Farming 3.0: India’s Mission Agritech
Once least favoured, agritech is today betted as one of the most resilient sectors. The pandemic has further pushed farmers to leverage technology offered by the startups in the space, thereby making the sector a hotspot of investments. Is India’s agritech on the brink of a permanent transformation or the newly-found success a passing cloud? This playbook explores!
India has more than 100 Mn farmers who are still struggling to access essential services such as agri-finance, the supply of agri inputs like seeds, fertilisers and farm equipment, and easy market access, mostly provided by agricultural value chains. On the other hand, several agribusinesses are unable to sell their inputs directly to farmers or procure farm produce from them without going through multiple agents due to a complex, multilayer supply chain. The lack of market access is one of the key reasons why farmers, who constitute 60% of the Indian population and contribute nearly 18% to the country’s GDP, are still miles away from ‘sustainable agriculture’.
Shashank Kumar, cofounder and CEO of DeHaat (registered as Green Agrevolution) who hails from a farmer’s family, had been exposed to these business gaps all too often when he was growing up. And the outcomes deeply disturbed him. After graduating from IIT-Delhi, he joined a management consulting firm where he worked in the supply chain space. But after some time, Kumar decided to leverage his knowledge of technology and supply chain to mend and strengthen a broken format.
So, DeHaat was built in 2012 in a bid to offer full-stack agricultural services.
It did not remain a solo venture for long. Kumar was joined by other founding members, Shyam Sundar Singh (executive director), Amrendra Singh (director, input services), Adarsh Srivastava (director, fruits and vegetables) and Abhishek Dokania (director, output operations). They all had one common goal: They wanted to streamline the fragmented agricultural inputs channels (read retail shops and co-operatives); bring to farmer quality agri-inputs such as seeds, fertilisers, crop protection chemicals and equipment, at a reasonable price; provide market access to them; act as advisors and offer multiple services as the company grew.