India, for ages, has remained a gigantic producer of multiple fruits and vegetables. A recent report by the National Horticulture Board indicates the same. It says that the country recently recorded a bumper harvest of fruits and vegetables amounting to 90.2 million metric tons and 169.1 million metric tons, respectively. However, the existing pain points in the country’s supply chain, mainly associated with factors like freshness, trust deficit, hygiene, and lack of traceability, among others act as a huge barrier and call for immediate attention.
To address this challenge, various startups have cropped up in the recent past, aiming to transform this country’s existing supply chain ecosystem and add efficiency to it using technology.
Existing Challenges in the Supply Chain
From the point of production to the plate of consumer, the fruits and vegetables go through a lot of middlemen who manipulate and sell these items at a very high price to the end-consumer. Likewise, consumers do a lot of physical handling to pick what’s best from the lot, which is unsafe and unhygienic. Adding to this problem is adulteration. Many traders often ripen these items artificially using chemicals to make them look fresh and appealing from the outside and also to extend their shelf life. Studies say these chemicals are harmful and can cause a large number of health issues, including headache, low blood pressure, burning sensation in the chest, etc. Eventually, when the consumer unknowingly buys such items, which turn out to be pale or damaged, it naturally leads to trust deficit and waste of food.
How farm-to-business supply chain startup players are addressing these problems?
New-age companies ensure robust packaging of fruits and vegetables immediately after it reaches them. Post this, they get it delivered to the consumer within 12 hours from harvest through resellers instead of stocking them in a warehouse. This process simply eliminates the problem of touching by multiple hands throughout the journey and preserves the freshness of the item. Moreover, the rise in the volume and quality of information shared around production and handling methods plays a pivotal role in driving buyer trust.
Pricing and Refund
Since these players don’t stock the produce, it doesn’t get spoiled or wasted, and this benefit is then passed on to customers in the form of competitive price points. Similarly, in many cases, local vendors weigh items inaccurately and charge unnecessarily high prices to consumers. But startups ensure that such incidents never happen and immediately make refunds if there is any such incident.
Startups employ a team of resellers who engage consumers through a social commerce supply chain using WhatsApp, where they can receive timely updates on products in terms of exciting offers and new products added to the platform. The platform also allows them to share genuine reviews or feedback regarding product quality or customer experience with the reseller. This kind of social interaction helps strengthen trust while also enabling consumers to enjoy a seamless community-led shopping experience online, which otherwise has remained a manual process for so long.
Leading players in the Food and Vegetable space pack the farm produce in bundles say 500 grams of spinach, and put a QR code on the packet highlighting every detail such as weight, price, time, etc. This QR code can be used to trace any particular package remotely without any hassle. Therefore, in case there is some issue with the produce, it is easy for the consumer to raise a ticket through the app and the company takes corrective action to resolve it and improve its demand-led supply chain further.
Farm-to-business supply chain startups have been playing a transformative role in the fruits and vegetable ecosystem by providing reliable solutions using technology and social commerce. Not only are they eliminating multiple bottlenecks and adding efficiency to the system, but they are also generating jobs for thousands of people while ensuring that farmers get a fair price for their produce without facing any manipulation from the middlemen.