[Startup Bharat] How this Pune-based agritech company is empowering farmers whilst helping companies build scalable businesses

Founded in April 2015 by Niranjan Sharma, Praveen Tiwary and Arun Kumar, Kisanserv has become the backbone of ecommerce players with its tech-enabled collection centres for delivery in record time.
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With farm produce such as fruits and vegetables being perishable commodities, big corporates have always found it difficult to build scalable business models with it. While many agritech startups have been solving this gap, one such brand that is leveraging technology and innovation is Kisanserv

Founded in April 2015 by Niranjan Sharma, Praveen Tiwary and Arun Kumar, the agritech startup is based in Pune. While Arun and Niranjan are related, Praveen was earlier Arun’s wealth management client. The three met often to discuss technology and its advancements and during one such discussion lamented about how technology was leveraged least in the agriculture and procurement segments. The discussions eventually led to the birth of Kisanserv. 

“We are trying to refine the inward supply chain with the help of technology-enabled collection centres. We directly procure fresh produce of fruits and vegetables, and transport them to the collection centres for grading, labelling, and packaging. After this, the products are sent to the company's dark stores based on zip codes. The term refers to a retail distribution centre or warehouse that caters exclusively to online shoppers. With this, ecommerce players have got a company completely taking care of their inward supply chain,” says Niranjan, Co-founder and CEO of Kisanserv.

“We also have a dedicated  'life department'  where quality experts make sure that ageing produce is kept aside so that no customer gets to experience a bad produce ever,” Niranjan adds.

The agritech startup has more than 200+ retail partners in Pune who substitute as dark stores for the company currently.

According to Kisanserv, mapping dark stores in every location enhances speed and builds deeper connections. 

Additionally, to empower farmers, control wastage and have better price control, the startup has built a dedicated Android mobile app for farmers, which has over 20,000 users already. Leveraging technology, Kisanserv is creating a direct link between consumers and producers to eliminate the middleman. With this, the company claims to have helped farmers raise their selling capacity by up to 20 percent. 

 

Kisanserv currently has a wide network of 15+ collection centres across different districts of Maharashtra and Gujarat. It is currently running operations in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad, and is trying to grab more market share and expand services across other places in India such as in Surat, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, and more. 

“Our quality control starts from the farmer’s field. We guide our farmers on what to grow and when to grow to increase their current income. Kisanserv believes in interacting and working directly with farmers in a transparent way, avoiding middlemen and vendors. We source from our collection centres, consolidate and process at city distribution centres, and from there, we supply sorted, graded and packed products to major ecommerce companies' dark stores,” Niranjan explains.

The line of business

Kisanserv has designed different lines of business based on the nature of a product. According to Niranjan, the move was aimed at minimising losses for farmers. These lines of business include - 

Alliance - The Alliance business line is designed exclusively for ecommerce and quick-commerce corporate companies. The company has developed capacity, trained staff, and systems to supply these clients with dark stores. Currently, it is supplying to more than 250+ dark stores of major ecommerce companies in Pune, Nashik and Mumbai. It has made alliances with 15+ corporates so far.

HORECA - This line of business is designed to cater to hotels, restaurants, and caterers. Its end customer base include the Serum Institute, Infosys, TCS, Lupin, Turf club, Amdocs, and more. It is currently associated with 50+ hotels, restaurants, and caterers.

Saajhedaari - In this line of business, Kisanserv partners with retailers and kirana stores, where it claims to have a revenue-sharing model with its partners. It currently claims to have about 200 kirana store partners in Pune, which also double up as company's dark stores. 

“These dark stores will also help us achieve 10-minute deliveries,” Niranjan says.

D2C App - Kisanserv started this line of business on a trial basis but the overwhelming response made the startup go aggressive in this segment through next day delivery and 10-minute delivery models leveraging its kirana store partners.

The team

Niranjan has over two decades of experience in the agribusiness and retail industry. Prior to Kisanserv, he was director for Malawi Mangoes Limited and worked for organisations such as Reliance Retail and Spencer’s. 

Co-founder and Chief Digital Officer, Praveen has nearly 28 years of global experience and has held leadership positions in Cognizant Technology Services. 

Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer, Arun has 18 years of work experience in banking and wealth management. He was earlier associated with global companies such as HSBC, DBS and ICICI, handling portfolios of ultra-high net worth individuals and corporates. 

The startup has a team of 12 members currently.

The way ahead

According to a RedSeer report on India's grocery market, the egrocery retail business is expected to reach $850 billion by 2025. 

“There are many companies trying to bring change in this industry, a positive change for the farmers and consumers. Many more companies need to join to cater to the growing demand. Companies in this industry whom we compete with are Big Basket, Star Bazar, Reliance and traditional mandi suppliers,” Niranjan says. 

Kisanserv was initially bootstrapped by the three founders before it raised over Rs 10 crore from friends and family connections. The startup claims to have a monthly revenue of Rs 4 crore at present. 

“With an incremental MRR (monthly recurring revenue) of Rs 4 crore, we are expecting to achieve Rs 70 crore+ revenue by FY 2023,” Niranjan says.

Edited by Anju Narayanan

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