Great Companies: How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
Gaurav Narang: Straight out of IIM Calcutta, I had forayed into the Start-up world. My first start-up was in the Pharma domain. It focussed on providing medicines and care services to patients suffering from chronic diseases. That experience gave me enough insights into the link between what we eat and the lifestyle diseases afflicting people at large, especially those living in the cities. Once my healthcare start-up was acquired by Portea Medical, for the next venture, I decided to do something in the space of making healthy food available to people living in cities. While looking for avenues to find such healthy food, I realized that the agricultural production system had too many gaps. The avenues to find a reliable supply chain of healthy food were limited. This was when I decided to go further down the value chain and become a farmer myself. At CityGreens, we enable growers (both hobbyists and commercial) to grow fresh, safe, and healthy produce using automation and precision farming.
Great Companies: What are the various Services provided by CityGreens
Gaurav Narang: CityGreens offers smart farming solutions for controlled environmental agriculture in urban and peri-urban areas. The solutions include an ecosystem of IoT based offerings that help automate several tasks for the farmers and lead to increased productivity. Apart from that, we also support our growers by offering them high quality, in-house developed inputs and dedicated agronomy and farm management support.
Great Companies: What makes CityGreens different from hundreds of other similar service providers?
CityGreens is India's leading research-based Agri-Tech Start-up. At 10,000 sqft, we probably own and operate the nation's largest research infrastructure dedicated to developing smart farming solutions for controlled environment agriculture.
What sets us further apart is that, unlike many players who work on specific parts of the value chain, at CityGreens, we offer holistic, indigenously developed, MakeInIndia solutions to our customers. We have developed indigenous growing structures, proprietary nutrient blends, and a suite of IoT enabled autonomous solutions, thus playing at different levels in the seed to shelf ecosystem. Further, we have not only developed these solutions for the broader market, but we also use the same technologies across our multiple farms, thereby putting our money where our mouth is.
Great Companies: What are the struggles and challenges you face?
Gaurav Narang: Usually the same challenges that other start-up founders would face like finding the right workforce, developing profitable and sustainable business models etc. However, one area wherein the challenges are different is due to the nature of the industry itself. Agriculture has a large gestation period, especially if you are in technology. Unlike trading, where it is easy to buy from one and sell to others and thereby show a decent top line, it takes time to develop innovative tech solutions. Further, it isn't easy to scale up physical infrastructure. These challenges are compounded by the fact that the Govt. does not treat you as a farmer, and most of the sops and benefits offered to farmers are unavailable to you. As someone who is motivating more and more people to leave their mainstream careers and look at agriculture as a long term business venture, this does become a motivational roadblock and adds to entry barriers.
Great Companies: How do you plan to grow in the future? What does 5 years down the line look like for CityGreens?
Gaurav Narang: Over the last four years, we have developed a robust technology backbone that successfully runs multiple farms spread across India. So far, we have limited the technology to be used exclusively on our farms. Now that we have perfected the technology in the real world, we are looking forward to offering it to growers across India and using it as a lever to grow.
Great Companies: If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
Gaurav Narang: Just Get started. If you believe in something, pursue it. Please do not listen to the advisors or consultants who have never run a business themselves. Do not worry about the consequences. In the worst case, you will fail. You can always start all over again.