We’re happy to announce Shardul Sheth as keynote speaker at this year’s Impact Startup Fest. Shardul is co-founder of Indian startup AgroStar that is taking smart farming to the next level. Having been dubbed “the Amazon” for the Indian rural farmer, AgroStar is now drastically impacting the agricultural business by providing high-quality, affordable agri-products right to the farmer’s doorstep. Be sure to come hear Shardul’s story at Impact Startup Fest next week.
“Farmers in India face significant challenges at every point, from buying agri-inputs to improving their yields, and finally, getting a good price for their produce,” Shardul explains. “That’s why AgroStar works hard to relieve some of these challenges through smart farming.”
It is currently building the first and largest “direct to farmer” agri-input-focused m-commerce platform in India – to make farming more sustainable and profitable for farmers. “AgroStar provides solutions to the farmer,” Shardul says. “This includes advice on their practice, solutions towards increments and pest management, commerce and delivery of products. They are all part of the solution. For us, the big picture is about enabling farmers to win.”
Trend shift to app use
The company has partnered with multiple leading national and multinational brands whose agricultural products can be bought through AgroStar. Farmers can buy quality seeds, crop nutrients, crop protection, and hardware products from the platform. All farmers have to do is give a missed call on AgroStar’s m-commerce platform.
But today the same customers that bought a feature phones before are now buying smartphones. They are reaching out to the team and asking them to build something resembling WhatsApp. “We are currently witnessing this trend shift,” Shardul says. “It puts AgroStar in a sweet spot as we have already worked hard to acquire the customers. Now we just have to reach out to them and let them know they can download our application for improved service. To date, our mobile app has been downloaded by farmers over 100,000 times.”
“Technically, they are the ‘Amazon’ for the rural farmer. To me, their success is proof that technology can indeed change the lives of masses of people in developing countries” – Stefanie Bauer, senior partner at impact organization Intellecap
Pan-Indian smart farming
AgroStar is based in Pune, a lively city in the western Indian state of Maharashtra. It currently operates in the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Rajasthan. AgroStar plans to have a pan-India presence in the next two years.
The company will first focus on geographical expansion and the infrastructure needed to support it. Then, it will focus on developing its smart farming technology, both in terms of the back-end and the farmer-facing side. “We have been fairly prudent in investing in technology and now that we have got the required capital we want to build a solid in-house team,” Shardul explains.
Founded just three years ago, AgroStar is now a leader in the digital agri-business space in India. It started off as a small enterprise and has now raised $15 million in capital, in addition to drastically impacting traditional Indian agri-business. “To scale the venture and create an even larger impact, we will look to deploy an additional $30 to $40 million over the next two to three years,” Shardul says.
“Technically, they are the ‘Amazon’ for the rural farmer. They enable farmers to acquire quality fertilizer and real-time solutions through a mobile-based technology platform that is easily accessible,” Stefanie Bauer, senior partner at India-based impact organization Intellecap, summarizes AgroStar’s core business. “To me, their success is proof that technology can indeed change the lives of masses of people in developing countries,” she adds.