Changing Farmer Lives...!
The journey so far…..
Born into a family business the words "You are born with a silver spoon" are not tough to come by from everyone you introduce yourself to. Its not wrong to say that joining the family business was an obvious choice for me while friends went for interviews and so I took the plunge into business at 20, just after Graduation. Though that lasted for 1 year exactly till I convinced myself that I need to learn how business is run and done professionally and pursued myself into an MBA.
Once back into the business full-time the one thing that powered me up (and keeps me awake even today) was my urge to going retail with our products and to deliver the true value of our products to farmers across India. We were doing only B-2-B sales since 1979 to agro companies like Aries, Multiplex, Dayal, Nagarjuna, Coromandel who repack our products into their retail packs and market it. Hence, I jumped into retail around 2011 using the old ways that Agri-input retail was done typically with a huge range of products, having a lavish team hired from MNCs, a big marketing spend and appointing C&F, distributors, dealers, retailers etc to ultimately reach the farmer.
As it goes, the deal never paid off and we lost around 2cr and getting a tiny sale and entry into the market. Nevertheless, that learning was definitely worth over 2 cr and this did not stop me from taking another shot at retailing in 2013.
But this time it was going to be different, this time I wanted to go to farmers and understand their story, their buying psychology and what makes them itch ? I entered Nashik again and I roped in my dearest friend Shitij Agrawaal (he just quit Citibank) who was wanting to take a dip into river entrepreneurship. We both together started direct marketing of our products but this time we had material in our car and were persuading grape farmers to take trials of our products. It so happened that farmers after taking trials when we went for a feedback were willing to buy our products and thats how we ended up carrying cases of products in our cars and eventually became door-2-door salesmen.
However, the more important part was that we were being paid instantly by farmers who are known to pay from season to season i.e. a 12 month credit cycle. That is how we became Direct-2-Farmer by default in 2013. We did door-door sales with our staff in Nashik and Sangli for 2 years and then decided to open our own agri-input retail stores & an e-commerce platform. This was required to take orders online but deliver customers from these stores around Nashik, Sangli, Solapur, Jalgaon and other pockets of Maharashtra.
The largest customer we acquired was a Farmers Producer Co. in Nashik - Sahyadri Farmers Producer Co. Ltd.(Sahyadri Farms) which is India's #1 table grapes exporter and was a consortium of 1000+ grape farmers then. As time would have it, we got an opportunity from Mr. Vilas Shinde (Chairman, Sahyadri Farms) to scale up this Direct-2-Farmer model as they too wanted to open up an agri-input retail store for their farmers. We launched our first offline store in Mohadi, Nashik together now catering to 25,000 farmers in 2 years.
But as my sleepless nights urge me to going pan-India with our products and the unfulfilled purpose to help farmers win continues, we launched the e-commerce site Direct2Farmer.com
Currently, the site offers full range of Macro, Secondary and Micronutrients besides Organic Fertilizers, Soil Conditioners, Biostimulants, Herbal Plant Protection, Tools and Machinery spanning over 200+ SKUs. We manufacture and import, test for quality, pack in small packs from 100gm to bulk packs of 25kgs and ship to over 20,000+ pin codes in India covering the last mile delivery reaching the farmer.
Our focus is on the Plant Nutrition category with 'Organic' leading the way in and we will continue to build this portfolio in our endeavours to reach out to the 140+ million farmers of India.
And as AgTech matures, you never know, we may be shipping online orders to Mars, advising farmers there on the right soil conditioner, nutrients to be sprayed, hook up our live soil nutrient meter and spray nutrients with our drones if, they start growing potatoes soon on Mars while our journey still continues.
To be continued...
- Purvish Diwanji
A Passionate Agriculture Enthusiast and also Director @ D2F
Get me at : Purvish@Direct2farmer.com