Vishalya is a Farm-to-Fork initiative dealing in organically grown vegetables, grains, spices and locally processed foods in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. We have partnered with farmers where they grow the crops maintaining variety, quantity and continuity. Vishalya Foods aggregate the produce and supply it directly to the end consumers. We buy 100% of the produce grown by the farmers and pay them market linked prices thereby making them part of the value chain.
Before starting this entrepreneurial journey, I had joined a bank right after completing MBA and soon was placed in the ‘Products’ team at their head office. The role of ‘Product manager’ gave me enough exposure and I developed the confidence to pull off a business on my own. Initially I wanted to get into production of exotic vegetables under Polyhouse (Protected Farming) but when I actually began the business in 2016 and started taking my produce to Mandi, I realised that I wasn’t getting a fair price. This made me rethink and tweak my plan. I began identifying the problems at hand. The main issues that came up were excessive use of chemicals in farming, very high cost of production and finally keeping farmers out of the value chain.
This also helped me realize that farmers do not have marketing skills and most marketeers do not know farming. Farmers do the sowing and follow farming practices by looking at fellow farmers and meet the demand side only when they take produce to the mandi. Thus, they end up getting a much lower price, in fact at times lower than the cost of production. In addition, since the farmers are technically handicapped, their cost of production is also high.
So my first step was to create a farmers’ group who would be responsible for not only growing the produce organically but also for retailing them directly to the end consumers. Fortunately, very soon I got a partner and few farmers who were ready to be part of this initiative. Soon after, we started retailing organically-grown vegetables in Bhopal in November, 2016. The city of Bhopal is my hometown and hence connecting with farmers and starting a retail business was easier here.
Today at Vishalya, we are linking supply side with actual demand so that so that everything grown is also bought at a fair and transparent price. Farming practices have also been standardized to optimize the cost of production.
In September 2017, the digital magazine- The Better India- published an article on us after which we received a call from IIM Calcutta Innovation Park (IIMCIP) to apply if we were interested for the incubation under their INVENT program. It was a dream come true and the ball started rolling once we got selected for the program.
Currently, we have approximately 800 registered customers and our current area of operation is Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh. However, we plan to have company operated hubs soon and for growth, we will identify franchisee partners in targeted cities where skeleton and face would be provided by Vishalya Foods. Our aim is to be present in 10 cities including 2 metro cities by March 2020.
Regarding our business model when we thought of the farm-to-fork model in fresh vegetables, we realized that the most critical aspect is getting regular supplies of vegetables in right quantities. So, we worked out the Demand & Supply math and prepared the execution plan for production. In fact, we even looked into the nitty-gritty such as which crop, in what amount was to be sown on how much of land and on which date. This ensured the maintainance and the continuity of supplies.
Vishalya then aggregates all the produce and then we offer either home deliveries or Store-on-Wheel models.
We are also looking to foray into agritech and we are working on creating a platform to enable farmer groups and aggregators to take advantage of our learning and automate all our planning and execution.