Episode 12 @Cordss: Innovative farmer entrepreneur

Episode 12 @Cordss: Innovative farmer entrepreneur

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Hi listeners, I am Prateek Choudhary and welcome  to Cordss podcast, Cordss is a one-to-one   mentorship platform, and today on our podcast  we are with an industry expert to mentor you. My guest for today is an entrepreneur  who is working closely with farmers   and making an impact in their life  using his expertise in innovation   and entrepreneurship so I welcome founder  of Innoveo Exports Vaibhav Sharma.  Vaibhav has done his masters in innovation and  entrepreneurship from Europe worked with multiple   companies like bioMérieux, Amadeus IT Group,  started his own startup called Imprigo which   also became part of government incubator and now  currently working with farmers at Innoveo Exports   and for a fun fact, Vaibhav is a Hindustani  classical singer and a blogger too.  So Hi Vaibhav, how are you? Hello Prateek, thank you so much   for inviting me to your podcast and I look  forward to answering all your questions.  Yeah, I am also really interested and  excited to know your story so Vaibhav feel   free to share your story and please tell  exactly what you do at Innoveo Exports,   and then we can move to a specific  question that we have for you. 

Sure-Sure, so what we're trying to achieve at  Innoveo exports is that we are connecting with   farmers across India and as we all know that  the agricultural sector is segregated into you   know there are small and marginal farmers and  then there are bigger farmers and there are big   middlemen as well so it's a very interesting  space however the majority of the farming that   is being done in India is for is related to you  know the staple food, for example, wheat or maize   or cotton. These are the things that  that the farmers focus on generally   however there is also another aspect or another  farming that is being done and which is also quite   lucrative that they're not aware about and that  is the farming of aromatic and medicinal plants.  Okay! So the government has a whole department   and working on it so basically, it is the  directorate of aromatic and medicinal plants and   they have like multiple research organizations  as well. So what I'm trying to explain here   is that there is a section of farmers who  cultivate things like mint for example whatever   products we use today considering like you have  your spearmint chewing gum you have your   toothpaste or anything which involves a minty sort  of flavor it comes from spearmint or peppermint or   Japanese mint so these are some of the mint  that is produced from the aromatic farming.   Now what happens is that this kind of farming  is done in pockets so, for example, you have   UP region where there is more of you know that  the land is more fertile so it is prone to   grow certain kind of aromatic crops similarly  you have Kashmir region where you have lavender   you have or you have south complete for example  you have Kerala where you have great spices.   So all these things like flowers spices herbs and  all these things are distilled into oils and into   extracts and then these are sold to certain  companies who then create products on them   so for example all the products that you  get where you have the aroma and the flavor   these are made using the essential oils from  the aromatic plants so what we are trying to   do is that we are trying to connect this kind of  marginal farmers with the international companies   particularly in France and in other parts of  Europe because we are already aware of the   market there and we know the kind of challenges  when it comes to dealing with European companies   so that is the whole essence of Innoveo Exports. Okay okay! that's really interesting because  

everybody is not doing that and you  have chosen really a niche field, Nice!  So Vaibhav as you have done your master's in  entrepreneurship from Europe and why not you   just started with any other idea say in India  only because everyone says college is not for   entrepreneurship, in fact, some of the people say  it's just a bad investment then why did you choose   to do masters in entrepreneurship why didn't you  just start with your journey of entrepreneurship?  See I did start with my journey of  entrepreneurship and that is when I realized that   you know to actually become a good entrepreneur  you need certain things and more than anything,   of course, you need an idea you need perseverance  you need everything like all these are common   things but it is a business at the end of the  day and to run a business you need to understand   a business and as engineers, it depends on how  much time you have spent on learning about it but   in general engineers are really not aware of many  things that we should be for example we don't know   how to make our accounts we are really not aware  of corporate finance or of strategies or anything   what we think of business uh generally comes as  you know marketing or advertisement or promotional   base. So these are some of the things where we  think that okay so these are the commercial things   and you know as even as engineers we can once we  have a product we can just focus on marketing but   that's not the end of it there's a lot of things  that you need to care about you need to think of.   How are you going to think of a market first  of all how are you going to put that in numbers   because you can think of a market you can  create a product you can go and experiment   with it but do you know how to put it in numbers  do you know how to think of it that. Okay! How   will I scale this in the next six months so  you need to understand all of these things   and particularly you don't really need and need a  master's in entrepreneurship as such but for me,   the course seemed to be very interesting because  the course it offered me and you know a chance   to visit silicon valley for 10 days and to  visit certain companies. You know like the   big tech companies and the other thing was that  there was a live business case where we were   you know we dealt with a real business case for a  complete year. So that was these were like some of   the very interesting things and the university  is quite reputed and though the place is quiet   you know it's a small place but even then there's  this great opportunity because there are more like   a lot of international students and everything  so I thought it is you know it's quite niche   it's quite interesting and I will get the  opportunity to learn from peers as well as I can   go around and I can see things how things happen  and once I am able to develop that kind of mindset   that would really enable me to, it would open  up my mind it would give me a lot of ideas and   it would also give me the confidence to do  something in uh you know a separate thing and   the most important thing is that I'll  have the knowledge the basic knowledge   to scale things to make things and that is very  much required because after a point of time we   start sort of start getting frustrated  when we don't understand things. 

