UNDP has selected Arya.ag and Friends of Women’s World Banking, India (FWWB India) as partners for implementing enterprise promotion and value chain interventions in agriculture and allied activities. The partnership aims to create a cadre of community resource persons for mentoring and supporting entrepreneurs and promoting individual and group enterprises by December 2023. The blueprint of Project Excel includes building a team of sourcing managers to implement value chain interventions and establish market and credit linkages through collectivization. As part of this partnership, Arya.ag will build on farmers’ collectives to effectively manage the post-harvest process and develop the agriculture value chain of the producer group. Arya.ag will provide its platform for the farmer collectives and FPOs to showcase their produce on its marketplace. Farmers will benefit from the economies of scale and synergies provided by the company’s vast, integrated ecosystem of services, including quality inputs, commercial support, farm advisory and management tools, affordable credit, and capacity building. Through collectivization, they will help farmers in the villages establish market and credit linkages. FPOs, who have farmers as the shareholders, would leverage economies of scale, reducing production costs and enhancing farmers’ incomes. Arya.ag’s dedicated agritech initiatives solve traceability and transparency issues and give quality assurance for seamless commodity commerce. FWWB India will focus on the development of entrepreneurship among villagers. It will support youth and women’s economic empowerment through setting up demand-driven micro and nano enterprises. This partnership is to create a conducive business environment with endto-end solutions consisting of training and technical support, capital and market linkages, and skill enhancement support, empowering women and ensuring a sustainable income at the individual and collective level. The overall aim of this project is to develop the potential of the rural and semi-urban communities and provide them with the opportunities to enhance their livelihoods in sectors like agriculture, dairy, poultry, handloom, goat rearing and handicraft, etc. The project will also help build their managerial capabilities and provide stronger market linkages. Arya.ag and FWWB India will work extensively to strengthen agri value chain and build an entrepreneurship ecosystem. They will enable deeper engagements with knowledge partners that positively impact the livelihoods of millions of small farmers and women from the underserved communities of Dwarka Devbhumi and increase their income.
While working in the banking industry handling rural portfolios, we realised that the banks were majorly servicing the tertiary markets, but were struggling to operate in the primary and secondary markets where the ticket sizes were smaller. There was a clear gap near farm gate primary and secondary markets where a Farmer / FPO requiring a loan of Rs 10 lakhs could take months for approval while a trader requesting a 2 crore loan could get it sanctioned within 48 hours. Since we had aimed to solve problems at the very central level, we realised that it was important to reach the bottom of the pyramid and have a presence at the grassroots of the sector.
Another challenge was that farmers were forced to sell in distress immediately after harvest. We believe that an integrated approach for farmers covering aggregation, quality assurance, storage, financing and market linkages would enable a choice for the smallholder farms – the choice of when to see and whom to sell to. This was possible by bringing together supply and demand.
At Arya.ag we leverage the best of the technologies to integrate warehouse discovery, financing and market linkages to create an integrated digital platform that is accessible across the value chain from the small hold farmers to large corporates.
2. According to you, what are the current driving trends of the industry?
The disruption that new technologies like AI/ML, data analytics, smart drones, and IoT brings, holds immense value for the agriculture sector. The fact that agricultural evolution over the years has continued on the strong pillars of innovation is in itself a testament to the use cases of new tech in the sector.
These disruptive technologies have unfathomable potential to change the way we plough, sow, and reap. IoT sensors can be placed to constantly check crop health and roll out remedial measures if problems are detected. Drones can be used in precision farming where crop spraying, soil and field analysis, livestock and management, and even crop monitoring. AI/ML can be effectively used to analyse statistical data of farms which will be used to keep getting better at predicting various outcomes. Our platform, Arya.ag has deployed deep-tech computer vision, IoT and blockchain technology to ensure that all physical risks in commodity storage and finance are controlled with complete transparency for all stakeholders.
