A significant part of the population of India resides in rural areas. The rural commerce ecosystem is still driven by trust, relationships and physical interactions. Without a digital interface, this segment is largely untapped. Tapping into this underserved market, Telangana-based agricultural fintech startup Hesa offers access to all businesses to its targeted rural population through its three-tier physical, digital and social platform.
“Technology in rural India has a massive reach that will power the lives of rural consumers through varied services. It is the key to creating a level playing field for rural and urban by opening up opportunities in every town. India needs to adapt to technology and use digital methods to help reshape India’s financial inclusion landscape.” Vamsi UdayagiriFounder and CEO, Hesa on the idea behind launching the startup.
As a technology enabler, Hesa is bridging the gap for the world’s largest customer base residing in rural India by being the one-stop solution for businesses, SMEs, banks, governments and NGOs who want to access the rural areas of India for proposals for sale. including brand promotions and social responsibilities. Hesa’s user-friendly technology platform is supported by village-level entrepreneurs called ‘Hesaathis’. These ‘Hesaathis’ form the core of the business proposition that brings the dream to every village in India.
To put things in perspective, the platform allows farmers to buy and sell online. A farmer who intends to sell a product posts the sale offer on the Hesa app after approaching a ‘Hesaathi’. In parallel, a fellow ‘Hesaathi’ buys it on behalf of the full seller and the wallet payment is made between the two Hesaathis. The first ‘Hesaathi’ pays the first instantly via bank transfer. It is a fast and smooth transaction. This is one of its innovative processes with a wide portfolio of agritech partners (Bighaat, Gramcover, Dodla Dairy, Reshamandi, Krishitantra, Waycoo); in fintech (Instantpay, Reliance, Airtel Payments Bank, Digit, Jai Kisan) and in products and services (Wipro Consumer Care, Mahindra, Metro, Bajaj Electronics and HDFC Life).
Address the problem statement
About 850 million villagers spread across tier 1-6 cities living in 6.5 lakh villages have little or no access to any form of online commerce. The statistics are even more alarming and worrying at ground level. Retail services have a limited presence with their products scarcely available through ‘kirana’ stores. To address this, Hesa has launched a home consumer brand called ‘SUHAS’ that offers a wide range of kitchen essentials ranging from lentils, spices, grains and more. It is affordable for consumers to discover it at local kirana stores through Hesa’s e-commerce platform. The villages also lack clothing stores with limited outreach to e-commerce platforms. The supply chain capped by financial constraints and gaps in customer identification made unitary economics unfeasible.
The problem statement that Vamsi and his team sought to address was clear. Serving the $650 billion rural Indian market, the startup took on the challenge and launched its app. In the initial stages, 50 ‘Hesaathis’ joined a pilot program in three districts of Andhra Pradesh. Subsequently, 1,100 ‘Hesaathis’ joined along with 10 B2B links, retaining over 65 per cent of them and starting the business. These ‘Hesaathis’ were trained by the startup to use the platform and provide products and services to rural households.
“We plan to reach the 70 crore rural population who have not yet adapted to online trading across India,” adds Vamsi.
Hesa has become a market disruptor and has capitalized on more than 30 lakh rural consumers in 27,000 villages in 28 districts of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka with more than 35,000 ‘Hesaathis’. The company has been considered an enabler for rural employment. The startup has partnered with entities looking to increase their brand visibility or even financial services. Interestingly, the composition of these micro-entrepreneurs or ‘Hesaathis’ comprises more than 23 percent women. Hesa has been able to serve more than 6 lakh customers with 40 brands in a short time.
The company has been certified as one of the select few social startups under the TSIC (Telangana State Innovation Cell) of the Government of Telangana. Their collaboration with the Telangana government’s ‘Stree Nidhi’, which comprises over 1 million women, assists rural women’s groups in digital repayment of microfinance loans. Digital transactions are enabled in their respective towns, offered on the Hesa technology platform. As an innovative initiative, they have been offered partnerships with ‘Krishitantra’ spread over 500 locations in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh allowing 50,000 farmers to access soil testing services.
Hesa had also acquired companies like Gully-Buy, a digital marketplace technology platform, and Flinkhub, a platform for creators to build social learning experiences. These acquisitions were made to simplify the local shopping experience through a digital marketplace in neighborhoods (ravines) across India and provide a platform to empower a network of village-level entrepreneurs to solve the challenge of sourcing and building a community.
meet the team
As founder and CEO, Vamsi, who is passionate about bridging the rural-urban divide, is carefully calibrating the journey of driving the business forward with his strategic leadership.
Hema Nandiraj, who is a co-founder and CHRO, has over 10 years of experience working with rural women’s groups and has created rural exhibits and market models. She now intends to strengthen the last mile connection for the rural segment.
Hesa has raised $2.3 million in a pre-Series A funding round led by Venture Catalysts. It intends to deploy subsequent funds to expand geographic footprints and improve technology while scaling agri-fintech and commerce offerings. Hesa is committed to serving the markets with its superior and cutting-edge technology platform seamlessly.
The sky is the limit
Hesa has achieved a monthly gross income of 1.5 million with an annual ARR of 24 million with 20 percent growth each month. Traction comes with 4 service lines, more than 3,400 SKUs, 52 sub-service lines, and more than 30,000 ‘Hesaathis’, among which 67 percent are active. It has gathered 4 million customers, of which 20% are repeat, in 5 states and 51 districts, following an average monthly growth of 23% and an active user base of 67%, as well as the entrepreneurs who are working to execute Hesa’s ideas throughout India. With a population of Rs 70 crore yet to adjust to online trading, the sky is the limit for Hesa’s growth potential.