Working in a city away from one's hometown has become a norm in today's competitive world. But, in the midst of a busy schedule, one thing which always makes a person homesick is the thought of food and family. Thirty-one-year-old Rohan Kulkarni has travelled to different places in his seven years of corporate life and that experience made him realise that although one cannot quickly overcome the pain of being away from one's family and home food, one can enjoy fresh fruit and vegetables anywhere.
With this very thought, Rohan launched Freshboxx Ventures in September 2015 in Hubli, Karnataka. He selected Hubli as he had grown up in this city and competition like Bigbasket, Grofers and PepperTap have almost captured the metro cities. Rohan believes that Hubli is going to be the next big market with Infosys and other IT companies setting up their campuses there.
Rohan says, “Eating fruits and vegetables with harmful pesticides can cause deadly diseases like cancer.”
Therefore, his two-month-old startup delivers farm-fresh, organic, chemical-free and refrigerator-packed fruits and vegetables at customers' doorstep. Customers can place orders via the venture's customer care number or through its website.
Rohan has an MBA from Chanakya Institute of Management and has worked across various insurance companies and broking industry, his last stint being at MCX Stock Exchange Ltd.
Freshboxx receives orders from the end-customers right until Friday and forwards them to farmers. Then the startup's vehicles collect the fruits and vegetables from the farmers on Saturday morning (normally the vegetables are cut early in the morning). Once the produce reaches Freshboxx’s premises, its staff starts processing the vegetables and fruits by weighing, washing, sieving and cutting of the produce.
Feshboxx stores the items in the company's backyard, as currently it does not have the bandwidth to build a warehouse. The startup is looking to raise funds for this purpose.
Freshboxx, in association with University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad, trains and enables farmers to adopt the latest farming methods to augment productivity. The startup is working with around 24 farmers but this number will eventually go up, depending on the size of orders it receives in future. Rohan says it is difficult for them to evaluate the requirement as the number of orders varies day to day. If the company is not able to sell the entire stock, it intends to sell the items to open market vendors.
We hear of farmer suicides increasing as the price rise at the consumer end is not reaching them, with the middlemen making money by creating artificial demand and supply. We are trying to give base minimum price to farmer and give buyback assurance once the customer base grows,” says Rohan.
Freshboxx Ventures uses Ozone technology to remove chemicals and pesticides in fruits and vegetables. In this technology, fruits and vegetables are placed in ozone-infused water. The ozone, being a very powerful oxidising agent, destroys bacteria and pesticides on the surface of the fruits and vegetables
Freshboxx Ventures launched with a seed capital of Rs 3 lakh. Rohan had struggled to find a co-founder and an efficient workforce who could work with him shoulder to shoulder in this process-intensive business.
Currently, Freshboxx has a team of seven members. One takes care of the billing procedure, another looks after the order processing and the rest work with the labour staff for cleaning and packaging. He is yet to find a co-founder.
Within a span of 45 days, we have seen a growth of 100 per cent week-on-week with an acquisition of 120 customers in Hubli. Currently, we are receiving 400 orders per month.
As the company matures, it will expand to Dharwad, Belgaum and Goa through a franchise model. By the next fiscal year, the company intends to increase the number of customers to 4,000 with an average ticket size of Rs 1,200. In terms of revenue, it is expecting to touch Rs 5.76 crore.
As a part of its expansion plans, the startup is in the process of starting organic groceries in the coming financial year with specialised homemade products like papad, pickles, masalas in organic and hygienic form.
Recently, Freshboxx Ventures won an award at Sandbox Startup Challenge, organised by Deshpande Foundation. Among the 72 participants, Freshboxx Ventures won seed fund of Rs 1 lakh.
The agriculture sector in India in the coming years will witness a plethora of innovations backed by disruptive startups in this space. To give an overview, here are a couple of instances: Anubal Agro helps farmers go organic by providing free seeds, bio inputs and consultancy. Save Indian Grain.org is dedicated to developing modern grain-storage solutions, subsistence marketplaces, agri stakeholders and cluster maps for small and marginal farmers in India. DestaMart.com serves as a vehicle to bring together qualified and validated suppliers and agri-stores (dealers) to increase the efficiency of the agri-input supply chain.
In May this year, Mahindra Agri Business signed a product licence agreement with Bangalore-based startup Sea6 Energy to market and distribute its crop yield enhancement product Jingo.
According to a report of India Brand Equity Foundation, agriculture and allied sectors grew by 1.9 per cent year on year and contributed 14.2 per cent of Gross Value Added. Over 58 per cent of rural households consider farming as their primary mode of livelihood. Considering the importance of agriculture, startups can play a very important role in making farming more efficient in and improving lives of farmers considerably.