Conventionally, for stock procurement, a fruit retailer has to travel to wholesale markets or mandis to buy fruits which may or may not be within the same city. This involves scanning various markets, hundreds of shops, negotiating prices, managing handling and managing logistics, all by themselves. This process is very cumbersome, time consuming, and repetitive - once or twice a week, or even daily, in many cases. Also, the nearby markets do not necessarily have all the varieties of fruits that today’s consumers are demanding.
SaralMarket aims to ease the stock selection and procurement process for retailers in unorganized business domains, using technology. Now, at the initial stages, they have started with fruits, but will expand to other products as well.
Deepam Prithyani, the founder of SaralMarket says, “We scan the complete wholesale fruit market of Mumbai early morning, everyday, and share photos of the fruits with their pricing and packaging details with the customers. They then place their orders over the phone. We purchase on behalf of all those customers ensuring expert picking, pack it, and ship it to them. No inventory is stocked. Talking about the technology that we use to interact with the customers, we use WhatsApp as the front-end, and thus we have not invested time in building it in-house for now.”
Deepam has an IT background and worked with Accenture as a Software Engineer; he was also a participant at a TiE Bootcamp. While talking about his motivation to start SaralMarket, Deepam recalls, “I am a Sindhi and was born and brought up in a small city called Gondia. Many of my relatives and family friends are businessmen in unorganized business domains. I have been seeing them travelling to wholesale markets for making purchases for years, and have always wondered whether why they cannot select and order stock as easily as a television retailer? This was the genesis of SaralMarket.”
Deepam adds, “The journey of SaralMarket has been exhilarating and encouraging. Initially the team researched the market thoroughly. Considering the fact that more than 65% of India’s imported fruits originate from Mumbai, we focused on only imported fruits. Post research, the first task was to validate if we could bypass the ‘touch and feel’ buying behaviour by using technology. With revenues amounting to over Rs.4 lacs in the first 30 days, the signs are very encouraging. Currently, we have customers in 8 cities.”
Saralmarket is now bootstrapped and planning to expand its team, mainly for sales and operations.
Regarding its USP and competition, Deepam adds, “We cover all varieties of imported fruits, except apples, and some local fruits which are not available everywhere and are well packed. This has helped us acquire a healthy customer base in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities. In fact, our highest selling fruit is Mangosteen from Thailand, which is one of the most famous exotic fruits in the world, but not easily available everywhere in India. We compete with wholesalers nearest to our customers.”
Unlike vegetables, every fruit is associated with a region, be it local or imported. Like the Alphonso mango of Ratnagiri is famous, so is the litchi from Bengal and Dragon Fruit from Vietnam. The production and demand have increased, but the supply chain and packaging have not yet evolved to acceptable levels. This fact, along with the dynamic surge in pricing, leads to a lot of fruit going unsold even when fresh.
Just two weeks ago a couple of containers of imported Dragon Fruit had to be thrown into the garbage in Mumbai, since it did not reach the consumers while the fruits were still fresh - even though, in various regions of the country, there was good demand for Dragon Fruit. Generally, consumers demand a wide variety of fruits, but sadly the fruits do not reach them in time.
There is another aspect which plays a key role - the presence of a large number of middlemen in the supply chain increases the cost. Ultimately, the end consumer has to bear the cost of additional middlemen, additional logistics, and damage in transit. As of now a farmer sells a Watermelon for less than ten rupees, but the consumer ends up paying forty rupees.
Deepam believes that this whole system can be made efficient by using technology. Data driven demand predictions, scientific grading of fruits and predicting their shelf life, research on better storage mechanisms, superior order fulfilment mechanisms, and minimizing middlemen are the way forward.
As far as the future plans are concerned, SaralMarket wants to maintain the momentum that is there in the market. Deepam adds, “The more we scale, the more we can go backwards in the chain, and offer retailers fresher stock at better prices. We have already done this in the exotic fruits category, where we have built relationships with importers. Today, nobody can provide fruit retailers the best quality Mangosteen at a better price than us, anywhere in India. Also, we will soon begin technology development for the front end, based on the data points we have been collecting, in order to cater to such a dynamic marketplace.”
SaralMarket is planning to expand their team while focusing on region-wise growth - this will improve both their logistics and delivery.
For more information check http://www.saralmarket.com/