Startup Street: India’s Agritech Startups Are Booming. But There’s More To Do

This week on Startup Street, we have a report by Nasscom that outlines the emerging trends in India’s agritech startups along with what more is needed. Commerce and industry body Assocham is launching a quick-pitch series for Indian startups. And cab ordering applications have taken another step towards the future of electric and driverless cars.

Agritech Startups Are Having A ‘Delightful’ 2019

India’s agriculture tech startups are undergoing a boom in 2019, with funding in the first half of the year jumping over three-fold compared with that in the entire previous year. Funding received till June 2019 was $248 million compared with $73 million in 2018—spurred by key deals with Ninjacart, AgroStar, WayCool, Jumbotail and Samunnati Financial Intermediation—as the industry focuses on strengthening the supply chain, according to a report by Nasscom.

Of the 450 agritech startups in India, more than half offer supply chain solutions like better access to inputs for farmers or market linkage. Over time, the ecosystem has tilted towards B2B startups instead of B2C startups, the report said.

Titled ‘Agritech in India—Emerging Trends in 2019’, the report attributes the sudden boom to the idea that agritech startups may be one of the only things that are truly ‘Make in India’. More than 25 Indian agritech companies have global presence so far while only five global agritech companies have ventured in India, the report said.

Ninjacart’s $165 million funding this year is the largest any Indian startup has received from a U.S. investment firm till date. Interest in Indian agritech startups has increased globally, including from the World Economic Forum and Asian Development Bank.

India’s agritech ecosystem is maturing quickly amid emerging business opportunities in market linkage, digitalisation in agriculture, offering better access to inputs, farming as a service and financing farming operations.

The reason the sector has so many opportunities can be attributed to the number of broken links in India’s agricultural sector. The severe gaps in supply chain have led to $13 billion in losses post harvest, according to the report. It has also led to exploitation of farmers who get driven deep into debt, causing suicides and protests among the agrarian community. Farm incomes was also one of the key issues the 2019 election was contested upon, with both Bharatiya Janata Party and Indian National Congress offering different versions of direct income schemes for farmers.

Another problem is that of disguised employment, the report points out. The country’s agricultural sector employs 50 percent of India’s workforce but contributes to only 18 percent of the gross domestic product. “Solutions that enable fast automation and aggregation will rationalise and gainfully redistribute the workforce,” the report said. Increasing India’s processed food export and maximising usage of water resources are other problems, and opportunities, in the sector, it said.

However, even with the rapid growth—averaging 25 percent year-on-year—there are issues that need to be addressed for the industry to reach its potential. Nearly 40 percent of agritech startup founders believe raising funds is their biggest challenge, despite the boost in investment. More than half of CEOs believe that the sector won’t see a unicorn, or startup with valuation of $1 billion, for the next five years.

Nasscom believes that the government needs to put in place policies for structured growth. This includes setting up micro funds ranging from $2 million to $14 million to help spur innovation. Data policy, incubation policy, policy for warehouse licensing and engaging startups in larger projects are other areas the government needs to work on, the report said.

The report estimates that by 2020 the agritech sector to be at the center-stage of innovation and will lead India’s journey towards overall transformation.

“Therefore, to achieve this goal, it is imperative that the ecosystem needs to focus towards driving innovation, data collaboration, easy working capital and providing digital infrastructure to enable real time access to farmers across the country,” a Nasscom statement on the report said.

Assocham Is Launching Elevator Pitch Programme For Startups

Industry chamber Assocham is set to launch a programme in 12 Indian cities, including Jammu and Srinagar, to provide a platform for startups to pitch for funding and technology partners for their dream projects.

In a ‘Startup Elevator Pitch Series’ format, the programme will give entrepreneurs and founders 300 seconds to explain the concept and idea of a service or product to a set of jury members—not different from the U.S. TV show Shark Tank.

The series is scheduled to begin on Sept. 7 at Jaipur followed by Pune, Lucknow, Chandigarh, Raipur, Indore, Guwahati, Kochi, Vishakhapatnam, Jammu and Srinagar.

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