Will DeHaat’s phygital network give it the edge in agri-platform play?

Will DeHaat’s phygital network give it the edge in agri-platform play?

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Supriya Roy

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Supriya Roy

22 reads

The agritech’s platform and growing number of offline centres have helped it gain rare market reach and funding. After a 9-year journey of solving stubborn problems in farming, it wants to hit the next growth stage quickly. How does it plan to do this?

December 13, 2021

12 MINS READ

The founders of agritech startup DeHaat, established in 2012, traversed rural India in the initial years to hear directly from farmers the litany of problems they faced, from difficulties in sourcing seeds and growing crops to selling produce.

The interactions on the ground led to many learnings, helping the team develop its first set of solutions for the farm sector. But one exchange, in particular, shaped DeHaat’s broader business approach.

A farmer asked the team if it could set up a physical point of contact. The simple query seemed to run counter to technology firms’ common aim of bringing everything online, but it made DeHaat realise that trust and a sense of community in agriculture can be built only offline.

In July 2013, DeHaat opened its first centre that functioned almost like a company office. In fact, the initial three, located in Bihar’s Vaishali and Muzaffarpur districts, were run by founder-CEO Shashank Kumar and his staff. Today, a network of 3,600 franchised centres, mostly in north India, form the company’s backbone and its ‘phygital’ advantage.

DeHaat offers full-stack agricultural services — quality inputs (seeds, fertiliser), crop advisory, access to finance and direct support for selling produce. While it has a large online platform, including apps for different stakeholders in the supply chain, many farmers discover the services at the centres, which act as points of aggregation, distribution and weekly consultations.

The company’s model and reach — over 6.5 lakh farmers are active on its platform — have piqued investors’ interest and this October, it raised a $115-million funding round, the largest by an Indian agritech startup. The overall space is also attracting attention. Investors in India and abroad are eager to back firms tackling agriculture’s stubborn, decades-old challenges.

One of DeHaat’s early investors, Omnivore VC partner Mark Kahn, told The CapTable that the typical venture-capital model of quick product-market fit, quick traction and quicker expansion would not work in agriculture, and the DeHaat team understood this early on.

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