3. Talk about your USPs. How do you stand unique from your peer competitors?
The best differentiator Arya offers is the ability to embed innovation and tech in the here and now of the Agri sector to finally establish an integrated service offering spanning storage, lending, and commerce. From focusing on near-farm primary and secondary markets or innovating a first-of-its-kind price risk mitigation model for FPOs or deploying hermetic storage tech, Arya’s focus has always been on solving the most basic problems through technology. Arya’s unified services the smallest of the stakeholders in the most cost-efficient and sustainable manner. These concentrated efforts in problem-solving make us the only large-scale agritech startup which is profitable.
4. What are the key challenges you encounter? How helpful are they for your business development?
When we started, the challenges were different. Getting the word out about our services, and limited capital were some of the key challenges we faced. However, the challenges that we face today are completely different.
Growingly penetrating remote areas is a challenge since a warehouse infrastructure may not already exist, but the volume of demand would not justify investments in building facilities from scratch. Furthermore, while Arya transitions to a digital format, farmers/depositors continue to function on an aided model, with the assistance of a physically present person, posing a barrier or adding expenses to scale. However, the team comprises of youthful, vibrant, and ambitious people that want to make a difference. Arya, as a motto, still continues to strive for making a difference in the lives of the smallest, poorest farmer, while creating impact and opportunities in the remotest areas where access was limited.
5. What are the growth plans to develop further? What are your next big plans?
We currently have a network of 10,000+ warehouses spread across 21 states, and goods worth over Rs 15,000 crore pass via Arya,ag. In the next 12 months, we estimate our trade volume of Rs 1,500 crore to increase to over Rs 7,500 crore a year. In the next one year, we plan to increase our reach from around 55 percent of India’s districts to about 75 percent.
6. What is your monetisation model? Also, share the funding status.
A unique farmer-centered approach, offering a full-service digital platform with embedded finance and differentiated efficiencies for small farm holders has made Arya.ag India’s leading post-harvest startup. We operate in the primary and secondary
market centres where there aren’t many players. At the center of our approach is digitisation of stored produce, and through a digitally integrated model, we convert each farmer’s commodities bag into an electronic balance, which may then be kept, used as collateral for a loan, or sold digitally at the push of a button. To address critical issues, we are bringing together technology and innovative risk mitigation methods that have not been seen before in this ecosystem. Arya.ag unites Agri-produce producers and consumers with complete certainty on quantity, quality, and payment. We serve small-scale farmers as well as huge corporations, linking supply and demand with total transparency. We are valued at USD 300 million after raising USD 60 million in a Series C funding earlier this year.
7. As an entrepreneur, what has been your biggest learning so far? What part of your work do you enjoy the most?
As an entrepreneur, you have a lot of responsibility on your shoulders to steer the ship of over 2300 team members in the right direction. Also, to have a vision that positively impacts the lives of small farmers is something that gets me going every day.
8. In your opinion, how critical is it to create value or achieve valuation?
There is this phenomenon in startups where valuation is celebrated more than profitability. However, at Arya, we would like to differ and focus more on profitability and sustainability. As a matter of principle, we decided not to chase valuation but create real value by ensuring actual problem-solving and changing the lives of countless individuals. This is solely why Arya has been the only agritech startup that has been profitable since its inception.
9. What is the market space/opportunity? Where do you stand as of now and what are some of the strategies to capture?
We are focusing on a larger reach and greater efficiency while we intend to enhance the digital platform, digitise the complete post-harvest value chain and enable each farmer to gain agency over when, where, and whom to sell their produce. Since Arya works with any entity involved in the grain ecosystem, including farmers, farmer producer organisations (FPOs), financial institutions, SME Agri processors, commodities dealers, Agritech and Agrifintech companies, and corporate agribusinesses while we enable and facilitate grain trade across the country, we are striving to become the country’s Grain OS.
10. As an entrepreneur, what is your leadership mantra?
Transparency is a must when it comes to executing operations as a leader. Along with this, speed of execution and focus on a holistic solution to be a true problem solver will greatly help in succeeding. But at the end of all, it was hard work and sincere intentions that have gotten us so far.