So basically for knowing the basic thing to run  the business and for the confidence, you decided   to go for masters that that's really great. So let's talk about starting a venture   so what are the basic tips or the basic  key points to know before starting a venture   say someone is just having an idea so what are  the key points to know before starting a venture?  Well, it is an interesting question but to  start a venture the first thing that you   need is to understand, see there are two things  right one thing is that you need to know your   business whatever it is in whatever industry.  If you are trying to create a product you're   trying to create a service or you don't have any  idea but you're just trying to solve a problem   you just think that you know you can add some  value in it or you just want to start your own   for example you want to start your own [Small  shop] that is also a venture right. So anything   could be a venture but then at the end of the day  you start your you start selling your product or   first you need to think of your product second  thing is that you need to think of your customer   so once you know that okay this is the product  that I want to either create or sell and then I   know that which is the customer that I want to  target then you start identifying your market   right. So that is where it comes into finding  your product-market fit where and that is the  

biggest challenge of your whole venture because  once you are able to establish that then the   other thing would fall into place but the initial  and the most challenging part is where you have   to you know think of your idea convert it  into a prototype and then test it into the   real market whatever your market is so that is  also a job to identify what your market is and   you need to keep on iterating because you need to  first make an assumption you need to support your   assumption by data and validation through experts  then you need to test it in the real market   then based on your learning you need to pave  it then you keep on pivoting until you find the   real product-market fit and once you are able  to do that and you may you're able to start   making some revenue out of it then you can uh  you can think of starting your own company.   But my recommendation would be to open your like  the whole compliance part wherein you start your   company and everything should be done in the  first two-three months because it takes a little   more time here and once you have your own  company and you have to take care of your   legalities and everything it's also a burden on  you which gives you the need to do things faster   because then you also have to follow a lot of,  you know things where you are more responsible   your norms so it gives you more responsibility  as well otherwise what happens is that sometimes   you know if your project whatever idea you're  working upon after the point of time you start   feeling that okay so it's not working out and  I might want to go for masters. I might want to   go you know I might want to get another job or  something so you won't be compelled to continue   with your venture because of course, it is not  even a venture it was just a project that you were   doing so, yeah these are some of the things. Very true so yeah we have talked about the   key points "How to start a venture ?" So let's  talk something about what shouldn't be done   in a startup, so your first venture Imprigo and  it was also a part of government incubator right?  Correct-Correct, Yeah So yeah and it was not so successful yeah,   so it was your first venture and it was not  so successful so what are the key learnings   from that startup that venture, and what are the  key points that you should not do in a startup?  Okay so I think that's a great question because it  is very important to think of the things that we   should avoid right so how entrepreneurs should  think is that they should make a list of all   the things that could go wrong okay so if you're  thinking of starting a venture take like whoever   is your co-founder sit together with them and  think of all the things that could not work out,   for example, the first and the most common thing  is that after six months you will not be able   to commit to the project because you will either  have commitments to your job or you will have to   respond to your parents you will have to you will  be fixed in certain some sort of thing so will you   be able to commit to the project six months or one  year down the lane when you will have zero revenue   and you would have spent around fifty thousand to  sixty thousand or maybe one lakh two lakh rupees.   So can you do that if yes then go ahead with it  and if no then how do you start a venture which is   less cost-intensive or you know which demands  less of your time, So list down all the problems   that you could have other thing is that  will your partner or your co-founder be   able to stay with you and what is the kind  of role that they would want to play in it   that would they would you both want to work on the  same things and increase the efficiency of that   or would you want to divide it from the initial  phase and you would want to focus more on the   product side and the other person would want  to focus more on the marketing side or however   there should be a very good understanding between  the two people right so uh write down all these   things and then try to figure out what could  go wrong and then be honest with yourself about   can you sustain all these things down the lane and  still work on your company and make it successful. 

