Village Commerce Startup 1Bridge Raises $2.5 Mn Funding

With this investment, the company aims to expand the network, strengthen its technology and data capabilities, roll out 1Bridge Experience Zones at the taluka level and expand its partnerships for last-mile supply chain and distribution, while pursuing profitable growth

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Building on the momentum generated through the COVID-19 pandemic with positive tailwinds for the village-tech sector in India, Bengaluru-based village-tech enterprise RubanBridge Pvt. Ltd (1Bridge), a last-mile supply chain and distribution network focussed on the villages in rural India, announced on Tuesday that it has raised $2.5 million in a fresh round of funding.

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The funding was led by Netherlands-based impact investor C4D Partners, an early investor for the last four years. The funding round also included participation from new investors such as KAAJ Ventures (venture fund of Silicon Valley-based serial entrepreneur and prolific angel investor BV Jagadeesh), angel investors like Prashanth Prakash, founding partner, Accel Partners; Puneet Jetli, technopreneur and co-founder, Happiest Minds and Aradhana D Chatterjee, a seasoned PE/VC executive. Existing angel investor Prashanth Boccasam, a US-based serial tech-entrepreneur, and investor also participated in this round with a significant investment. C4D Partners and Prashanth Boccasam also acquired the additional stake through a secondary transaction, providing an exit to a few early shareholders.

“We thank our investors for believing in 1Bridge’s vision of bridging aspirations, creating opportunities, ushering abundance to Rural India. With this investment, we aim to expand the network, strengthen our technology and data capabilities, roll-out 1Bridge Experience Zones at the Taluk-level and expand our partnerships for last-mile supply chain & distribution – while pursuing profitable growth,” said social entrepreneur and founder and chief executive officer, Madan Padaki, 1Bridge.

In addition to this, 1Bridge has also raised its maiden working capital facility from Ananya Finance for Inclusive Growth, an Ahmedabad-based non-banking financial company (NBFC) that reaches out to a large section of microfinance institutions (MFIs) and grassroots entities.

“We have been actively participating in the evolution of 1Bridge – almost since its inception back in 2016, to now a leader in village commerce. The foundations of the company are built with a strong emphasis on rural consumer experience, assisted commerce platform, terrific execution capabilities, and a focus on being capital efficient. We are delighted to continue supporting the team as they embark on their next stage of scale and impact,” shared Arvind Agarwal, chief executive officer, C4D Partners.

“With 1Bridge’s presence in thousands of villages through its entrepreneur network and technology platform, it is uniquely positioned to understand the needs and aspirations of rural India through the data they generate. I am excited to continue working closely with the team to generate insights that can truly transform access, choice, and convenience for our villages,” noted angel investor, Prashanth Boccasam.

With this round of funding, 1Bridge is robustly positioned to pursue its growth plans over the next 18 months, to deepen its reach as a supply chain and distribution network across another 10,000 villages by adding 10,000 more entrepreneurs; roll out over 500 ‘1Bridge Experience Centres’ at various Tehsil/Block towns that will enable consumers to touch and feel aspirational products; expand its product and service offerings through strategic partnerships with consumer durables brands and fintech/credit companies who are looking to expand their reach in rural hinterlands, and strengthen its technology and data platform to make it more convenient for their ‘1Bridge Advisors’ or local micro-entrepreneurs to offer rural outreach and assisted commerce services.

 “With over 700 million citizens residing in the villages of India, it is surprising that very few startups have focussed on building a sustainable village commerce model. 1Bridge is a pioneer in this space and I am very impressed with the progress made over the last few years in unlocking this abundance at the bottom of the pyramid. I am excited to work with the team in scaling this model in a profitable way while delivering a significant impact on the lives of our villagers,” stated BV Jagadeesh, managing partner, KAAJ Ventures.

Launched in May 2016, 1Bridge is a village commerce platform that provides a wide range of aspirational products and digital services at the doorsteps of village consumers. It works with local rural entrepreneurs or ‘1Bridge Advisors’ to help deliver these products and fulfill services through an intuitive mobile-based tech platform.

“Last-mile supply chain and distribution is still a huge unsolved problem for rural India. I am excited to support 1Bridge as it cracks the code of building an efficient technology-led supply chain into our villages,” explained Puneet Jetli, angel investor and co-founder and former chief executive officer, Digital Business, Happiest Minds.

Over the last 4 years, 1Bridge has grown steadily with over 75 per cent year-on-year (y-o-y) growth and has grossed revenue of over INR 52 crore in fiscal year (FY)21 and looking to cross INR 100 crore in FY22. 1Bridge has turned EBIDTA positive in FY21 and has been capital efficient (with a cumulative raise of $ 1.5 million) as it has built a presence in more than 70 districts of Southern India and is presently operational in states like Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, and Odisha.

“Much like our motto, we believe in ‘going beyond finance’, with an urge and ability to serve socially motivated double bottom line enterprises. Having observed 1Bridge’s trajectory over the past few years, we are glad to be aligned with its vision for Rural India over the coming years and hope to transform it together,” added Gaurav Gupta, managing director, Ananya Finance for Inclusive Growth.

To date, 1Bridge has onboarded over 10,000 strong networks of entrepreneurs, fulfilled 35 million transactions for rural consumers, and served 1.5 million village consumers directly.