Transforming the sericulture industry, one ripening farm at a time

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After several years in the USA, in December 2020, Saurabh Agarwal’s The return to India was exciting in more ways than one. In the midst of a raging global pandemic and several blockages, as he boarded the ‘Vande Mataram’ flight to India with his young family and a toddler daughter, Saurabh knew the roller coaster ride was just beginning.

Back home, Mayank Tiwari, a graduate of NIFT and the brain behind the silk agro-tech startup ReshaMandi, who was also Saurabh’s childhood friend, knew that the latter’s technical knowledge would be paramount to the impact they hoped to create through their business.

Preselected as YourStory Tech50 2021 list of the 50 most promising Indian tech startups for 2021, Reshamandi is a silk agritech startup that connects farmers to consumers. It is a business-to-business (B2B) marketplace that uses artificial intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) -based digital ecosystems to digitize India’s silk supply chain.

In one of the unwinding units

For its founders, who verified their research and technical expertise before starting ReshaMandi, the focus has always been on empowerment at the local level. Mayank had spent two months with silk producers from different groups across India, understanding cultivation and supply chain issues. Saurabh, on the other hand, had started to imagine IoT technologies to deploy to help these farmers. Saurabh and Mayank also joined Mayank’s former colleague and product expert. Utkarsh apoorv as the third co-founder.

The beginning

“Mayank had a background in textiles and crafts and all local connections. He always believed that compared to cotton, the silk industry had not known so many interventions and initiatives. So we connected in February 2020 to discuss ideas; in May 2020, we registered the company. In June, we created an app for silk producers to connect with us, started trading and operations, and opened a small Mandi in Sarjapur, Bangalore, ”recalls Saurabh.

“Through our interventions, we saw the first signs of an increase in products and their quality. Our IoT devices have been deployed in mulberry farms, which is a monoculture. The devices monitor temperature, humidity, light and air quality in hangars and in rooms where cocoons are raised. All of this made a huge difference to crop yields.

ReshaMandi’s platform also ensures that farmers receive the best raw materials and test kits. Farmers can sell their produce directly to ReshaMandi and the startup makes sure they get the best price on the market. The company also enables the logistical aspect of the supply chain and reduces the burden on the farmer, thus helping to build confidence in the process.

Maintain this confidence

When asked if earning the trust of farmers is easy, Saurabh has an interesting answer. “Gaining their confidence is easy, that’s where the challenge lies. “

“Farmers will give away their produce when you talk to them about common sense and show them your vision. They will be quickly integrated. But keeping those promises to them is its essence; this is where retention and scale will come in. If you don’t show up again next month and leave them hanging, that will be a big blow. And the farming communities are very strongly united, ”adds Saurabh.

Obviously, maintaining trust has not been a problem for ReshaMandi. The startup is now running from 20 to 25 Mandis (large markets) across Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. They are also present in four weaving poles in some of the Indian silk capitals – Varanasi, Dharmavaram, Salem and Kanchipuram, with offices in all four regions.

“A team of 5 to 10 people is always present in the cluster, and we hire them locally in this cluster to overcome linguistic and cultural barriers. It’s great to see opportunities created this way, ”says Saurabh.

Building a new Silk Road

In his previous role, Saurabh led a technical team at Cisco and worked with a different demographic. From that to forging partnerships with silk producers, weavers and clusters, the journey has been nothing short of invigorating for Saurabh and his co-founders.

Today, ReshaMandi – which recently announced a $ 30 million Series A funding round, led by global alternative investment manager Creation Investments – is recording over 20 crore in annual revenue and working with over 30,000 clients in more than 20 cities.

In just over a year, how did ReshaMandi get here? Saurabh has an interesting story to share.

“When we first went to the Banaras (Varanasi) cluster, we were carrying with us sons of Ramnagaram (Ramanagara) – Indian sons. We were there to meet Banarasi weavers who had been in the industry for 50-60 years, established them. We showed them our products and one of the weavers picked up our yarn, looked at it for a long time and said, “You sell Chinese yarn, that’s good. We were surprised but asked them what kind of price they would be willing to pay for this quality, and they replied, “Rs 5,000 to Rs 5,500 per wire,” says Saurabh.

“We literally jumped out of our chairs and then explained that it was Indian yarn, made in Ramnagaram, costing around Rs 3,800. The weavers were shocked, but we immediately started receiving purchase orders and reservations. of son for the next six months. Breaking into the Banarasi market gave us a huge record, and we knew we could do it. ”

Revenue model, marketplace and more

ReshaMandi’s revenue model looks pretty straightforward. It’s a managed market, with the startup making a margin on all the inputs it sells.

“All the wires that we buy, we repackage them, test them and all the other services we provide, we make a margin on it. Even with sarees, we give the weavers design elements, also help them with capital and also make a margin for it. “

More recently, the startup deployed ReshaMudra to help all stakeholders with working capital. “With that, we’ll make nominal interest income,” Saurabh says.

But now that the startup has successfully gained the trust of farmers, digitized the sericulture supply chain and established a successful partnership, what does the future hold?

“Two things we focus on: organically, we do a lot of experimentation around sustainability. There is a lot of waste in the supply chain where the dead pupae can be used in fishing, poultry and other things. Then there is also ReshaMudra, where we also help farmers with loans. Thus, we are building the fintech branch of ReshaMandi, while also focusing on geographic expansion, in addition to certain merger and acquisition (merger and acquisition) opportunities, ”concludes Saurabh.

Edited by Ramarko Sengupta
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