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Shashank Kumar: The Agri Revolutionary Contrary to popular belief, coming from small town has proved to be advantageous for Shashank Kumar, Co-founder & CEO, DeHaat, a technology-based business to farmers (B2F) agritech platform. However, he feels challenges to grow the business has changed over the years.

By Priya Kapoor

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Shashank Kumar, Co-founder, DeHaat

DeHaat, a technology-based business to farmers (B2F) agritech platform, came into existence at a time when nobody historically ever tried building a full stack model for farmers & that too in a crop agnostic manner. "Our learning curve was quite slow due to broken last mile & under penetration of mobile & internet. Acceptance of an alternative & parallel model of distribution / aggregation from agri industry was also quite suboptimal during early days," says Shashank Kumar, Co-founder and CEO, DeHaat.

"While we were still figuring out the right model while implementing a number of pilot projects with farmers in Bihar, our core team was all set to work for the farmers & change the landscape of the agri industry with a digital plus physical model. It took us six years to reach to product market fit. A long gestation was already known to us. Hence we used initial years to develop our understanding about multiple crops, region, building crop pest database & right tech interfaces to support accelerated growth in future. Over time, DeHaat has evolved as a model, today offering end-to-end agri value chain services to Indian farmers, right from "Seeds to Market". The company has achieved exponential growth over the last few years," says Kumar.

Besides serving over 2 million farmers through a network of 12,000+ DeHaat micro entrepreneurs through digital interface & creation of footprints in 110,000+ Indian villages, it also onboarded 2000+ unique agribusiness companies across agri input, agri output, warehousing players, bank, insurance players which are transacting with the last mile network of DeHaat. It also scaled up annual business growth by 60x over the last 4 years, and raised USD 207 Mn in last 3 years. Not only it provides full stack service offerings to 11 agricultural states including UP, MP, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Haryana and Chhattisgarh, it has also seen exponential growth in exports too.

"Our exports penetration has spread across 10+ countries including the UK, Europe, Russia, Middle East & Thailand. The move not only allowed DeHaat to offer high quality Indian produce to the world but also provide Indian farmers access to international markets and get better price realization," says Kumar who had a strategy consulting stint post his graduation from IIT Delhi in 2008.

Contrary to popular belief, coming from small town proved to be advantageous for Kumar, "The farmer's side was already familiar to me since I came from a family of small landholding farmers. Being from rural area helped with default comfort of visiting villages & living with farmers. That's how our first 5-6 years were utilised to building the models."

Kumar feels challenges to grow business has changed over the years, "When DeHaat started in 2012, we were the trend setters in the industry with no footsteps to follow. At that time, our biggest challenge came in getting farmers to adopt to farming practices that were vocalized by us and backed by technology. The next big challenge came around getting corporate buyers & large scale agri-input companies to take interest in solving this problem. Since the scale back then was so small, it was difficult for us to persuade them to think in the direction of digitization and last mile linkage," he adds.

The third challenge was about generating investor interest in the space, tells Kumar. "Since the internet penetration, a key pillar in driving digitization, was low, the path towards technology adoption was always seen as a challenge. But with the rapid adoption of smartphones aided by low internet costs, the percolation of technology and acceptance of new age agricultural practices also saw a big jump. This presented the entire agritech industry in a new light to the investor community and DeHaat, being the largest agritech player in the country both by revenue and growth became the largest beneficiary."

Needless to say, DeHaat has overcomed these challenges well. In the last three years, it has raised USD 207 million, while scaling up the model to 11 rich agricultural states including Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Haryana & Chhattisgarh.

It has also successfully closed five M&A deals to onboard bunch of agritech entreprenenurs for a large mission as well as to integrate value added business such as Export & Food processing. And today, DeHaat, has evolved as a one stop destination for Indian farmers for their 360-degree agri needs, and aims to serve & empower more than 5 million Indian farmers towards global food safety & security by 2025.

FACTSHEET

Year of inception of the company: 2012

Turnover for FY 2022-23: INR 2000Cr +

No. of employees: 1800+

Registered Office: Patna, Bihar

Priya Kapoor

Former Feature Editor

Priya holds more than a decade of experience in journalism. She has worked on various beats and was chosen as a Road Safety Fellow in 2018, wherein she produced many in-depth & insightful features on road crashes in India. She writes on startups, personal finance and Web3. Outside of work, she likes gardening, driving and reading. 

 

 

 

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