College friends Fariq Naushad and Previn Jacob Varghese have always been entrepreneurial.
During their college days, they founded a company called Invento Technology Solutions, which developed a platform for housewives to sell food online. They then founded a software solutions company called Teczium Solutions in Rwanda in 2016. While the company managed to secure deals worth $750,000 within 12 months of operations, Fariq and Pervin were still unhappy. They wanted to build something for and in India.
It laid the foundation for. According to the co-founders, after returning to India in 2019, they were intrigued by the sustainability move that allowed them to develop a product in agriculture.
Based in Thiruvananthapuram, Greenikk is currently building a banana farmer-centric digital ecosystem. The Agritech platform has built Enabling Centers (EC) to provide farmers with necessary support such as finance, seeds, crop advice, insurance coverage, agricultural inputs including weather tips, and market connectivity that covers the full gamut of production and marketing both inside and outside. and outside the country.
According to the founders, the initiative aims to solve problems for every stakeholder in the entire banana value chain, from banana farmers and processors to brokers, bulk B2B buyers and fiber buyers. The startup also takes banana waste and turns it into fertilizer and banana fiber.
“We are the first full-stack platform to provide end-to-end support across the banana value chain (from finance/insurance to product marketing and waste-to-value). In fact, bananas will increase revenue for every stakeholder in the value chain,” says Fariq.
As of now, the venture has established ECs in some of the major banana producing agricultural belts in the country such as Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
How was it start?
Single-use plastics were banned in India in 2019. This gave Previn the idea to turn the papaya petiole into a sustainable reed. Pervin and Fariq worked with a scientist to come up with the final product and presented it at the Tata Social Enterprise Competition held at IIM Kolkata. Greenikk was also recognized as one of the top 3 social enterprises in the country in 2020.
The company continued to work with papaya dealers and farmers until 2020. However, the team had to suspend this project as costs rose during the pandemic process and the accommodation industry came to a standstill.
Meanwhile, the company was still receiving questions about whether it could help distribute the fruit from its network. The team also gained insights by working with the central government’s BIRAC fellowship program, where it works with farmers to create a B2C model of sourcing and delivering fresh produce to customers. This model also provided the company with an initial investment from a US-based investor.
After the economy opened, Greenikk turned to a B2B model as there was more room for growth.
“We couldn’t add any value other than being a digital trader. So, as founders, we came to the conclusion that why not focus on a set of products, or perhaps at least one, and then dig deeper into it,” explains Fariq.
This caused them to narrow their focus to the versatile product, the banana, as India is also the top banana producer in the world.
Fariq says organizing a 200-year-old fruit and vegetable supply chain requires real effort at the ground level. The company initially received money from its shareholders. Fariq recalls an instance where one day a truckload of bananas went missing and they learned they had been cheated on by a seller and lost Rs 1.55 lakh.
“We also face tremendous pressure, resistance and threats from dealers to not approach farmers directly,” Fariq says. “We also reached a stage where we had to close the company twice for zero cash. This caused us to change our business models three times to land on a single banana crop.”
“Currently, our platform is working on a unique model that also empowers dealers and all existing stakeholders,” he adds.
Building an ecosystem
The company sells bananas to bulk B2B buyers such as chips manufacturers, export agents and large wholesalers. While the startup is not yet profitable, Fariq says they are actively investing in R&D.
With a network of 10,000 farmers, Greenikk has grown 300% with sales of Rs 1.58 in 22 fiscal years. Fariq shared that the venture is expected to finish the current fiscal year at Rs 6 million.
“Our product is a technology platform (physical and digital) accessible to all stakeholders,” says Fariq.
Physical activation centers in the banana growing belts will provide end-to-end agricultural services and products to farmers. Digital platforms will connect all banana stakeholders, giving them access to finance and other opportunities such as buying/selling the product.
“We will also produce final value-added products from bananas (chips, banana powder, banana wine) and the waste stems will be used to make banana fiber, handicrafts and textiles, all under our own brand.” difference. Greenikk currently sells these products through a platform called Vimala Welfare and plans to sell on e-commerce platforms such as Amazon in the near future.
The startup has a team of 12 and serves clients such as Beyond Snacks (Shark Tank Funded), Tierra Foods, Chedda Foods Mumbai, Kozhikodens, Casco Mumbai, Vimala Welfare Center and Reshamandi.
Greenikk currently competes with Vegrow, INi farms and Desai Farms.
Market and finance
There are close to 1,300 agricultural enterprises in India. According to a report by Bain & Company, it is the world’s third-largest country in terms of receiving agricultural technology funding. According to an EY report, the market potential of market connectivity and supply chain is expected to exceed $12 billion by 2025.
Earlier this month, Greenikk raised Rs 5.04 crore in pre-seed funding led by 9 Unicorn Ventures; Kerala-based angel group Smart Spark Ventures; Manish Modi, chairman of Mauritius-based Mastermind Capital Ventures; Saurabh Agarwal and Mayank Tiwari, the founders of Reshamandi; and Arjun Pillai sitting on the Zoom info board.
The company plans to have a model farm setup in Tamil Nadu’s Theni and Mettupalayam Districts where the latest banana growing practices will be used. Fariq says these will serve as models for farmers around the generation.
The initiative will also set up artisan units (from fiber to fashion) in Kochi, Kerala; and Theni, Tamil Nadu to convert natural banana fiber into value-added products.
The company plans to set up two agricultural input and collection offices in Tamil Nadu to run farmer engagement programmes, marketing and advisory services and sales of banana related agricultural inputs.
Fariq shares that Greenikk wants to reach 50,000 farmers in the next 15 months and expand activation centers in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.