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Image credit: BigHaat

EXCLUSIVE: Indian farmer marketplace BigHaat scores $2m pre-Series A funding

August 10, 2020

BigHaat, an ag marketplace that links farmers with inputs and advisory services, has raised just over $2 million in pre-Series A funding.

The round was led by Japan’s Beyond Next Ventures. Existing backer Ankur Capital also participated alongside Rockstud Capital and a number of angel investors.

Ritu Verma, co-founder and managing partner at Ankur, told AFN that the startup will use the funding “to strengthen their team, tech stack, and geographically expand services.”

Bengaluru-based BigHaat was founded in 2015 by Sateesh Nukala and Sachin Nandwana — now CEO and director, respectively — who combine family backgrounds in agriculture with their personal histories of working in tech and engineering roles at US industrial group Honeywell.

Since then, it claims to have grown into India’s “leading agri inputs e-commerce player,” having engaged more than 3 million farmers across the country through its platform.

It’s “a factory-to-farm model, getting small famers access to a very broad variety of quality inputs on time,” Verma said.

The startup provides a marketplace for purchasing inputs, securing credit, and engaging data-led advisory services, as well as an online community where smallholders can share best practices. Farmers can tap into the platform using its mobile app or via the web; those without internet access can make a missed call to get a callback. Services are available in multiple regional languages.

On the other side of the marketplace, BigHaat offers business intelligence and data analytics to input manufacturers, helping them to better understand market demand and identify new sales opportunities.

The startup generates revenue by charging input producers for this information, as well as by taking a cut of farmers’ purchases through its platform, Verma said.

One among a plethora of ag marketplaces serving Indian farmers, BigHaat suggests it differentiating factor is its focus on acquiring customers through digital channels, relying less on ‘feet on the ground’ to sign farmers up to its platform and extending its reach and service levels in more remote areas.

“BigHaat is a digital-first platform. That has been the primary mode of customer engagement [and that] has driven a largely online interaction and acquisition model,” Verma said.

Ankur first invested in BigHaat back in December 2016. “The team brought a good blend of execution abilities and vision of scaling the platform,” Verma said, explaining the firm’s decision to back the startup.

Tsuyoshi Ito, CEO of Beyond Next Ventures, said that his firm decided to lead this round because of the startup’s ‘quality over quantity’ approach to meeting challenges regularly faced by Indian smallholders when it comes to inputs, “such as price instability, supply security, and quality.”

“BigHaat has looked at these challenges and is using its technology to build and enable the agri-supply chain in India by connecting farmers with quality suppliers,” he added.

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