Coming from an agricultural background, Atul Patidar knew about the hardships of a farmer and their challenges in getting access to farming inputs, tools, and services at a lower cost.
After having designed over 15 products for Fortune-500 companies at one of the top consulting firms in Toronto, Atul wanted to use his technical knowledge and capabilities to solve issues at his hometown Barwani, an agricultural municipality town near Indore, Madhya Pradesh.
In 2017, he launched Farmkart with an aim to make agri-inputs affordable and accessible to farmers. Barwani-based Farmkart is an ecommerce platform that enables farmers to purchase modern agricultural including fertilisers, pesticides, and seeds at affordable prices.
Speaking with YourStory, Atul explains that the platform has been designed in a way so that even non-tech savvy farmers can utilise the services.
“Farmkart provides products and services to farmers in rural India via digital channels. In order to ensure easy digital transactions, we offer a digital identity system called Unique Identification Code (UIC), a nine digits digital identity, to help farmers make purchases in just one click,” he says.
He explains that the UIC card needs to be recharged regularly and the money gets automatically deducted when a farmer makes a purchase using Farmkart, thereby eliminating the need for cash payments.
Making agricultural inputs affordable and accessible
According to Atul, the products available to the farmers for purchase are sourced via strategic partnerships with both global and domestic agri-brands. Farmkart also enables farmers to get agricultural equipment – from sickle to cultivator – on rent through its rent4farm services from certified suppliers.
The prices of the products vary depending on the seller or the suppliers. According to the startup, farmers may be able to rent a cultivator (a machine used for preparing the soil) for Rs 400 per hour via Farmkart which might otherwise cost Rs 750-800 per hour.
“We have developed a community-based delivery system to solve last-mile delivery challenges in rural areas. Through Farmkart’s technology solutions, we aim to make agri-inputs affordable and accessible to farmers,” Atul says.
He claims that Farmkart can deliver products to rural and remotest places, including areas that are not yet serviced by ecommerce majors in India, within 24-36 hours.
“Our last-mile delivery solution, User2User delivery, has been derived from the village or community culture. This service allows locals to pick up a product from Farmkart outlet and deliver it to the community. They can also earn extra money for every delivery from Farmkart,” he adds.
The startup has about 48 franchise partner outlets where locals can pick up the product for delivery. This operates like a community culture where one Farmkart user, who may be traveling around a partner outlet, will be alerted to pick up products for someone else in their village or community, thereby ensuring faster deliveries.
Farmkart was selected as part of the Top 50 Global Innovative Startups in 2018 by Startup Grind, powered by Google for Entrepreneurs. The startup was also mentioned and appreciated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the 70th edition of Mann Ki Baat.
Apart from providing ecommerce services, Farmkart also provides end-to-end-consultancy to farmers to help them understand how they can leverage technology to improve their produce. According to the founder, farmers can call the official number and take advice from the agronomists.
The startup currently has a team of 102 people, including a core strategy team of six members who work from Toronto.
The startup positions itself as a holistic one-stop platform for all farming needs of small to mid-size farmers in rural India.
Business and more
The Founder and CEO explains that Farmkart’s main target audience is non-tech savvy farmers, and it aims to help them understand the importance of technology in agriculture. The startup is present in around 2,000 locations across Madhya Pradesh and caters to more than 100,000 farmers.
Atul adds that during the first phase of COVID-19 led lockdown, the startup delivered 6,000 agri-packages to 350 locations in Madhya Pradesh.
Speaking about the business model, Atul says the startup operates on a mix of bricks-and-clicks model. Its revenue stream includes input product sales from omnichannel fronts, revenue from value-added services, and revenue from end-to-end consulting services.
According to NASSCOM data, India has over 450 agritech startups that are looking to transform the agriculture sector in the country. Similar to Farmkart, Rajkot-based Agribegri Tradelink also enables farmers to buy agriculture products such as seeds, fertilisers, pesticides, irrigation tools, etc., online.
Atul adds that the startup has raised Rs 15 crore in seed funding from undisclosed investors and is now looking to raise its Series A funds next year. It is also in talks with agribusinesses to sell 5,000 more products, including organic products and some new categories such as biostimulants, by the end of this year.
The startup is now working towards expanding to 8,000 locations in Maharashtra, Gujarat, South India, and aims to reach 100,000 locations across the country by the end of 2021.
“The company’s long-term goal is to help every farmer in India go online and create an agripreneur mindset among farmers,” Atul says.