Startup Bharat: How Indore based ‘network as a service’ startup helps cos access last-mile data

Anaxee is helping companies and brands connect with Bharat. Its network of ‘digital runners’ go door to door in remote rural and semi-urban areas to get last mile data for clients, bridging the digital divide.
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In July this year, Project Swaraksha, an initiative of Anaxee Digital Runners, received a commitment of $1 million from United Way of Bengaluru (UWBe). The project is aimed at resolving COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy among the rural population. 

 

Project Swaraksha, launched on 22 May 2021 expects to deploy over 20,000 digital runners to help people in rural and semi-urban areas access CoWin app and find the nearest vaccination centres. The project is an example of the kind of digital divide that Anaxee, a last-mile outreach and data-collection service provider, plans to address in India. 

More than half of India is rural and highly distributed geographically. Despite internet penetration, businesses, and even social initiatives in this case, often find it difficult to reach the rural population. To capture this distributed demand, companies need a distributed network, and Anaxee resolves this pain-point with its ‘network-as-a-service’ offering.

Started in 2016 by husband and wife duo of Arti Agrawal and Govind Agrawal, Anaxee provides a combination of both tech stacks with manpower on the field, to reach out to people in remotest of the corners of India. “Apart from this assurance of deep reach in remotest parts of India, we help the customer in making data-driven business decisions which were not possible earlier,” says Co-Founder Govind.

The startup has a network of digital runners or mobile agents who go door to door to collect data.

 

Anaxee claims to have created a network for 11000 pin codes, 540 districts across 26 states.  It has a team of 75 employees and about 30,000 digital runners. 

Speaking of how Anaxee works, Govind says that businesses provide details about their target customer base, digital service needed, and the scope of work. The startup then handles the strategy and executes the required tasks. 

“It is like data delivery on door-step,” he says.

The digital runners are local tech-savvy individuals who are connected to Anaxee platform and can work on phygital tasks. The startup’s network-as-a-service includes rural surveys, app marketing such as getting verified sign-ups, physical address verification, documentation collection, among others. The runners are paid per their service.

The startup claims to have over 150 clients including Amazon, Escorts, Mahindra, Pepsi, Colgate, DeHaat, Agrostar, Udaan among others. Govind, says that Anaxee indirectly works with more than 1,000 businesses.

Building the data foundation

Govind’s entrepreneurial journey started back in 2006 with a biometrics company in Indore. He, along with his team, developed a vein recognition technology (US patented). He then worked for Aadhaar (UIDAI) project, which is when he got the idea of providing eKYC at the doorstep in 2015.  

Govind’s search for a founding member for the biometrics venture led to him meeting his wife, Arti. 

According to Govid, Arti, an MBA graduate working at consumer goods giant P&G, had joined his company in 2007 to handle operations and finance. 

Govind says his experience with the Aadhar project helped him build Anaxee. 

“Our past background has been Biometric and Aadhaar. We have worked with a lot of rural youth who worked with us for Aadhaar enrolment, post 2015 once the Aadhaar enrolment project got over, these enrolment operators got free. We started offering eKYC on demand and using these ex-enrolment operators for the same,” he adds.

Market and Competition

Anaxee helps companies connect with Bharat. The number of active internet users in the country is likely to grow nearly 45 percent to 900 million by 2025 compared to 622 million as of last year, according to a report by IAMAI-Kantar Cube. Most of these new internet users are expected to come from rural areas, which is why companies are looking to build a digital ecosystem to address the specific needs of this emerging demography.

Govind says that Anaxee competes with local market research companies and Below The Line (BTL) activation firms that work in various districts. BTL activations help in attracting more customers while increasing the leads of a brand. “There are platforms that use students for similar activities like ours and there are overlaps with them,” Govind says.

According to Govind, Anaxee’s deep relationship with its digital runners sets it apart from other such companies in the segment. He says that the startup’s mobile agents understand rural and remote areas. 

Some of the big players in the data collection segment include Nielsen India, Ipsos, IMRB International and Kantar IMR.

Bharat for Bharat

Anaxee, like its founders, has its roots in Indore. According to Govind, the city has several premier institutions such as IIT and IIM as well as top tier companies TCS and Infosys, which is why he sees no reason to move out of Indore.

“Moreover, Indore keeps the cost of operations lower compared to cities like Bengaluru. Post-Covid, everyone has realised that the city does not matter. The world has been operating from home for the last one and a half years. The need of the hour is to be in a city that is completely urban and affordable at the same time. We are building for bharat from a tier II city, with bharat oriented team," says Govind.

Govind believes Bharat, which refers to the vast non-urban regions of India, has a lot of yet-untapped opportunities. 

 “The entire Bharat opportunity is yet to be explored. It is completely untapped, and very few companies go and find markets in rural areas. But post-Covid are seeing that corporates are realising that their dependence on top 40-50 cities is not a great idea, these cities are anyway a matured market and there are lots of players in the market and a lot of competition,” he says

“We find customers who are willing to go in tier 2, 3, & 4 cities and that is what we were trying to solve in the last five years. We feel there is an opportunity to build a multi-billion dollar company in ruraltech and looking forward to working with customers, investors and a team who believes in this,” Govind adds. 

Anaxee charges businesses per task basis and per data point that it collects on the field.   The startup is also working on social projects such as its Project Swaraksha.

Funding and business outlook

The company has so far raised an undisclosed amount of seed round and angel investors from the likes of Orios Venture Partners, LetsVenture, Keiretsu Forum, GAIN, Grocap, and Swan Angel Network. It is now looking to raise Series A by the third quarter of FY22, to expand to reach all the corners of India.

“We are hoping to grow five times in terms of revenue and two times in terms of digital runners by the end of 2022,” says Govind. Without disclosing the company’s turnover, Govind shares that Anaxee turned profitable in FY21 and grew 100 percent in terms of revenue, and now it is looking to grow multifold in the next two years.


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Edited by Affirunisa Kankudti