Agriculture is considered to be one of the diciest sectors to invest in, reasons being that its dependant on uncontrollable factors likes fluctuating weather, ignorance of farmers and regressive topographical conditions. But to our pleasant surprise, this fund promises to break those inhibitions and engage in ‘seed investing’ in startups that are working on formulating disruptive technology in this agritech space.
Ankur Capital is looking for innovative business models that can address core challenges in agriculture, healthcare, skill development and education. Entrepreneur India spoke to Ritu Verma, co-founder, Managing Partner at Ankur Capital on what lies ahead for this sector
Talking about its domain focus Ritu said the fund focuses on people who are not necessarily middle-income but much lower than that. The fund is also focussed on sectors health, education and technology, apart from agriculture.
Dealing with a risky sector like agritech
Agriculture has the traditional risks of having issues of government intervention, weather and other things. “Of course there are risks, we don’t look at farmers as something to invest in. We are looking at things in either pre-harvest or post-harvest and technology led which is working there. And why today this is possible is because of the changing consumption patterns in India across various levels of the society and the demand that we have globally from the supply chain. This is eventually forcing things like agritech and other types of technology to actually get adopted because the customer is asking for it,” Ritu said.
Ankur Capital’s investments include startups like Cropin – amalgamating cloud technology with farms, Suma Agro – soil conditioner manufacturer, Skillveri – trains industry workers with VR, Karma Healthcare and more.
Do we have a Flipkart or a Freshdesk in agritech? Why not?
“When asked about why agritech startups aren’t reaching to the unicorn level in India Ritu said, “ There are lots of things to think about. If you want to talk about GMVs of the sales that happen or the size of the market in agriculture, it’s a completely different ball game compared to consumer durables or other things. The grocery side of the business with companies like Big Basket are also going deep into the supply chain model. Today it has not happened but the opportunity really exists for it to happen,” Ritu said.
However she said that it’s not the same case as other unicorns in the market because unless food starts getting branded because even today people are used to assessing food on their own. “Until you start differentiating food technologically from type A to Type B; once you bring in that differentiation it will happen faster,” she adds citing the example of Washington Apples.
Ritu has a worked at corporate houses like Unilever and Philips and has also worked globally investing in IP led renewable technologies.
Innovation using technology to combat water crisis
Developing innovative agricultural practices using minimum water is the need of the hour. According to Ritu the challenge for most of these businesses has been that water is not a prized commodity in India. “There is a challenge in getting somebody to accept why somebody should be saving water. We also grow crops without understanding whether they are suited for a certain environment,” she says.
Ritu agreed to the fact that water is going to be a hugly important problem going forward and it will to be a huge problem to get a farmer to accept because today he/she does not pay for it. So one has to find another complementary benefit for the farmer to conserve water, she said.
Ankur Capital is open to funding startups pan India and deploys anywhere between INR 50 lakhs and 4 crores.