College friends, Fariq Naushad and Parveen Jacob Varaksi, always had an entrepreneurial orientation.
During their college days, they started a company called Invento Technology Solutions, which created a platform for homemakers to sell food online. Later, in 2016, they launched a software solutions company, Teczium Solutions, in Rwanda. While the company managed to close $750,000 worth of deals within 12 months of operation, Fariq and Parveen were still unhappy. They wanted to make something for India and in India.
This laid the foundation. According to the founders, after returning to India in 2019, they were influenced by the sustainability push that led them to build a product in the agriculture space.
Thiruvananthapuram-based Greenikk is currently building a banana farmer-centric digital ecosystem. The agritech platform has established Empowerment Centers (EC) to provide farmers with necessary support such as finance, seeds, crop advice, insurance coverage, agricultural inputs, including climate tips, and market connectivity, all of which It covers the production and marketing range internally. and abroad.
According to the founders, the startup aims to solve problems for every stakeholder in the entire banana value chain – from banana farmers and processing units to ordering agents, wholesale B2B buyers and fiber buyers. This startup also takes banana waste and turns it into fertilizer and banana fiber.
We are the first complete platform in the banana value chain, providing end-to-end support (from finance/insurance to product marketing and getting value from waste). This actually increases the income of every stakeholder in the banana value chain, Fariq says.
Currently, the startup has established ECs in some of the major banana producing belts of the country like Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
How did it start?
In 2019, there was a ban on single-use plastics in India. This gave Parveen the idea to turn the papaya stem into a sustainable straw. Parveen and Fariq worked with a scientist to come up with the final product and presented it at the Tata Social Enterprise Challenge held at IIM Kolkata. Greenikk was also recognized as one of the top 3 social startups in the country in 2020.
The company continued to work with papaya sellers and farmers until 2020. But during the pandemic, the team had to put the project on hold because costs were rising and the hospitality sector was stalled.
Meanwhile, the company was still receiving inquiries about whether it could help distribute the fruit from the network it had built. The team also gained insights from working with the central government’s BIRAC scholarship program, where it worked with farmers to develop a B2C model for sourcing and delivering fresh produce to customers. The model also brought the company a seed investment from a US-based investor.
When the economy opened up, Greenick moved to the B2B model because there was more room for growth.
Other than being a digital trader, we couldn’t add any value. “So, as founders, we came to this conclusion – why not focus on a set of products, or maybe at least one product to start with and then go deeper.”
This led them to narrow their focus to one all-rounder – bananas, as India is also the highest producer of bananas globally.
Fariq says that organizing a 200-year-old fruit and vegetable supply chain requires a real effort on the ground. The company was initially deceived by its shareholders. Fariq recalls a case where a full truckload of bananas went missing one day and they realized they had been cheated by a vendor, causing them a loss of Rs 1.55 million.
Fariq says: “We also face a lot of pressure, resistance and threats from brokers not to approach farmers directly. We also got to the point where we had to shut down the company twice due to zero cash. “It made us change our business models three times to fit in a banana product.”
“Currently, our platform works on a unique model that also empowers dealers and all existing stakeholders,” he adds.
The company sells bananas to major B2B buyers such as chip manufacturers, export agents and large wholesalers. While the startup is not yet profitable, Faruk shares that they are actively investing in research and development.
Greenic, which has a network of 10,000 farmers, grew by 300% in FY22 with sales of Rs 1.58 crore. Faruq shared that the startup is expected to end the current financial year with a turnover of Rs 6 crore.
“Our product is a technology platform (physical and digital) that all stakeholders can access,” Fariq says.
Physical empowerment centers across the banana growing belts will provide services and agricultural products to the farmers. Digital platforms connect all banana stakeholders and enable them to access finance and other facilities such as buying/selling the product.
We will also have final value-added products made from bananas (chips, banana powder, banana wine), while the waste stalks will be used to make banana fiber, handicrafts and textile products – all under our brand name. . Fariq Greenikk currently sells these products through a platform called Vimala Welfare and is looking to sell on e-commerce platforms like Amazon in the near future.
The startup has a team of 12 and serves clients such as Beyond Snacks (with Shark Tank funding), Tierra Foods, Chedda Foods Mumbai, Kozhikodens, Casco Mumbai, Vimala Welfare Center and Reshamandi.
Greenikk currently competes with Vegrow, INi and Desai Farms.
Market and financing
India has nearly 1,300 agri start-ups. According to a report published by Bain & Company, this country is the third largest country in the world in terms of receiving agricultural funding. Market linkage and supply chain are expected to exceed $12 billion in market potential by 2025, according to an EY report.
Earlier this month, Greenikk raised Rs 5.04 crore in seed funding led by 9 Unicorn Ventures. Kerala-based angel group Smart Spark Ventures. Manish Modi, who heads the Mauritius-based company. Saurabh Agarwal and Mayank Tiwari, founders of Reshamandi; and Arjun Pillai, who is on the Zoom info board.
The company plans to have a pilot farm in Theni and Mettupalayam districts of Tamil Nadu, where the latest banana cultivation practices will be used. Fariq says these will serve as a model for farmers around the belt
The startup will also set up artisan units (fiber to fashion) in Kochi, Kerala. and Theni, Tamil Nadu, hide natural banana fibers in value-added products.
In Tamil Nadu, the company plans to set up two agricultural input and collection offices to implement farmer participation programs, marketing and advisory services and sales of banana-related agricultural inputs.
Greenick wants to reach out to 50,000 farmers in the next 15 months and expand empowerment centers across Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, Farik shares.