This Bengaluru-based startup delivers farm fresh produce to your doorstep

By Saniya Raza|13th Oct 2017
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Terraa is advocating healthy eating by delivering high quality, organic, farm fresh fruits and vegetables, straight to your doorstep.

Residents in a fast-paced IT hub like Bengaluru often juggle between hectic jobs and strenuous commutes. With little time for shopping, they resort to purchasing fruits and vegetables from supermarkets that are preserved in cold storage or from local outlets that are exposed to pollution. They thus deny themselves a fresh and healthy diet.

Terraa, founded by Vaideeswaran Sethuraman was born out of the need for heathy options in a daily diet. He wanted to cater to the growing need for fresh fruits and vegetables in an increasingly health-conscious Bengaluru in the most convenient way possible.

A purposeful start

Vaideeswaran (39), grew up in a middle class family and began working at the age of 18 after completing his diploma in electronics and telecommunication. Having worked for a number of startups, he took to entrepreneurship, to help his wife build ‘Divum Corporate Services’ a company she co-founded in 2008.

“Divum CS was inspired by Steve jobs and Apple. We began developing iOS applications for early movers in US/UK/Asia. We developed hundreds of apps before we were recognised by Nokia & Blackberry to assist their ecosystem in India with new-age touch apps. This gave us immense opportunity to focus on the Indian market.” says Vaideeswaran. 

In 2015, Divum CS started their second venture called ‘Divum Labs’ with the primary focus of building a product called ‘Terraa’. It started out as a grocery shopping application that allowed users to shop for groceries from the comfort of their homes. “From the beginning, our motive was to build a sustainable last mile B2C business model. The app, then, had over 4500 items in our store, and we offered our customers a wide range of groceries.”

Today, Terraa has pivoted its business model, with Terraa ‘Farm Fresh’ introduced a year ago, in 2016. This shift from groceries to focus only on fruits and vegetables was a conscious decision, says Vaideeswaran. “We found that there was inefficiency in the supply chain, in the way fresh produce was managed. We discovered the harsh realities of damages caused to food due to cold storage and long transit periods. This thought opened up the opportunity to be a specialised online player on fruits and vegetables.”

“Our other motive was to cater to the health quotient in Bengaluru, and by changing our business model to focus on quality fruits and vegetables, we believe we are contributing to this. We currently work out of Bengaluru, and can safely say that we are catering to about 60 percent of the location. We want to increase this coverage by at least five to 10 percent, before we think of expanding outside the city.”

Benefits all around

By 2016, Terraa claims to have become Bengaluru’s first, truly Farm Fresh e-shop delivering highest quality fruits and vegetables, across the city. For this, it has tied up with farmers in and around Bengaluru. “This not only assures a check on quality but also takes the middleman out of the equation, thus allowing farmers to make higher earnings on their produce. These farmers produce Grade-A fruits and vegetables on their lands. From basics to seasonal to exotic, Terraa sources it all from these farmers.”

Although offline markets will continue to dominate this space, it is inevitable that there will be a good shift to the online segment due to the business evolution in this space says Vaideeswaran. “Our primary aim is to put ‘fruits and veggies on auto-pilot.’ We understand buying fruits and vegetables online is not an interesting activity that the majority would engage in. Therefore, we have simplified the process by introducing a unique subscription model. It pretty much is like scheduling your delivery slot every week with Terraa and users have complete flexibility to add/remove/customise the contents before the delivery.”

Terraa aims to make life easy by offering customisation, starting, pausing and rescheduling of your basket orders for upto 48 hours of delivery. It offers monthly subscriptions to these baskets to make your order process simpler and hassle free. Terra has also recently started the new ‘Office Basket’ for working professionals in its endeavour to create a step towards a healthier working population in Bengaluru.

“The irony is, being an agriculture driven country, the average consumption of fruits is low compared to other countries. Our initiative is to help the community and improve consume healthy fresh produce.”

This is why Terraa has introduced the office basket. With many working professionals used to ordering food when they are late at work, or craving a snack in the evening, the office basket, offers a variety of fruits, easy to eat at a workplace. “Being a healthier option, we have seen it pick up amongst many working people. It's a small way to have a healthy snack, and is affordable.”

Making a difference through challenges

Terraa stands out from its competition in the same market space, because of the quality of fruits and vegetables, sourced them directly from farms at reasonable prices, available for everyone. Not just this, a direct association with farmers allows them to also make higher earnings on their produce and gives the company a better margin.

But all has not been smooth sailing. Bootstrapping farmers relations with a low volume was a challenge to keep up the farm fresh promise, says Vaideeswaran. This was eventually improved with scale. Also, driving loyalty of existing customers towards the new value proposition of quality from the offer driven mindset is a challenge Terraa continues to face as customer retention is driven only by offers and discounts.

Despite these setbacks, Terraa has been able to attract a new customer base with the right value proposition and has also been to source Grade-A high quality fresh produce from farms to consumers with minimal hops in between.

Consumers place orders through the web or mobile, the system at Terraa analyses and prioritises the orders into batches based on optimal delivery cost after which the pickers and packers team in the warehouse gets these batches packed and assigned to delivery boys, available to run for the specific location.

“We have a central warehouse for sourcing and packing and then we have four virtual spokes in Bengaluru to which the orders are clubbed and delivered.”

With this, Terraa and its team of 15 members running a fully automated system of operations has managed to establish themselves as a focused agritech, farm-to-fork company. Its unique and highly customisable membership driven approach has built a loyal customer community purely based on quality-of-product (QoP) and quality-of-services (QoS). Over the past year, Terraa Farm Fresh, has been able to reach out to almost 60 percent of Bengaluru with over 20,000 active users every month.

Striving to make healthy eating a norm

In the past one year, Terraa has constantly evolved itself to up the ante of its customer experience. It has recently introduced a new user interface (UI) for the app and features like a unique subscription option that not only gives a membership towards discounts but also offers extreme customisation options to create baskets of different sizes for different periods ranging from a day to a month. It also allows members to start, pause and reschedule a basket up to 48 hours before delivery.

“We discover farmers through various channels, right from the mandi to online/offline advertisements. Once discovered we carry out a fair amount of relationship building by visiting their farms and understand the process of growing, post-harvest processing and ripening.” shares Vaideeswaran.

Once convinced with the level of quality control, the team works with them to match their demand and supply capabilities and get the farmers onboard. “We share our requirements predicted by the system pretty much 24-48 hours in advance and get commitments for sourcing. Our long-term goal is to ensure we build an efficient supply-chain-management which gives more margin to farmers as well.”

With about a few thousand orders every month in Bengaluru, Terraa sees an immediate opportunity to grow by eight to ten times in a six months’ timeline. Its goal is to establish an operationally profitable model in the city before they can head out to other places.

To achieve the above, Terraa continues to fine tune the automation at their central warehouse to improve efficiency, aims at introducing green-delivery, sourcing automation and reducing wastage at source for farms, while continuing to expand consumer offerings with an increased focus on health.