Eating fresh produce has its own charm. Despite advancement in technology, the real creators of fresh produce – farmers and others in the supply chain – are still struggling to find a right platform to sell and purchase their ware.
VegFru founder, Anil Chopra, who has more than adequate knowledge of the fresh produce industry, decided to bridge the gap by designing a virtual platform where anyone could trade fresh produce, and products and services related to fruits and vegetables.
In an exclusive interview with Indiaretailing.com, Anil Chopra talks about how his startup materialized.
Tell us about VegFru. How did you conceive the idea?
VegFru’s goal is to create a virtual world where anyone can freely trade products and services related to fruits and vegetables irrespective of geographic, cultural, regulatory, or logistical boundaries. We aim to empower a new generation of traders and entrepreneurs to benefit from trade over the Internet by dramatically simplifying the process of discovering products, services and transactions while bringing down the overall cost and time.
With a successful track record of more than two decades at large Indian companies like NDDB, Safal Market, Mother Dairy, Reliance Retail etc, I have acquired an in depth horticulture industry knowledge ranging from planning to design, management and operations including business development strategies and stakeholders communication programs in agricultural markets, food retail and cold chain domain.
Banking on my recent experience in establishing a 150 people – multiple locations – technology product company (read: Wingify) and my past experience as a domain expert in fruit and vegetable sector, I decided to marry the two strengths and give back the under-served fruit and vegetable category a modern technology lift using appropriate technological tools. Thus, VegFru came into existence.
What’s your business model?
We are essentially match-makers and work on access fees for letting users use the platform in addition to transaction fees.
What are the major challenges that you have faced up till now and how have you overcome them?
The fresh produce sector has remained under-served in terms of technology because of the trade complexity (read: long chain of intermediaries, perishability, opacity, price volatility, liquidity, lack of standardization, easy capital availability etc), trade barriers of various kinds (trust and quality assurance apart legal and regulatory aspects), insufficient information on product and service availability, infrastructure bottlenecks and lack of right knowledge at the right time at the right place and scarcity of human resource who can understand the finer nuances of both fresh produce trade and modern technology platforms and have the requisite match-making skill-set and expertise to build something for fresh produce business using technology.
We are making trust building tools within the application and offline as well that will help mitigate many above said challenges, particularly the ones related to finance, capital, insurance, pricing, quality and logistics.
Other than above, low-tech penetration in rural areas, too many regional languages are other few problems but we plan to cross these bridges using innovative service delivery models available right in the middle of production and marketing clusters and by using local human resources.
How has the brand grown since its inception? Many B2C market players like Bigbasket, Grofers and B2B player Kisan Network, Ninjacart are already in this space delivering the veggies and fruits. What are VegFru’s key differentiators?
Primarily because of non-availability of people who can understand the finer nuances of both fresh produce trade and grammar of modern technology platforms, not many have ventured into perishable food trade.
The ones who have chosen the famed and glamorous B2C route are bleeding money and will continue to do so till their kitty gets exhausted. The signs are already on the wall.
Here at VegFru we have chosen a B2B route where we are sure that over time we will be able to build a team that has the requisite match-making skill set and expertise to build something for fresh produce business in B2B domain using appropriate technology.
What are your expansion plans?
Right now, we are focused on select territories. We are planning a pan India expansion soon. We are also planning to build a team at 15-20 major major production as well as marketing clusters in India by end of current financial year.
Tell us about your marketing and promotions strategy for boosting consumer awareness and scalability.
Since ages fresh produce trade has been running on word of mouth and networking with performance being the bedrock. We would also ride on these time proven tools besides some low cost yet focused marketing and promotion in our areas of operation. We will also make the general population aware about the place this trade holds in an overall economy.
How many vendors does VegFru have in its portfolio?
We currently have more than 5,000 vendors registered on our platform and targeting to take it to more than 50,000 this fiscal.
How many pin codes are you currently delivering to, how many orders do you cater to per day, what is the average ticket size?
We don’t believe in GMVs or number of pin codes served. These metrics are not relevant for a B2B model but we can say that we have been instrumental in 8-10 match making from every nook and corner of India every day with transaction ranging from Rs 5,000 to Rs 5 lakhs.
How do you ensure that the quality is maintained from production till distribution (including packaging).
If some vendor on our market place asks for it than we place our own team member to ensure the smooth execution of end to end process. We are also working with a certification agency which would verify quality both at supply as well as demand side.