Great Companies: How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
SATEESH NUKALA: Belonging to a customary, farming background of Andhra Pradesh, made me visualize the struggles of farmers, as a kid. I acknowledged that farming is reckoned as an inconsequential profession’ by my fellow kids who had their ménage involved in farming, hence I went on to pursue higher education and do something ahead of the usual walk of life.
What else can a person desire, when he has achieved sovereignty, gone global, and accorded multiple patents, but? I wasn’t complacent amidst the exuberant lifestyle offered to me; I always felt a VOID... A void that led me to cause a disruption in the industry of agriculture.
Of course, it takes time to reflect, accept and admire where one verily belongs, especially when one is stuck in a complexity of duty and desires. I sensed that I had conquered everything, but an unrealized void’ remained.... So, I kept thinking until I was taken aback by my childhood memory where the subconscious realization of kids not being proud of their farmer, struck me! So, I decided to go back to the ‘roots’ and was set on to disrupting the Agri-space so much, that the child must feel proud of their father, who is a farmer, using all my experience and knowledge.
Great Companies: What are the various services provided by BIGHAAT AGRO PVT LTD.?
SATEESH NUKALA: BigHaat is India’s largest digital agri ecosystem with a mission to deliver excellence across the agricultural sector by enabling farmers to make informed decisions during their entire cropping cycle. We provide holistic farming services across the Agri value chain that includes agricultural inputs across seeds, crop protection and farm implements, farm advisory, financial services, market linkages, sustainable farming practices, and much more.
In the pursuit to make the lives of farmers more valuable and with the objective of shaping a better future, BigHaat empowers them by the democratization of GAP (good agricultural practices) through multiple channels and enables them to take data-driven decisions for their agricultural practices.
Great Companies: What makes BIGHAAT AGRO PVT LTD different from hundreds of other similar service providers?
SATEESH NUKALA: We are the first in the Agri space to disrupt the Agri supply chain and deliver doorstep delivery to the farmers. Our B2C model is apart from any other agri tech that reaches out to retail outlets operating in the market.
Our business model is designed in a manner that serves farmers with the best information, Agri inputs, and more at their disposal. Technology is the pillar of BigHaat powered by data-drivendecision-making abilities that have helped us to penetrate the rural masses of the country. Through the BigHaat application, we can serve the farmers with authentic Agri inputs, credit and insurance facilities, and free agronomical advisory services right at their fingertips.
With over 80+ crops digitized, and 17,000+ pin codes served, we have now impacted more than 17 million+ farmers. Technology innovations have enabled farmers to reduce the cost of cultivation by 25%..
Moreover, unique features on our app like Crop Doctor (instant crop diagnosis for plants infected with diseases), Kisan Vedika (a farmer community platform to interact, share, and disseminate information among farmers), Kisan Sandesh (a platform to get access to news, Agri tips, videos, and blogs), Crop care & Crop Nutrition (helps the farmers get a weekly guide to take care of their crops with expert recommendations) protect crops from any disease and pest attacks. Agri store that hosts over 10,000+ SKUs from 400+ brands offering various authentic manufacturers to serve farmers with the best inputs for their farming needs.
The business model is futuristic keeping in view the demands of the farming sector in India. With years of experience and an in-house team of agronomy experts, we can predict the cropping patterns in different parts of India and are able to serve them with good agronomical practices. The business model is evolving with the right technology supported by AI/ML based technology that is continuously training the system to feed and deliver accurate results.
Great Companies: What were the struggles and challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?
SATEESH NUKALA: As I finally found my purpose and set sail on it, but back then in 2015, the peers didn’t accept my vision, since the agriculture industry was highly chaotic and ‘no technology penetration’ in the rural masses of the nation was thought to put a thwart in my course of action. But I firmly believed that very soon, technology will overrun the rural zones, and that’s where endurance played its part.
Any great idea requires capital to scale, and today each investor fancies keeping a pie of agriculture in his portfolio, but the investment journey had been very challenging for us, as when we hit the market with the model in our mind with all the credentials we held, we were miserably questioned, and people had a notion that we’re punching above the weights, and many didn’t support us, but that didn’t let us forgo the vision of revolutionizing the Agri-industry.
We kept at it and reached out to multiple peers, and then investors who could potentially help us build a strong foundation, and then scale the process adding more value to it. I was backed by a few colleagues from my previous organization, Honeywell, and that gave me much more confidence towards building a product for the Agri-industry, which would revolutionize the thought process of the farming community, and we raised our first round of investment and immediately took the help of technology and got built, a mobile application which was simple enough to be used by the farming community, and it successfully enabled the horticultural farmers to avail doorstep delivery of quality inputs (seeds). With time and more believers in the vision, the team size kept increasing through hiring's in multiple domains and the services also expanded their reign.
As we can see today, BigHaat has been able to transform the agriculture value chain from pre-harvest to post-harvest leveraging science, data, and technology, and with the help of a tech-enabled farmer-centric platform, and we’re addressing the challenges posed by conventional retailers, thereby helping farmers to make informed decisions.
Great Companies: How do you plan to grow in the future? What does 5 years down the line look like for BIGHAAT AGRO PVT LTD?
SATEESH NUKALA: India has approximately ~140 million farmers and BigHaat in its 7+ years of journey, has been able to touch 10% of these farmers’ life. Until 2020-21, BigHaat was patiently building its technology, and thereafter with the outbreak of Covid and penetration of Reliance Jio, BigHaat witnessed a huge spike in its MAUs from <100k in FY'21-'22 to 3.5 Mn in FY'22-23.
This is a significant surge in the number of farmers engaging every month on the BigHaat platform. Going forward in 5 years, BigHaat expects a higher surge in terms of engagement on the platform, resulting from the following factors:
Penetration of 5G in India, whereby some reports suggest that 2/3rds of the growth in internet users in the next 4-5 years would come from rural India
BigHaat has also started developing its content platform, which is likely to scale up in the next couple of years.
Great Companies: If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
SATEESH NUKALA: Since resilience is critical in agriculture as a sector, keep rectifying and improving with the desire of turning Agri from livelihood to business.