Meet Balwant Singh, Director, N Buzz Business Solution Pvt Ltd, who begins on a down-to-earth note, true to the nature of seeds that form the crux of his business. “When I started working on the concept of Seedbuzz, I had no idea on what I was supposed to do. I did not know what I was creating. I knew I had to have a portal that will provide information to the seed industry. The vision though was clear; Seedbuzz had to be the knowledge hub for seed industry across the globe.” And, we get talking over the phone, followed by email exchange. Read on.
What was the trigger for your enterprise?
After my return to India, completing my education, I found myself discussing the seed industry with my father, on the way to his work (he works for the seed industry). He raised concerns about the lack of information available for this industry, and time required to find the necessary information, as there was no single source to give comprehensive information about the seed industry. Since I had my education in the technology front, it triggered me to use technology to find a solution to this problem. Here the concept of Seedbuzz was born. As I had no formal education in this field, I decided to spend time in a seed company to understand the culture and the business.
Take us through the journey of development of the enterprise.
My time spent at the seed company helped me realise that unlike the IT sector the seed industry was slow and unorganised. Once I was convinced as to how the seed industry worked, I started my work on developing the website based on this understanding. The website had to sync with the culture of people in the seed industry. It was extremely important that the website could strike a chord with them and they could relate to the website.
Hence, I had to architect a website that would cater to someone who is not familiar with internet, and design the navigation to ensure maximum information is available with minimum effort. After going through several iterations and validations from the industry specialists, Seedbuzz was born. Over the years, the website has gone through many modifications to be what it is now – a website that a seeds-man can relate to.
What were the challenges in execution?
During the initial time, when the website was launched, no one took the site seriously. I had one freelancer working on creating the content for the website. The plan was to fill in content on the website for at least 6 months without expecting many visits. The period went on to extend to 12 months. The validation was having Google and other search engines regularly check the website for new information. The process was tedious and frustrating. I had to take the next step by taking the plunge.
In seed industry, the company heads and professionals meet during seed congress. These are trade shows where most of the networking takes place. I decided to take part by renting a stall. It was in Kaesong, Taiwan. I had great expectations but unfortunately it was a disaster. I had learnt it the hard way that in this industry you need to build trust before building the business. It was back to the drawing board. I thought the strength was the technology and I was wrong.
Rebuilding the strategy to gain trust, meeting people and finding out the problem what is faced by the seed industry became the first step of the process.
In this quest, I met many industry professionals, where I realised that exchange of information in the seed industry was a major challenge and these trade shows were the only platform for the industry professionals to interact and share information. I also realised that it was not important for them that there is a website that provides information but there was a larger need to address their pain points. This is when the concept of Seedbuzz evolved beyond being a knowledge hub to a company that addresses the concerns of the seed industry.
The immediate three areas that came to light in this quest to identify the problem areas were human resource management, inventory management, and the ability of the seed companies to reach out to the right set of audience. Here on, the focus changed to building customised services to cater to the seed industry, and we rolled out services like recruitment to address human resource issues, looking at employment from multiple points of view which includes a person’s ability to fit into the company’s work culture; online seed auction service that would provide unique and credible global platform to trade seeds and help reduce the pressure on maintaining a inventory and market research; and PR and branding to cater to the bottleneck areas in entering new markets and building a brand. Hence, the idea that started off as a knowledge hub evolved into a knowledge portal that also provides customised services to the seed industry.
Now the challenge was reaching out to the seed companies with this new platform. As any new idea, we too faced cynicism about how our services would work against practices being followed for generations; how an online platform could cater to on-field issues. Patience and perseverance were two key factors required to build trust among the seed companies that Seedbuzz had the knowledge and means to help them grow. This involved making personal connections on social media, sharing useful information with them and meeting industry professionals in the sidelines of tradeshows and congress to let them know what we do alongside promotion of these services using various medium. In other words, we had to go in their way to build relations so that they would entrust us with helping their business grow.
Another important aspect of Seedbuzz has been to learn to grab every opportunity to serve the purpose Seedbuzz is meant to. This involves identifying and taking up new challenges of the seed companies impromptu. This approach has not only increased the opportunities to do business but also allowed people to realise that we belong to this industry and understand how it works. From the initial air of cynicism there is now a sense of anticipation that surrounds Seedbuzz. This change in perception has brought Seedbuzz to yet another new beginning- to meet the expectations and make a difference where it matters.
Coming from an agriculture background and having had the privilege to visit many farms across the globe, I have had an insight into what an agricultural produce goes through before it reaches your dinner table. Large scale farming involves the use of many undesirable inputs like fertiliser and pesticides which can be negated when grown in smaller scale. This inspired me to encourage home-gardening and self-sustainable living among the urban class.
9gardens was a concept created to provide a seamless and effortless buying experience for all gardening requirements. The idea was to encourage self-sustainable living and ‘do it yourself’ farming among the urban class. To achieve this, it was important that there exists a platform that provides all that you need to maintain a garden – big or small. 9gardens.com was created to be that one-stop shop that provides all that you need from seed, inputs, accessories to maintain the garden and many more. It is also designed to be a platform that was designed to hand-hold someone who wants to take up gardening but has no idea where to start. The website is designed to be very user-friendly and loaded with information on gardening and delightful picture that would nudge anyone who visits to have a garden of their own.
The idea of home gardening is not new but it is a localised affair within various communities that lacked a standard process. The challenge of 9gardens is to preserve the decentralised nature while bringing in a standardised process. This has encouraged us to continuously learn about how different gardening communities work and shape our website that will act as a platform that serves its purpose with easy and delight. Other challenges include coming up with innovative strategies to reduce the carbon footprints and create a viable model that is sustainable in every sense of the word.
The execution part is in its baby-steps as we are continuously learning and moulding ourselves to achieve the purpose that 9gardens was created. This involves connecting many small-scale industries that cater to the gardening sector in our platform and creating visibility to our website as a one-stop shop for all gardening needs. This is indeed a very challenging and exciting phase for the company.
Your advice to entrepreneurs.
My first thoughts to them would be to take the plunge without fear. There is no right time to start. You decide the right time. Once you have taken the plunge it is important to be extremely focused on the vision but at the same time be ready to iterate your work. Be open-minded and flexible – it’ll help you improvise and evolve. As an entrepreneur, you should be ready to do any work to get your work done and lead from the front. Finally, it is vital that you understand that you can make mistakes and can be right always. If you are able to put in hard work, keep your passion alive like day one and have patience you will emerge a winner!