The world of technology changes fast. Everyday new apps and social networks are created and the world is becoming more inter-connected. Unfortunately, this revolution is not for everyone. Most of the products and services are designed for urban users while consumers at the bottom of the pyramid have completely different needs and they want tailor- made solutions. The story that we are going to tell you today is of Vasudhaika and its founder Raj Vallabaneni, who is helping hundreds of business in rural India.
After a degree in Mysore University, Raj started his career in the US, followed by Italy and Scotland, managing large engineering teams in Google, Microsoft and Honeywell. He also successfully co-founded Rofous, a 2000 people IT services company which was acquired by GLOBALLOGIC and Vidcentum, an R&D company focused on creating customer learning platform. In 2002, while he was working in Microsoft, he decided to start Vasudhaika. “I was born and brought up in rural India. I grew up seeing how majority of the world’s population is bogged down by inefficient processes and tools. It is heartening to see modern science has ample solutions to these problems but there is a big chasm between popular science/technology and simple needs of the people. While working with some of the very best technology companies, I felt business is driving companies to focus on solving and improving lifestyle of the population who already are reaping technology benefits. Whereas, I was always eager to extend the benefits of technology to the grassroots level. This eagerness made me quit my job and start Vasudhaika. We built this venture to help micro and small scale industries, farmers and traders to meet their technology needs. Our first set of products includes automation software for poultry and agriculture commodity processing units,” says Raj.
For the first five years he ran the company from the US where he was working for Microsoft. Post 2008, he decided to move back to India to pursue his passion. “IT is more of a need at the grassroots level. Micro and small industries are bogged down by inefficient processes and systems; for example, a bullock cart is the most expensive transport system today. Traders in remote places are spending $5 a month to receive SMS about prices of one commodity. Right software can really change their lives and as a result bring positive impact to overall economy,” says Raj.
Right now the company has two major products which are the culmination of their thoughts and philosophy: iAgriMarC and Kalgudi. iAgriMarC is an agriculture produce marketing platform, while Kalgudi is a business, social and information platform for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise (MSME). One of the best aspects of Vasudhaika is the kind of relationship that they are able to create with their customers. Every product and service that they create is not made based on their assumptions, but on an important process of customer understanding. iAgriMarC is an example of this philosophy which has helped them reach 100,000 customers. “We have travelled extensively in rural areas. After interacting with many farmers we realised that they really look forward to help in getting fair price for their produce, help in receiving right information at the right time and help in access to infrastructure like warehouses/storages/transportation. And that’s where we focused. Keeping in mind the limited usage of internet/computer by farmers, we have developed an innovative system that speaks to farmers about the prices and other information they really need. iAgriMarC handles millions of agriculture commodity transactions in rural Karnataka,” says Raj with pride.
Kalgudi platform was created through a similar process. In their opinion, farmers or MSME need four main things. The first one is the right information and for this they have a content system that delivers specific, targeted and precise information delivered real time. This helps their customers take the right decisions.
The second thing is connections. Most MSMEs usually maintain their partners/suppliers/customer’s contacts in their mobiles. This is very inefficient in terms of reaching out with potential trade. Also, it becomes virtually impossible to run micro campaigns and reaching out to larger groups with custom offers. That’s why they built this platform that helps in effectively using a trusted partner/supplier/customer/related network.
Third, MSME needs to maintain their books of accounts, as governed by local laws. Today’s standalone accounting software is an overkill for their needs and it also expects professional accounting knowledge. Kalgudi has DIY (do it yourself) accounting built in which needs virtually no special entries. This also provides access to auditors enabling easy statutory submissions.
Lastly, MSMEs have to follow statutory norms and workflows that needs to be customised, simplified and more importantly integrated with content, connects and accounts. These workflows abstract the nuances of statutory framework and helps MSME to focus on business. For example, a cotton trader can start exporting very easily using Kalgudi as opposed to trying to figure out what all needs to be done for exporting. “Effectively, Kalgudi brings best of everything that today’s technology can potentially offer to MSME,” adds Raj.
Vasudhaika is a social enterprise, which is bringing change to the grassroots and this wouldn’t be possible without the expertise of Raj. “I had a lot of learning during my entrepreneurial journey and I think it is important to know what not to do as a leader and to learn to appreciate failures,” says Raj. As an expert founder does he have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs? “Don’t be afraid. Get out there and start as soon as possible! You will for sure face a lot of challenges, but don’t give up: honesty and hard work always pays.”