And even which can even pay you  and you don't get bored also,   the main thing i feel people get bored easily  they start with enthusiasm but after few months   when there is no reward no return  the company didn't pay them   so they start getting bored and they  lose all the motivation factor Yeah?  Yeah because entrepreneurship is not a fun project  right it's not something that you can just you   know do it no way it's not about enjoying the  whole part of it because we enjoy it when we   feel secure. Okay so the first thing is that we  need to be secured right if you're in college you   go for a project you want to question your page  okay cool doesn't work out doesn't matter we are   any we're going to uh go for our classes and at  the end of the day we'll get jobs or something   right but it's but entrepreneurship you don't have  anything I mean you enter into it and you are zero   if you don't have it then you don't have anything  and you've already spent time and money into it   so you need to make it happen right so that is  the kind of thing that one should keep in mind.   And it is all about commitment if you can't  commit to your project for more than six months   then there is no point in starting a company right  if're if you just want to experiment with it uh go   ahead and you can experiment with your job or even  if you are I don't know whatever is your situation   you can go out and experiment with but experiments  don't like 99% they won't work out one percent yes   it could convert into something bigger as well  we don't know right? and even I was listening   to Paul Graham of Y Combinator and he told the  same thing that a lot of projects, for example,   they are you know their summer projects or their  projects which convert into other projects as   well but the probability of that is very low  the maximum probability of one getting success   is when one is totally committed to it at least  one person has to do it if all the co-founders   are really you know they are part-time then it can  be it would ultimately be a very big challenge.  Very true-Very true, So the key  learning is be committed to your   startup if you really want to enter this  entrepreneurship world be commended yeah?  Correct-Correct yeah and think practically one  has to very one has to be practical about things   because it could be um i mean watching dreams  and thinking about those successing uh like you   know achieving those the kind of success that  we want from our dreams is a very good feeling   and one should go for it i totally encourage it  but at the same time one has to be grounded and   think of the reality also that comes into place  so unless you have a lot of cash or unless you   have you know financial support with you and you  are ready to go forward with experimenting with   your life and with your project and with financial  support and moral support with from your parents   um then one should go for it otherwise if  you are really stuck in other things so   sort your life before you  go into entrepreneurship. 

Very true very true! So you have been around   two to three years in Europe I guess yeah? Yeah yeah, so what is the key learning from   your side from Europe which you see  India has potential and we can use   them but we are not using them properly? So they are very like there's a there are a   lot of things that we can learn from each other  right that is the whole beauty of international   trade and, you know intercultural management and  all these kind of things and that's what attracted   me to start my venture as well. See there are  things which we need to understand we are not   great at and we need to first start thinking as  entrepreneurs if you really want to, you know   have that kind of mindset what you need to have  is to have uh observational skills about things   so you need to think of because of problems that  everywhere you need to have the eyes to observe   them and once you have once you observe a problem  then the next point is to start thinking of   solutions and how you are going to find solutions  is two things either you read a lot about them you   watch a lot of things and then you sort of have  an idea about it or the second thing is that you   have experience. Once you have the experience  you have your own mindset in a way where you can   start thinking of different ideas right so what  happened with me is that when I went to Europe and   I tried to experience as many things as possible  so I tried to you know I tried to visit other   companies I tried to connect with multiple people  from different nationalities and that's the   beauty of Europe that you can talk to you know  you can connect with multiple nationalities,   you can learn about their problems you can start  seeing how those companies respond their what is   the kind of attitude that those people have.  And because every culture is different germans   will be different germans are more prone to  be efficient and they're bound to their time's   french people are also they are a little uh free  in the way that they are more on the creative side   they like to to take more things on there, for  example, they take bigger lunch breaks and they   always leave early but even then they are able  to you know to do their work efficiently in a way   that that is a little more creative but they won't  have the same kind of machinery effectiveness that   is what you can see in the industry as well. So it  all depends upon the culture and that's the beauty   of Europe and from the learnings that I got there  is that "We need to adapt" that's the only thing   we need to adapt and "Our companies need to  adapt, our culture, our people need to adapt"   and when because if you want to go for  exports or any kind of international trade   you need to understand that if our companies  and our people cannot adapt to their culture and   their understanding and their understanding of the  projector and the understanding of business then   you really cannot communicate well with  them and without communication and without   long-term relationship, no business can succeed.  Very interesting point you said here we need to  adapt okay so wherever as Indian farmers are not   so very lean towards the innovation side so  how they see any technology or any entrepreneur   going to them and actually pitching them  their idea so "you use this product and   your farmland will be more productive"  so how farmers are seeing technology?  So I think it depends on the farmer where they  are based particularly for example in Gujarat   you take the farmers are quite interested  in new technologies, as well the thing is   that you need to establish a relationship with  them. That's all and see technology is always  

