Merging agricultural practices with technology is a revolutionary trend. This vision has; without a doubt, transformed the lives of farmers and fetched them a better livelihood ever since its amalgamation. Revolving around this trend, Anand Babu initiated the idea of Jayalaxmi Agrotech Pvt. Ltd., a startup that he has molded with his ideas, while setting an example for other entrepreneurs who want to venture in the similar field.
Business models that are at sync with this startup are trending high. In order to understand his methodology utilized for his startup, Entrepreneur interacted with Anand babu, founder of Jayalaxmi Agrotech Pvt Ltd.
How did your venture start? What was the vision behind it?
The Idea of starting my own venture was brewing in my head for quite some time. However, I was waiting for the right time- that right moment!
Although, I wanted to start something in agriculture sector, there was no clarity. After going through literature search, reading a lot of publications and market research, I finally zero downed to “Agri ICT solutions”.
Most of the existing Agri ICT solutions were focusing on market price for few commodities. No one could provide ‘agronomic advisory support from planting to harvesting’ and that’s where I wanted to bring a change.
I spoke about this idea and business model with couple of friends but no one seemed to be interested in agriculture space. When I spoke to Shiva few years back, I realized he was more fascinated than me to do something for farmers. And then, we kick-started our venture within a week!
Why did you choose only agri-tech and not any other sector?
India is an agrarian country with more than 70% of our population directly or indirectly depending on agriculture. However, there is an acute shortage of front-end agriculture experts who can handhold the farmers at field and that is where the problem arises for roughly 120 million families that are involved in agriculture.
Even if we expect one agriculture field staff for every 1000 farming families, India needs around 12 lakh field staff, which is a huge gap to fill. There are hardly any startups venturing into agri-technology space mainly because it is a turbulent space with difficult ecosystem. Despite knowing all the challenges in this sector, we wanted to venture into agri-tech because our major focus was on changing the lives of farmers using technology. Today, our crop specific apps are reaching one new farmer every 5th minute. That is the legacy we want to offer.
Tell us a bit about your education background and if it has played any role in supporting your business idea.
Our farming background helped us a lot more than education. It gave us an ability to think from a farmer’s perspective, while developing solutions for them. My corporate and management exposure in IIM B helped me to think globally and act locally, which I think gelled pretty well with each other.
And is there a story behind the brand name that you have opted for?
Jayalaxmi is my mother’s name whom I lost when I was just 10 years old. She came from one of the modest families, but after getting married she had started working in our farming fields and took overall charge of our farming business. She inspired me to use the farming instincts further, blending them in my startup now.
At which point did you decide that you need to start your own business?
I always wanted to do something of my own, but it took me a decade to come up with the right idea that I could work on. During my second corporate job, I remember an incident wherein, I told my HR head that I would resign within next two years. But they still hired me.
Is your startup self-funded or does it need funding from other sources?
We started with personal savings. After winning Digital India challenge competition, we got incubated at CIIE, IIM Ahmadabad from whom we raised some funds through equity. Recently we got funding from Delhi based social investor. We are thinking of going for second round of funding in early 2017.
What has been the most memorable moment in your entrepreneurial journey so far?
In 2015, when Karnataka government was in the middle of winter session, that was the time agriculture ministers of 15 different states were gathered in Hubli to study APMC model which was successful in Karnataka. I got a call from the senior officials in the agriculture department and I was asked to come to Belgam immediately because they selected our technology and solutions to adopt all across Karnataka.
On the very next day, our app was launched by agriculture minister, secretary agriculture government of India along with state agriculture minister in one of the big fat gala event. Obviously that has been the most memorable day of the journey so far for me. After few days I called the agriculture secretary, who went out of the way to help our social entrepreneurship.
How do you cope up with the business pressure or stress that comes with it?
Stress is not the only problems which startups face. Since, we are a team of four members in the startup, that too in a remote village in Bellary district of Karnataka, it is inevitable to wear multiple hats every day. Apart from taking a stress as founders, we have to take stress as front-end employees, sales men, business consultant and even as accountant at times. We have not found the right way to deal with it maybe, but we are learning and managing.
To be honest with you, the outcome of these stressful days is actually quite amazing. We designed our organization and products to support the domain without much of risk. We had incorporated lean approach in every aspect of our startup. We kept monthly burn rate as low as possible by setting-up our operation from my village instead of setting up the office in any metro city, which kept our financial stress to the minimum.
Secondly we designed our solutions/products cautiously in such a way that it can be managed remotely.This is how Anand Babu came up with a perfect solution for farmers in this tech-savvy era of agriculture. The initiative of Jayalaxmi Agrotech has made a social impact on the practices of farmers to a greater extent.