This agri-fintech startup is redefining rural commerce by connecting Bharat with India ‘phygitally’

As a technology enabler, Hesa is bridging the gap for India’s rural population by being the one-stop solution for corporates, SMEs, banks, government and NGOs who wish to access rural India, for buy-sell propositions including brand promotions and social responsibilities.

This agri-fintech startup is redefining rural commerce by connecting Bharat with India ‘phygitally’

Friday November 11, 2022,

6 min Read

A significant portion of India’s population resides in rural areas. The rural commerce ecosystem is still driven by trust, relationships, and physical interactions. Without a digital interface, this segment is largely untapped. Capitalising on this underserved market, Telangana-based agri fintech startup Hesa is offering access to all businesses to its targeted rural population through its three-tiered social, digital and physical platform.

“Technology in rural India has a massive scope that will boost rural consumers' lives through varied services. It is the key to making a level playing field for the rural and the urban by opening opportunities across villages. India needs to adapt to technology and use digital methods to help reshape India's financial inclusion landscape,” reasons Vamsi Udayagiri, Founder and CEO, Hesa on the idea behind launching the startup.

As a technology enabler, Hesa is bridging the gap for the world’s largest customer base that resides in rural India by being the one-stop solution for corporates, SMEs, banks, government and NGOs who wish to access rural India, for buy-sell propositions including brand promotions and social responsibilities. Hesa’s user-friendly tech platform is supported by village-level entrepreneurs termed as ‘Hesaathis’. These ‘Hesaathis’ form the backbone cluster of the business proposition taking forward the dream to every village across India.

To put things in perspective, the platform enables farmers to buy and sell online. A farmer intending to sell a produce posts the selling offer over the Hesa app after approaching a ‘Hesaathi’. In parallel, a fellow ‘Hesaathi’ buys it on behalf of the whole-seller and the wallet payment is transacted between the two Hesaathis. The first ‘Hesaathi’ pays to the former instantly via a bank transfer. It is a quick and seamless transaction. This is one of their game-changing process with a wide portfolio of partners in agritech (Bighaat, Gramcover, Dodla dairy, Reshamandi, Krishitantra, Waycoo); in fintech (Instantpay, Reliance, Airtel Payments Bank, Digit, Jai Kisan) and in products and services (Wipro Consumer Care, Mahindra, Metro, Bajaj Electronics and HDFC Life).

Addressing the problem statement

About 850 million villagers spread across Tier 1-6 cities living in 6.5 lakh villages have little or no access to any form of online commerce. The statistics are even more alarming and distressing at the ground level. Retail services have a limited presence with their products scantily available through ‘kirana’ stores. To address this, Hesa has launched a household consumer brand called 'SUHAS' that offers a wide range of kitchen essentials ranging from lentils, spices, grains and more. It is affordable for consumers to discover in local kirana stores through the ecommerce platform of Hesa. Villages are also bereft of clothing stores with a limited reach to ecommerce platforms. The supply chain topped by financial constraints and gaps in customer identification made unit economics unviable.

The problem statement that Vamsi and his team were looking to address was clear. Serving the USD 650 billion Indian rural market, the startup took up the challenge and went live with its app. In the initial stages, 50 ‘Hesaathis’ were onboarded in a pilot programme in three districts of Andhra Pradesh. Subsequently, 1,100 ‘Hesaathis’ were onboarded along with 10 B2B tie-ups, retaining over 65 percent of them and beginning the business. These ‘Hesaathis’ were trained by the startup to use the platform and to provide products and services to rural households.

“We plan to reach out to the 70-crore rural population who are yet to adapt to online commerce across India,” Vamsi adds.

Recognition galore

Hesa has emerged as a market disruptor and has capitalised over 30 lakh rural consumers in 27,000 villages in 28 districts of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Karnataka with over 35,000 ‘Hesaathis’. The enterprise has been considered an enabler for rural employment. The startup has partnered with entities looking forward to increasing their brand visibility or even financial services. Interestingly, the composition of these micro-entrepreneurs or ‘Hesaathis’ comprise over 23 percent women. Hesa has been able to cater to over 6 lakh customers with 40 brands in a short time.

The enterprise has been certified as one of the select few social startups under Govt of Telangana's TSIC (Telangana State Innovation Cell). Their collaboration with the government of Telangana's ‘Stree Nidhi’, which comprises over 1 million women, assists rural women groups in digital repayment of microfinance loans. The digital transactions are enabled right at their respective villages, offered on Hesa’s technology platform. As a groundbreaking initiative, they have been offered partnerships with ‘Krishitantra’ spread across 500 locations of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh that enables 50,000 farmers to access soil testing services.

Hesa had also acquired companies such as Gully-Buy, a digital market technology platform and Flinkhub, a platform for creators to build social learning experiences. These acquisitions were made to simplify the local shopping experience through a digital marketplace in neighbourhoods (gullies) across India and provide a platform to train a network of village-level entrepreneurs to solve the challenge of sourcing and building community.

Meet the team

As the founder and CEO, Vamsi, who is passionate about bridging the rural-urban divide, is carefully calibrating the journey of driving the business with his strategic leadership.

Hema Nandiraju, who is the co-founder and CHRO, has over 10 years of experience working with rural women groups and has created rural exhibitions and marketplace models. She now intends to strengthen the last mile connect for the rural segment.

Funding status

Hesa has raised USD 2.3 million in a pre-Series A funding round led by Venture Catalysts. It intends to deploy the subsequent funds to expand the geographical footprints and enhance the technology while scaling agri-fintech and commerce offerings. Hesa is committed to serving the markets with its superior, cutting-edge technological platform seamlessly.

Sky’s the limit

Hesa has reached a monthly 1.5 million gross revenue with a yearly ARR of 24 million at a growth of 20 percent every month. The traction comes over with 4 service lines, 3400+ SKUs, 52 sub service lines, and 30,000+ ‘Hesaathis’, amongst which 67 percent are active. It has mustered 4 million customers, of which 20 percent are repeat, in 5 states and 51 districts, following a 23 percent average monthly growth and a 67 percent active user base as well as the entrepreneurs that are working executing Hesa’s ideas across India. With a 70-crore population yet to adapt to online commerce, the sky's the limit for Hesa’s growth potential.