an enabler technology comes later first thing is  your communication and your relationship with them   and how you really want to solve the problem  because without the problem what is the use of   the technology so first establishing the problem  takes time first communication relationship and   then establishing the problem and then to really  solve the problem efficiently then technology   comes into place. So technology is always going  to be an enabler because for example if I start   like considering farming of aromatic crops so I  know other startups as well who are you know for   example they're using hyperspectral imaging or  some of them are using IoT or there are a lot of   different kind of startups that are using amazing  technology in the aggregate sector and, the point   is that we also want to eventually help farmers  with this kind of technologies but our focus here   is to connect to the buyers because at the end  of it if you observe the Indian agricultural   overall market like you know the statistics for  the in agricultural exports then what you observe   is that we are really not able to convert our  produce into exports and our exports are very   less even you can take agriculture you can take  fruits and vegetables or you can make even the   the the supply which is, for example, wheat or  maize or anything. So we are producing a lot we   are in surplus but we are not able to convert that  into exports so where is the missing link then   the missing link is in our ability to convert  our produce into a lucrative export opportunity   and that is where we need to come in we need  to give them hand-holding we need to guide them   about the right kind of market that they should  be prepared with so if we know the trend for the   market then we can ask our farmers to produce the  same kind of crop then we can ask other kinds of   technologies or startups or any kind of support  that we need we can even try and we can we will   have our own technology as well of course so  we will then we can use that that will be the   second or third step and then their product will  be sufficient and when they will have a fixed   market that is the main thing because if you don't  give them a contract if you don't give them a   fixed market they are never going to use for you. Very true okay so basically you are maintaining   a balance between now you are acting as  a mediator between a buyer and a seller?  Yeah, correct-correct! Bbut also the fact that it's not you're not   creating a marketplace uh like you know it is not  about uh we are not making an alibaba here what we   are trying to do is that we are trying to create a  group of efficient people here and by that what i   mean is that see the kind of data that we collect  when we deal with farmers and with MSME as well   is that we try to categorize them and we start  and when we deal with them we gather a lot of data   about what is the work that they are doing what  is the quality of you know product that they're   producing and what is the communication style and  a lot of data about them and based on that data   we try to create filters and to you know to make a  group of people so that once we have communication   with the right buyer and whenever there is  an inquiry we are able to filter out and we   are able to create a very efficient communication  channel with the most suitable supplier whoever is   the farmer or the MSME and in that way we create a  simpler channel and we also have the right kind of   knowledge to share it to the buyer so that creates  a efficient channel for the whole exports and   the other part is to then also create so there are  a lot of different kind of things about fpos and   farmer groups and everything  however this is the the crux of it. Got it-Got it! So talking about   innovation how innovation is bringing livelihood  to the farmers how is their lifestyle has been   improved or how they are making more money which  eventually makes their life good and any success   story of the farmer you would like to share? Yeah absolutely I mean see innovation, we need   to understand innovation, first of all, innovation  can be done in the product, in a process, in your   mindset as well innovation could be done anywhere  what is innovation at the end of the day is   all about efficiency. So the more efficient  you make a process so uh what happens is that  

