This Agritech Is Keeping Up With the Changing Contours Of Indian Agriculture

DeHaat has been successful in building the largest digitized, end-to-end network to help transform agriculture by improving yields and farmer income at affordable rates through its 'phygital' go-to-market strategy adopted to bring change in the farming industry

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Agriculture is the primary source of livelihood for about 58 per cent of India’s population, according to the Indian Agriculture and Allied Industries Report 2019. However, the sector continues to battle problems like inefficient farming practices, traditional mindsets, overuse of pesticides, among others.

DeHaat

Technology can change the game for Indian farmers. But adoption of technology solutions is a key bottleneck. This is where technology solutions that are simple and compatible with the farming practices become the key.

Given this context, DeHaat has built a simple technology solution platform for farmers that aims to not only improve their productivity but also improve the value chain of agriculture in India.

DeHaat is a three-sixty-degree, technology-based, business to farmers (B2F) platform that was founded in 2012. The company offers full-stack agricultural services to farmers, including distribution of high-quality agricultural inputs, customized farm advisory, access to financial services, and market linkage to sell produce.

“The central idea behind DeHaat has always been to resolve issues within the Indian farming ecosystem with modern technology by bringing together the entire basket list of agricultural value chain offerings under a unified umbrella,” said Shashank Kumar, co-founder and chief executive officer, DeHaat while sharing with Entrepreneur India.

They have currently built a rural retail network of more than 3000 DeHaat micro-entrepreneurs for last-mile delivery as well as aggregation, serving more than 650,000 farmers. DeHaat has been successful in building the largest digitized, end-to-end network to help transform agriculture by improving yields and farmer income at affordable rates through its ‘phygital’ go-to-market strategy adopted to bring change in the farming industry, the company claims.

Kumar believes that without a doubt, the Indian farmer is at the core of everything that they do at DeHaat. Agriculture accounts for over 15 per cent of the national economy, implying a $350 billion market. However, the irony is that, despite its size, the industry is riddled with inefficiencies. It shocking that an average Indian farmer earns between INR 70,000 and INR 80,000 per year, and this is the money with which an entire family needs to be sustained.

At DeHaat, they aim to uplift the farmer community by assisting them and effectively resolving issues that crop up at every stage of the value chain. Their goal is to address all agricultural concerns under one roof. That is why they refer to themselves as a 'one-stop solution for farmers,' a full-stack platform dubbed ‘beej se bazaar tak’.

Though they started in 2012, their first round of institutional funding took place in March of 2019 which was for $4 million. Since then, they have had two more rounds of funding, and are currently at its Series D round where they have raised $115 million. They have raised a total of $161 million from marquee investors in the last 32 months and have experienced phenomenal growth margins. They have been able to raise this round within nine months of the last round and have also completed two strategic acquisitions for inorganic growth along the line.

As of now, the company’s geographical expanse ranges across seven Indian states, of which Bihar, Orissa, Jharkhand, UP, and West Bengal are states where they already carry a very strong presence. Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan are two states that they have added to their roster over the last six months.

“We are aiming to grow our farmer footprints further to all major agricultural clusters of India, including Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Chhattisgarh, as well as to penetrate deeper into our existing network suites in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. In the next 18 months, we hope to go from having upwards of 650,000 farmers in our network to engaging with a network that is 2 million strong. Simultaneously, we will also focus on growing our community of micro-entrepreneurs from 3000 to 12000 individuals and businesses,” he shared.

According to Kumar, agritech is booming in India, and DeHaat is one of the only companies providing an end-to-end solution for the country's farmers. There are upwards of 250 agritech startups operating in India, currently, which is a great sign and the sector is getting great traction in terms of operating scale as well as investment from all types of investors. This was a long time coming, as the business opportunity, and a more than favorable market size was so glaringly present. India is projected to as much as double its farm income by 2022, fuelled by rising demands, the intervention of modern technology, changes in food consumption habits, and a need to respond to environmental change. Increased investment in agricultural infrastructures such as irrigation facilities, warehousing, cold storage, and agritech companies have played a significant role in revolutionizing the sector. 

The company claims to be currently at a very exciting stage of its growth trajectory. In the last seven months alone, they have been able to create fivefold growth. They are very bullish about the road ahead and are well poised to replicate this success in all major agricultural clusters of India in the next 12-15 months. The first avenue they are looking at exploring in the coming phase is expanding their network beyond the 7 states that they currently occupy. Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Chhattisgarh, are some of the major clusters they will focus on with respect to creating warehouses, onboarding farmers and micro-entrepreneurs as well as setting up specialized DeHaat assistance centres and stores.

Secondly, they will also be working on improving their technological capabilities further in providing better acumen in terms of providing counsel, fin-serve or marketplace connectivity etc., as well as enabling complete transparency to everyone within their community.  In addition, they are also working on adding touchpoints to their list of services as a means to their end goal of housing everything within the agricultural value chain under one roof. This would include strengthening their existing services as well as including more relevant services such as mechanization, animal husbandry, etc., under their wing.