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Why This Former Best Buy Executive is Today the Star of Indian Agriculture The most well capitalized agri start-up in India, AgroStar has leveraged technology in the best possible way.

By Sandeep Soni

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SHARDUL SHETH (39), CO-FOUNDER AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, AGROSTAR

Started as a manufacturer of organic fertilizers in 2010, AgroStar founded by Shardul Sheth - former executive at consumer electronics giant Best Buy - pivoted to mobile commerce to deliver end-to-end technology solutions directly to farmers for quality farming and agri products simply via a missed call. The most well capitalized agri start-up in India, AgroStar has leveraged technology in the best possible way. "For instance, we have digitized a lot of agronomy based queries coming from farmers and used analytics to identify top 80 per cent of farmer's crop specific problems. Through app and over calls, we deliver solutions to the farmers which reduce cost and increase yields," he says.

Doorstep delivery of goods to farmers via traditional channels takes more than a week which might be detrimental in cases like crop disease and pest problem. Sheth along with his brother Sitanshu Sheth (Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer) built a last mile delivery platform grounds up where they on-boarded local entrepreneurs to make village level deliveries in their preferred taluka. This reduces the delivery period for critical crop protection products to two-four days.

The most critical issue faced by farmers is accurately identifying a problem that affects their crop and getting an accurate cure. Usually they rely on local and often biased suggestions. Through AgroStar mobile app's built-in image recognition technology the farmers can uploade the picture of the infected crop and disease. The solution is crowdsourced through other progressive farmers and panel of agri-experts. Understanding the pulse of the customer, however, is probably the biggest challenge for Sheth. "Farmers don't live amongst us. So their day-to-day lives are different than us living in urban areas. Building a solution that farmers' trust is a huge challenge. This takes time," he adds. Nonetheless, AgroStar has a loyal and growing customer base.

SOWING SCALE

LAUNCH: April 2013 in Pune

NO. OF MONTHLY APP DOWNLOADS: 250,000

HEADCOUNT: ~300

TOTAL INVESTMENT: $15m

Sandeep Soni

Former Features Editor

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