are product unavailability, unfair pricing, substandard quality and a lack of real-time information, all of which AgroStar addresses.
The startup has partnered with more than 150 brands, including multinational companies such as Syngenta to provide raw materials, seeds, fertilisers and other agricultural inputs. Farmers purchase goods at market price and are assured of quality and doorstep delivery services. The company also provides realtime information and assistance through its app to help farmers increase yields. Since its launch, AgroStar has served at least 7,00,000 farmers across Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan.
Ever since its launch in 2012, the company has faced several challenges ranging from generating demand for raw materials, changing the buying behaviour of farmers, handling last-mile delivery to villages and managing supply of goods. “We are using our data analytics system to give the right solution to a farmer based on the crop, local geography and seasonal changes. In addition to this, we are building a marketplace introducing digital products that are easy to use and understand by the farmer,” said Sitanshu Sheth.
According to jury member Kartik Hosanagar, professor at University of Pennsylvania’s The Wharton School, handling distribution, managing supply and bringing awareness among farmers can be extremely challenging. “It is amazing the kind of reach they have with over 1,00,000 farmers transacting on the platform. There is huge potential for technological implementation and growth in this space,” said Hosanagar.
CONTENDERS FOR THE SOCIAL ENTERPRISE AWARD
ThreadSol Software | Manasij Ganguli
The startup addresses the problem of material wastage. ThreadSol helps garment manufacturers know exactly how much fabric is needed for a cut piece, bringing down fabric wastage to 1% from an average 8%. Threadsol, which received seed money from Blume Ventures, has clients in 12 countries.
RubanBridge (a service of Head Held High) | Madan Padaki
RubanBridge helps large firms connect with small entrepreneurs in rural areas. It has run pilots for Amazon to cut delivery time in Karnataka’s Tumakuru district and for EyeNetra to man its eye camps.
Ketto | Varun Sheth
The crowd-funding platform makes rewardbased donations easy and affordable. Ketto enables nonprofits, companies and individuals to run online fundraising campaigns. It has managed at least 10,000 campaigns, raising more than Rs 30 crore from about 1,00,000 donors.
Milaap Social Ventures | Mayukh Choudhury
The online social lending firm’s first product was a crowd-funding platform for people to contribute to projects in rural India. Milaap also helps micro businesses raise loans. The firm has helped disburse more than Rs 80 crore worth of loans.