Regardless of which part of India one lives in or the cuisine, fresh fruits and vegetables are an integral part of the Indian diet — even for those who can’t live without meat. It’s something every Indian household keeps a track of and no matter the frequency, each home will replenish its stock of fresh produce, whether that is a modern supermarket, the weekly farmer’s market, kirana stores, or in the case of many Indians, the ‘sabzi-wale bhaiya’. In cities and larger towns, veggies and fruits can easily be delivered to the doorstep these days using one of many online grocery platforms. But how often do customers wonder about the food supply chain that brings this fresh agricultural produce to the market?
The ease with which consumers can source the produce often makes them forget the meticulous planning, preparation, and hard work that goes into the production, distribution and food supply chain — from the farm to the fridge.
It’s particularly tough on farmers, who not only have to overcome natural calamities and climate to produce grains, fruits and vegetables, but also have to see their margins wither away at each stage of the supply chain thanks to payments to middlemen and agents.
In the end, farmers end up getting less than cost and have to rely on land-linked loans to survive. Factors such as limited connectivity, inadequate storage infrastructure and supply-demand mismatch also lead to post-harvest losses, thereby gravely impacting farmland income as well as morale. This cycle has pushed many Indian farmers to the brink of bankruptcy and some to suicide.
Bengaluru-based Ninjacart discovered a lucrative business opportunity in fixing this flawed supply chain. It leveraged technology to build a reliable and cost-effective supply chain to deliver quality produce directly from the farm to store, on a daily basis. This business model worked like a charm for the company which is now reportedly valued at over $320 Mn.
“We found a great business opportunity in leveraging technology to build a reliable and cost-effective supply chain from the farm to store, on a daily basis. We wanted to add value to farmers, retailers and end consumers in one go,” Thirukumaran Nagarajan, cofounder and CEO, NinjaCart.
According to an OECD report, among agricultural products, the highest post-harvest losses in India are registered for fruit and vegetables — ranging from 4% to 16% of total output in 2015, depending on the state.
On the other end, retailers also have to tackle their share of issues, ranging from exhausting procurement processes, poor quality management and hygiene, assortment, pricing, and lack of customer understanding. For something as indispensable as vegetables and fruits, the supply chain ought to be more streamlined and efficient.