Farming in India often conjures up images of rural distress, farmers protests, horror stories of massive crop losses and a community surviving on the vagaries of the weather. Moreover, logistical issues often result in losses.
This crisis in agriculture is a major political issue, but political solutions seldom work.
For Mahesh Hedge, these issues were deeply personal. Mahesh states, “ We wanted to do something that will make the lives of farmers better and offer value addition to their products. We wanted to build something that will not only help farmers connect with sellers, but also build a database that will help give farmers information about everything in the seed to fork journey.
This went on to be the mantra for Native Circle, a Bengaluru-based agro-tech startup that was launched by Mahesh Hedge a year ago. Maitreyi Hegde and Swayamprabha Hegde joined the firm as directors.
When they started out, they realised that there were huge gaps in the supply chain when sourcing local produce directly from farmers. These included the lack of proper returns for the farmer, the need for a stronger connect at the supplier level, and the need to create complete value chains.
The organisation began curating content on organic and natural farming featuring farmers and academics from across Karnataka. “We wanted to create an ecosystem that allows the transition from conventional to natural farming practices while empowering farmers with information and additional monetary value,” says Mahesh.
What do they do?
When they started out, Mahesh says, “ We were offering solutions to connect farmers with the market. We were looking at cutting out the middleman and ensuring that the farmer makes money for his products.”
They also conducted workshops and seminars in Bengaluru and across South India to spread awareness about sustainability. They also began work on creating a database on agriculture know-how and products, which was not available online. They were also involved in multiple studies on what would make agriculture and farming a successful career option.
Over time, they realised that for making farming profitable, it was important to offer value add solutions to farmers. “ We began to offer them solutions to sell their products better. For instance, if a farmer’s chilly crop was overripe, instead of wasting it, we would help them in making chilly powder and so on. We used to sell these products to various retailers in collaboration with farmers.”
After a period, the firm mooted a small online store and began retailing these products on their store. “ It works for the farmers and the end-users. We are presently working with more than 15,000 farmers across the country,” says Maitreyi.
Apart from managing multiple business verticals such as retailing agricultural products online, conducting seminars and workshops to educate farmers and other stakeholders on the importance of sustainable living. Mahesh states, “ One of the interesting insights from multiple seminars and workshops is the interest in farming from urban Indians. We get a lot of queries on farming techniques, sustainable growth and so on from working professionals in Bengaluru and other cities. ”
“In the upcoming year, we want to scale up and touch the 1 lakh farmers mark. “ Mahesh concludes.