um you know when I went to Christensen Institute  in San Francisco and they gave a simple,   you know the answer for disruptive innovation they  told that disruptive innovation is something that   reduces the cost of some of a product and at the  same time they are able to reach the product to   a mass-market so when you create something a  service or a product where you have increased   the efficiency to reduce the price of it and  you are able to sell it to a mass-market as well   then it is a disruptive innovation until then  it could be an innovation but it will not be   viable in the market right. So Tesla could be an  innovation before six years as well but it wasn't   uh very much affordable so we could not say  that it is a disruptive innovation right   so one needs to understand the kind of innovation  that they're doing uh when it comes to farmers,   See as i told before as well there are multiple  ways to increase the efficiency of the crop there   are multiples multiple ways to increase uh you  know the whole sector of farming uh the produce   but the other way you can think is that is there  an is there an efficient way to increase their   sales as well or is there, for example, a  farmer is doing the traditional farming can   he start with aromatic farming can he try  and do intercrop can he do other things as   well that is also an innovative thought  and how you convert that into practice   is your strategy right so that is also innovation  and when it is converted into execution   successfully that is a complete project right so  that is also kind of innovation we need to think.  Okay! So that's a very insightful answer  you know that's really interesting. okay,   so Vaibhav what is the next emerging industry  you see for any entrepreneur to step in?  If you want to start anything or your  interest first thing is that you should   think of your interest it's all about don't  think of the market don't think you know that   this industry will grow or not or of course you  need to do that but that is a second step that   is a later step the first thing is that if you no  matter what even if you join an industry or if you   know to start a venture in an industry that is  growing at a very high speed but if you are not   really passionate about it or you don't enjoy the  products or you're not really interested in it you   will eventually fade out because you won't enjoy  your work. So the first thing is that uh you know   think of your interest deeply that what is it  that really interests you whatever product line   whatever industry line what is it that you have  been tracking for the last one year which industry   or which broad which company do you think is  making a great impact and you think that you   know this is the kind of uh products that would  be really you know I would be interested by it   so think in that manner and then the next step  would be to start thinking that, okay! Once you   have an idea that okay, for example, I want to go  with e-commerce or I want to go I want to create   something or you know, or for a communication  platform or a network or you know there are so   many things that are coming up now. So once you  build when you once you start doing that you need  

to start thinking of your prototype and your  idea and one so starts building your prototype   and then start selling it off however you can  try and get in touch with people and then once   you have the feedback you can start thinking if  that is worth doing or not because see eventually   going to a VC or even thinking of going to a  VC is at a very later stage because initially,   it's all about realizing that do you really you  know can you enjoy the space and if yes then   only you can innovate and you can really put your  creativity in it if not you will not be able to   really you know solve questions there and then you  won't be able to really innovate so it's all about   doing things differently and adding efficiency  in it. And then the final step is to think of the   of the all the metrics total addressable market  serviceability market and all the different kind   of metrics that the VC's use nt uh what is it  long term value capital and uh you know rpo and   everything so that will that all comes later on  and there's no point of thinking of it unless you   are confident about your industry your project  and you're enjoying it so if you're if you're   good with that you can go forward with it. Yeah in fact I believe customers are   the biggest investor, not the VCs. Yeah-yeah, absolutely customer see customers will  

not come easily nobody wants to do anything unless  they really uh they don't have any option and they   really are desperate to do it that is one thing  or the other thing is that you are adding really   a lot of value in it so that they think that okay  so this is cheaper and this is nicer so I can.  Yeah, very true so I think  we have covered everything   in this podcast any last closing line  or any key points you want to say?  What I would want to suggest is that if you  are really interested in entrepreneurship   read a lot read extensively about all the  different kinds of entrepreneurs and their   journeys. I listen to a lot of podcasts as well  there are you know many podcasts which talk about   where successful entrepreneurs have shared their  stories you will realize a lot you know the kind   of problems that they go through so this  is just the beginning of it. For example,   if someone is just a beginner and thinking of  it that is my suggestion for them and if you are   already on your journey to entrepreneurship then  you just need to understand the kind of result   that you will have to have in the future and  you need to commit yourself to a longer period   that's it if you commit yourself to more than  a year then the probability of your success in   your venture will definitely increase by 30 to  40 percent and if it is if you cannot commit to   the project you know more than a year then  your probability is will be less than 10%   so that is what one should be aware of. Very true, so to have  

any venture we need to commit to it, it's really  important. So and the other aspects we learn   from this podcast is communication is the most  important thing in any venture technology is just   an enabler first come to the communication we need  to talk we need to build trust with the customers   with the person we will be working so it's very  important, so I think wherever we have covered   everything and thank you so much for coming to  our listeners would be loving it and have a lot   to grab from so thank you, thank you so much! Thank you thank you! So listeners that's all  for today see you next week   with a new industry expert, a new story  to learn from stay tuned podcast Cordss. you

2021-02-18 02:33

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