Agritech startup Ninjacart pivoted from B2C to B2B to solve inefficiencies in food supply chain
The Turning Point is a series of short articles that focuses on the moment when an entrepreneur hit upon their winning idea. This week, we look at Ninjacart, a B2B fresh agri produce supply chain company.
Agritech startupwas started to organise the agri ecosystem in India through technology and data. The idea was to solve and improve the lives of millions of agri players involved in the agri value chain or agri ecosystem, which includes farmers, wholesalers, resellers, retailers, aggregators, and supply chain players.
The Bengaluru-based startup was founded by Thirukumaran Nagarajan, Kartheeswaran Kandasamy, Vasudevan Chinnathambi, and Sharath Loganathan in June 2015.
Journey from B2C to B2B
Ninjacart initially started with a B2C model to transport fruits and vegetables from retail outlets to consumers in under 60 minutes.
“We encountered numerous grievances on delayed deliveries from retail outlets, kirana stores, and small businesses,” says Kartheeswaran.
The presence of middlemen resulted in farmer exploitation, forcing them to sell their produce at lower rates. This meant that farmers were experiencing unfair practices, a high food wastage due to supply-demand mismatch and lower income.
Also, due to lack of transparency and the absence of specialised equipment, there were issues such as delayed deliveries as well as undersupply of fresh produce to retail outlets.
This made the founders pivot to a B2B model in September 2015 to solve “one of the toughest agricultural supply chain problems”, build a reliable, cost-efficient, and high-speed infrastructure, and enable retailers and merchants to purchase fresh produce directly from farmers daily, says Kartheeswaran.
“Switching from a B2C to a B2B business model was a difficult decision. However, inefficiencies in the food supply chain prompted us to take such drastic measures,” he says.
From farmers and retailers to end-users, Ninjacart identified issues at every stage and took the initiative to standardise the food supply chain in India.
“It took us a year to get to a point where we can say that Ninjacart business model is self-sufficient, tech-enabled, and cost-effective,” says Kartheeswaran.
He says, now Ninjacart has successfully replaced middlemen with technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), data science, and app-based platforms.
While the Bengaluru-based startup was one of the first in the Indian agritech space to identify the pain points of the supply chain, this meant there were many challenges it had to deal with.
According to Kartheeswaran, the most difficult task was to identify the price at which farmers sell fresh vegetables to the middlemen. Furthermore, farmers are uninformed of the demand conditions, resulting in considerable losses.
“We had to tackle two main obstacles, i.e., convincing retailers and grocery store owners to take their operations online, and convincing farmers to trust us over the conventional intermediary they had known for years,” he adds.
After nearly a year of running the tech-enabled infrastructure, Ninjacart’s B2B model began to thrive, and “we knew we had produced something significant,” he says.
USP and plans ahead
In addition to reducing the time it takes for the produce to travel from farm to store, Ninjacart founder says the company has increased farmers’ earnings and living standards. The team now delivers fresh vegetables and fruits from farmers to retailers and other businesses in less than 12 hours.
“We made Ninjacart what it is today by investing in technology and data science, and we will continue to do so in the future,” says Kartheeswaran.
Farmers gain insight into market demand and supply of produce through our services. In order to ensure that delivery drivers make no unnecessary trips and are always available for deliveries, data is used to figure out the logistics of delivery. Retailers receive fresh produce delivered right to their doors along with secure payments and online inventory.
In March this year, the startup launched a $25 million Agri Seed Fund to support emerging and new-age startups in the agri sector.
“We want to invest in startups, entrepreneurs, and tech innovators who present unique, sustainable, and tech-enabled solutions. Our major focus is to accelerate the advancement of the agricultural landscape and ideas that are involved in the agri and agri-allied industries with a focus on fintech, commerce, and digitisation,” says Kartheeswaran.
Ninjacart also acquired SaaS platform Tecxprt in March this year to strengthen its position as a one-stop solution for agri-players.
In April, it partnered with Avanti Finance to provide easy access to credit products. Ninjacart increased its capabilities inside the agritech area advocating digital financial inclusiveness, with an aim to assist agri-traders by offering quick financing at a fair cost, relieving their financial challenges.
In May this year, Ninjacart invested in Fyllo, a Bengaluru-based agritech startup.
“In future, Ninjacart will keep adding value to the agrispace and will continue to innovate in order to enable and empower agri participants. We will keep progressing in the direction of benefiting the agriculture sector in India,” says Kartheeswaran.
“Ninjacart's goal is to streamline the entire agri ecosystem so that all agri-players along the food supply chain can take full advantage of the infrastructure,” he adds.
Edited by Megha Reddy