Bijak’s mantra for success in agritech: Leverage existing farming ecosystem

In this week’s 100X Entrepreneur Podcast, Nukul Upadhye, Co-founder of Bijak, talks about how enabling existing players in the supply chain sector by using technology has helped the startup thrive.
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About 85 percent of India’s farmers own and operate on small tracts of land. Today, about 700 agritech startups are seeking to solve their problems which are likely to grow the agritech market into a $24 billion market by 2025, according to a study by Ernst & Young 2020.

Gurugram-based Bijak is one of them. Founded by Mahesh Jakhotia, Daya Rai, Nukul Upadhye, Nikhil Tripathi, and Jitender Bedwal in 2019, Bijak is a B2B (business-to-business) marketplace for agricultural commodities that connects millions of buyers, sellers, traders, wholesalers, food processors, retailers, and farmers.

Today, the startup claims monthly transactions worth over Rs 300 crores, with presence in more than 1,000 regions across 28 states. 

But what does it take to create a meaningful impact amid a host of players in the agritech field?

According to Nukul, leveraging and taking the support of the existing farming ecosystem worked in their favour while most startups seem to be challenging the status quo in agriculture. 

In a conversation with Siddhartha Ahluwalia, Founder and Host of 100x Entrepreneur, Nukul says, “A lot of startups have taken a slightly different approach by disintermediating the middleman, the trader, but we believe that the problem is so complex and market so fragmented that you need the support of the existing ecosystem. One cannot go in and just try to disrupt the existing ecosystem and be a replacement for it…I think the relationships with farmers are not purely transactional.” 

He emphasised on operating in the agritech with an ‘enabler’ mindset by focusing on data analysis and financing gaps and let the unorganised workers in the supply chain focus on their own processes developed over generations.

Filling in the trust deficit

A local supplier or trader normally works with ten buyers even though there are a million others that would buy from him at a better price. 

“Any 11th buyer for him is a major risk because all the transactions happen on credit…a trader in Kanpur knows that he can get better prices in Guntoor instead of Hyderabad. But would he take the risk to supply five lakhs worth of produce to someone who he has never met with where the paperwork is minimal?”  

The B2B platform claims to solve trust deficit by tracking and maintaining every user’s transaction history such as price, payment delays, quantum of quality deduction, behavioural pattern when market crashes, refusals to take delivery, among others. 

The entrepreneurial journey

Hailing from a farming family in Dhar district, Madhya Pradesh, Nukul is an engineering graduate from BITS Pilani and holds an MBA from University of Virginia. 

“There were just two industries that shaped my life: education and agriculture. While education allowed me to experience other parts of the world and meet smarter folks, agriculture allowed my family to actually invest in my education,” he says. 

Seeing little marginal utility to draw from the thriving edtech space, he decided to solve a problem closer to home: help farmers sell their produce at a good price.

The biggest entrepreneurial lesson, he said, is to prioritise progress over perfection. He also believes while everyone advises companies to stay nimble, founders should also evolve with their companies. 

At the same time, Nukul turns to reading purely for joy as a way of de-stressing rather than learning something new. 

“I stay away from books that are very relevant to my business, because that feels like work in some way. And I read things which are essentially just fun,” he quips.

To know more, listen to the entire podcast here:

01:48 – Creating a B2B marketplace – Bijak 

05:55 – Alternate ideas while starting Bijak 

09:24 – How does Bijak differentiate itself from traditional offline marketplaces?  

17:33 – Challenges during the initial journey 

31:42 – How has he personally evolved over the past two years?

Edited by Affirunisa Kankudti

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