When A 51 Year Old Ad Veteran Decides To Become A Farmer
A corporate veteran with no background in farming decided to build a company producing the cleanest, freshest fruit and vegetables available after a health scare and seeing a vegetable vendor wash carrots using sewage water.
In conversation with S. Madhusudhan, the chief founder and farmer at back2basics.
Why did you decide to startup back2basics?
back2basics farm is a Bengaluru-based farm-to-fork company that supplies locally grown organic food with same-day-as-harvest doorstep delivery. We founded in early 2011 after I stopped to reevaluate my own fast-paced advertising professional’s lifestyle after a health scare. It became an even bigger imperative for me after personally witnessing my local vegetable vendor washing carrots using sewage water. I decided it was time to make a change.
I don’t have an agricultural background - I last studied Botany in class 10. So I started by growing produce on a modest 30ft x 40ft plot. I took my time understanding both the challenges faced by the farmer and the consumer with an appetite for fresh, high-quality fruits and vegetables. For the past six years, Madhu along with his partner, Bhairavi Madhusudhan the chief ‘idea cultivator’, has been managing back2basics’ B2B operations with cultivated land of over 180 acres.
Share with us what’s special about this venture and how it’s different from its competitors
The genesis of our initiative was based on some troubling current perceptions of consumers, and the current market situation in our category. 99.9% of consumers don’t know the source of the fruits and vegetables that they consume.
What is worse is that they don’t even bother to know or find out. People buy their footwear from air conditioned showrooms but don’t hesitate to buy their fruits and vegetables from the footpaths.
99.9% of the organic stores in India are hyped up fads while the buyers and sellers do not grow the produce they sell. Hence they are not reliable & do not have control over consistency in quality, color, texture and finish.
We sell our produce on our ecommerce site, Also, we make sure that the morning harvest reaches our customers by evening, as fresh as picking up from their own kitchen garden.
We manage the entire supply chain. Our harvest starts at 1:30 AM in each of our farms. We only harvest based on confirmed orders to minimize wastage. Customer delight is of critical importance to us and is at the very center of everything we do. Which is why we have a spot-returns policy, as part of our 100% satisfaction guarantee. If our customer does not accept any item for any quality-based reason, we take it back immediately, no questions asked.
How did you manage to fund this idea?
back2basics is a self-funded company. Our key differentiator lies in our business model. Unlike other players in our category, we do not engage in any type of contract farming, nor do we buy and sell our produce to other retailers. In addition we also have direct control over all our farmland, which helps us in ensuring the quality and consistency of our products.
What are/what will be your monetization paths?
At present, we are bootstrapping. However, we are always open to having meaningful conversations with like-minded individuals, identifying potential areas for collaboration and forming mutually beneficial relationships.
Tell us how the business has grown so far
back2basics has become one of the leading suppliers of affordable organic produce in Bangalore. We grow high quality organic, zero-pesticide, and chemical-free produce in almost 200 acres of land around many pockets of rural Bangalore.
We supply our produce to many reputed multinationals, and over 45 independent organic stores and retail chains in Bangalore. We also export our produce to Europe and Singapore. Our recent endeavors include local home deliveries of farm fresh produce across Bangalore.
What marketing strategies and plans are in place to grow the business?
Our main objective is to promote a healthier lifestyle by educating consumers and their families on the benefits of organic farm fresh produce. Although we have plans to gradually expand our business across India, we are currently focused on ensuring the scalability and business efficiency of our organic business.
What is the market size and opportunity?
According to IBEF, the organic foods market in India is estimated at 500 million dollars, and is projected to treble in the next four years, owing to a rising demand for such produce. It is estimated to reach more than 1.36 billion dollars by 2020.
Any challenges faced setting up? Anything unique to your situation?
Largest challenge has been trying to set up a farm when I have no background in agriculture. I have been in the advertising industry for the past 27-30 years working for companies like Manipal Group and Airtel. And this does not set you up for a life in farming so I tried studying agriculture via a six months diploma course. But the bookish knowledge I received was barely enough to help me pass, let alone live my dream of becoming a farmer. So, I took to the internet and trained myself through Google, Wikipedia and YouTube.
It took me four years but I understood that agriculture is all about forecasting. I also learnt that our methods of agriculture here in India need to be more scientific.
And using more advanced methods of growing high quality produce and maximizing productivity of land back2basics is out on its mission to make the world healthy. Investors and veggie lovers, feel free to reach out to them here.
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