Paalak.in is a for-profit company with a mission to make agriculture a profitable business for farmers. “Though our business is about building supply-chain efficiencies by simplifying a fragmented supply chain, farm-to-fridge in under 14 hours after plucking the produce and bringing in technology to increase farm produce; however, what we love the most is the humane part of this work, which is ‘farmer social upliftment’,” says, Swapnil Tripathi, Promoter, Paalak.in.
The startup is few months old, based out of Connaught Place, New Delhi. Their collection centers are based out of Western UP, the consumer part that they are doing currently are based out of Noida and Jasola in South Delhi.
What is Paalak.in all about?
It was conceptualized while me and my co-founder Vishal, were doing an executive program in general management from MIT Sloan. This program had huge focus on building entrepreneurial aspects in a senior person, and that’s where we are supposed to actually incubate a business that is checked by the faculty. They make you go through it all over again, revise the plans, and it eventually culminates in a business plan. So, it’s in a way incubation completely during that program that we did. That’s where we started working on it.
The reason why both of us decided to go ahead with the entire business plan and do it in real life is because, out of all the different supply chain fed industries, this is one where between a consumer and a grower, there are at least seven stakeholders who are involved, while none of them really add value to what you end up consuming as a consumer. So, you can understand that in a supply chain there are several people who are eating part of the pie, which is available to be traded but they don’t add value, and eventually the grower suffers and the consumer doesn’t end up getting what he/she should ideally get in the form of fresh, quality produce.
During the demonetization phase, how did farmers cope up?
So, this whole demonetization phase builds the second pillar to what we are trying to do. What fundamentally we are trying to do is that the entire transaction of a produce, right from the grower till the end consumer should become digital. By digital, we mean two things – firstly, the money should be traded digitally, and for this reason we are also in talks with Paytm because they have significant expansion plans around this product portfolio, and they anyways have a banking license now; so hence, they would like to convert lot of folks who do not even have bank accounts, and they can create bank accounts for them. And of course, the bank account owners who are farmers, they also transact digitally. The second part of it is the entire pricing and demand analytics. Today, in spite of the huge amount of investments which have been done by government agencies and recording of the entire transactions – still today, for vegetables and fruits, you do not have any single digital custodian of pricing right from point zero to the end consumer point.
What kind of marketing strategies are you employing to build the brand?
In fact, that’s one of the unique part of our system, in the sense that if you look at it otherwise, the way you acquire a consumer if you are an offline brand, you will focus on many offline stuff, like doing newspaper inserts, putting up banners or being on radio, and etc. While if you are digital, you will typically look at digital methods of acquiring. So, what we have done is, we have typically followed a very hyper-local kind of an acquisition model; so, if you look at it like this – that there is a new Pizza Hut store that gets opened in a locality, how would they go about marketing it? So, we looked at that very closely, and then we developed our own unique model, which is a mix of offline and online stuff. Offline is conventional things like newspaper insert, but even in newspaper insert we do things slightly differently in terms of placing the creative and collateral, where a consumer ends up getting lot of information about the source of vegetables and how farmers are strong part of this ecosystem; then going on to stuff like doing events in form of chef events, where chef comes and makes things that have huge dependency on quality and produce like fresh salads and tossed veggies. Then, we do many health-oriented events; for example, in Noida, in a housing society, we organized a morning cycling event, where many health-conscious folks would gather in the morning like a Raahgiri event; they would participate and we would do lot of brand building amongst them. Digital methods also continue where we are looking at re-targeting lot of people who are already buying vegetables and fruits online, and then of course, we are doing a fair mix of social media where people come and read about the uniqueness of the model on Facebook, etc.
How do you engage with your target audience through social media channels?
One of the things that has worked very uniquely and interestingly for us is – WhatsApp. When I used to work with Info Edge, newsletter meant emailers. Today, for us in Paalak.in, newsletter means WhatsApp. We create content on WhatsApp, where we attach an image and then we talk about the product. For example, benefits of carrots, how does it help a certain health issue, etc. Such content goes on emailers too, but we get significant response on WhatsApp.
Would you like to forecast any particular marketing trend in your segment for 2017?
Always focus on the new consumer that you are going to acquire; your marketing and content strategy should firstly figure out how many out of the one’s whom I have already acquired are going to get retained because of my marketing and content strategy (of course, product should be good). So, that is one strong shift that is needed -retention.
Lastly, as far as acquisition is concerned, it should be lot more content driven. Rather than saying that there is a new ecommerce for fruits and vegetables, can I really talk about the differentiation that is being created because of the quality of spinach, which is getting delivered to the end consumer as a result qualitatively how much superior spinach is going to be consumed by the kids or the next-generation, which is going to be fed with slightly better quality produce and how much of better health it will end up imparting to them. So, content should really lead in terms of marketing strategy.