For most of us, Bharat represents small-town and rural India, which is largely lagging behind in the technology boom, particularly in the internet and telecommunications sectors. Luckily, Startup India has focused on urban India, mainly the metros. Perhaps inevitably, the searing pace of growth has slowed. Which has led to these startups moving beyond the subways to smaller cities.
What is important, however, is that the business model remains the same. So Swiggy and Zomato continue to deliver groceries in Pathankot, Rourkela and Solan just like they do in Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru. Yes, this is a step towards Bharat, but a gradual one.
But what I’m talking about is a giant leap – startups breaking into rural India by creating totally unique business models that are not at all applicable to urban India. Take Agrix, a fast-growing startup operating in Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh. Agrix is to village farmers what Urban Company is to city folk. Many smallholders and small farmers do not need carpenters and plumbers. And even if they do, local help is available. But what they need is someone to plow the soil, harvest their crops and spray pesticides. The problem is that these services require expensive equipment — tractors, harvesters, spray pumps — that many of these smallholders cannot afford. Enter Agrix, which provides these services for a fee. After that, it actually goes several steps further by providing seeds and fertilizers and even helping with the marketing of the end products.
Then there’s VilloTale. You’ve heard of Airbnb. VilloTale goes a few steps further and arranges host families in the village. So you don’t just stay in a village, you actually take part in rural life, e.g. B. Feeding chickens, harvesting and sowing. Interestingly, VilloTale straddles both India and Bharat as the homestays are based in Bharat while the tourists staying there are from urban India.
Another startup, GO DESi, is into candies with Indian flavors like tamarind, jackfruit and mango. These sweets are sold both online and through offline Kiranas. And here’s the key: In any food processing industry, the farmer grows the fruit and then passes it to a processing unit to turn it into the end product, be it jam or juice. But in GO DESi, the farmer grows the fruit and also processes it into the candies. In other words, he gets a much larger share of the price the consumer pays.
Then there’s Intello Labs, which uses artificial intelligence (AI) to classify tomatoes and other vegetables. Fyllo uses an on-farm device to analyze soil and weather related data to increase productivity. DeHaat helps the farmer at all stages – from sourcing seeds, training them in best practices, to helping them market their products.
Two problems stand out:
These business models are not simply a copy and paste from urban to rural India. You are unique.
The magnitude of the opportunity is huge. There are more than 50 million farmers in India. According to the government, more than half of Indian households live in rural areas. And every villager and his uncle own a mobile phone, many of which are smartphones. The opportunity is really immense and almost entirely untapped. No wonder angel investors and venture capitalists are taking advantage of this tremendous opportunity.
And that is why you will see a far bigger revolution than Startup India in the years to come. It will be Startup Bharat.
The author is a director
Lead Angels Network