While speaking to Incubees, in an interview, Shashidhar Bhat founder of Ygwyn Private Limited, a new-age startup born in the incubator at IIM Lucknow Noida campus during 2018, told us about his initiative along with his team. The gig economy-centric startup is working aggressively to promote open innovation and entrepreneurship in rural districts. The recent recognition by Vikas RABI at National Rice Research Institute, Cuttack under RKVY RAFTAAR scheme has elevated their work in the waste to wealth domain generating secondary income to farmers
Incubees: Tell us about your product or services.
Shashidhar Bhat: Our lead product ArecaPot, a natural wood planter is a waste to wealth rural productivity generating secondary income to farmers. The vibrant kitchen gardeners in cities have an option now to replace plastics in their homes.
ArecaPot has an average 5.5-inch diameter, heights between 4 inches to 10 inches. Smaller plants, herbs, succulents, and flower varieties grow well in these containers. The project is designed to produce these units at farmers’ homes in the villages using simple power tools, with no factory setup.
Incubees: What makes your product/services unique and what competition do you see in India and globally?
Shashidhar Bhat: We bring nature to homes. The naturally available cylindrical structure of Areca Nut trees is retained for its shape. The lengthy trees are cut into smaller sizes and transformed into a utility product. Otherwise, wood planters are rarely available in the marketplace, even if we find sporadically, all those are actually the product of a factory.
Other eco-friendly planters are replacing plastic pots gradually. Some are made of cow dung, others have tried with the waste pulp of Agri industries, and few are available from recycled materials. Pure earthen containers have vanished due to various concerns of the trade.
Incubees: What are the challenges you see in the market?
Shashidhar Bhat: ArecaPot, being an eco-friendly proposition to the urban dwellers, we have challenges of the user’s mindset. Unknowingly, many have fallen prey to the commercial gimmicks of the plastic mafia. The cheap, colourful, and fancy items have flooded the market. The buyers are unaware of the consequences of such plastic accumulation at home and its gradual entry into soil, water bodies and the environment causing a hazardous situation. The challenge in the market is to educate the buyers on eco-friendly products and their greater impact on society.
Incubees: Tell us about your team and what inspires them.
Shashidhar Bhat: We are a GigTeam! There is no employer-employee relationship in the start-up. The production, operation, logistics and marketing are all taken care of new-age by independent gig workers or existing businesses. We are all connected tightly using a technology platform for seamless communication and execution of works. New-age work model is the inspiration to all of us in the venture.
Incubees: Where do you see your product/service reaching in the next five years?
Shashidhar Bhat: We are focusing on the Indian domestic market, specifically, the metro cities in the early two years. Our target is to build a volume of 30,000 unit sales in the first year and scale it up 10x during subsequent years. The vertical growth of urban housing demands products like ArecaPot. The younger generation is dangerously disconnected from nature. Many do not know where the food they eat is coming from. We strive to use ArecaPot to educate the young as an experiential learning tool.
Incubees: Do you have plans to raise funding to grow your business or allow your business to grow organically?
Shashidhar Bhat: The need for an initial investment in prototyping and developing the product is managed from friends and family support. The open innovation approach helped us to keep the cost minimal. At this stage, NRRI Vikas Rabi -cohort 2 under the national RKVY RAFTAAR scheme selected the project by the Ministry of Agriculture. A recommendation is made for grant-in-aid to develop the project further.
Simultaneously, we are making attempts to attract equity investments from private parties which can help us shrink the window of growth. We are aiming to reach farmers from 10 states of India to source the ArecaPot and supply these at all major metro cities.
Incubees: What are the challenges you face as a start-up?
Shashidhar Bhat: The start-up ecosystem in India is fast evolving. Many have jumped into the race either as Founders or as Mentor in the ecosystem without doing their homework. This chaos hurt me in the beginning. Probably, my idea of building a gig economy-based productivity was ahead of the mainstream demands two years ago.
There is another dimension of my start-up challenge – the family front. Indeed, the sacrifice they did during these years of struggling phase is huge.
To know more, visit their website: https://www.arecapot.in/