Our mission is to bring India’s natural fibres to the world: Saurabh Agarwal, Founder & CTO, ReshaMandi
ReshaMandi is India’s first and largest digital ecosystem for the natural fibre supply chain from farm to fashion. In a short span of two years, ReshaMandi has witnessed a formidable growth with an increase in revenue from Rs.20 crore in FY21 to Rs.450 crore in FY22. With sustainability at its core, currently ReshaMandi is working with 60,000+ farmers, 10,000+ weavers, 6,600 reelers and 4,000 retailers to improve their productivity, impact their bottom lines and eventually be instrumental in improving the quality of their lives. Today, Saurabh Agarwal, Founder & CTO of ReshaMandi, shares more details on how they plan to become the world’s one-stop sourcing solution for all natural and recycled fabrics.
- What was the inspiration behind ReshaMandi and what sets it apart from its competitors?
It was at the beginning of 2020 – I was working with CISCO in the USA and settled in my job, living a comfortable life, when one fine day I received a call from my childhood friend Mayank. With a deep interest in fabrics, textiles and a solid background in apparel technology, he had been toying with an idea since 2004. The idea was to bring India’ natural fibres to the world and create a single platform for all the relevant stakeholders of this ecosystem. It took a couple of extended phone calls and discussions for us to decide on going ahead to give this idea a shape.
It was a very crucial period as the first lockdown was about to be imposed world over. However, once we decided, there was no looking back.
We constructed the business plan brick by brick. As a result, as soon as the lockdown was lifted, Mayank got to work, reaching out to the silk farmers of Karnataka. And I soon joined him in order to use technology to enable and empower the stakeholders at ReshaMandi.
ReshaMandi’s mission since its inception has been to revolutionize the natural fibre supply chain by giving structure to the highly unorganized segment, with the sole purpose of empowering and enabling our stakeholders through technology and bringing the spotlight on these people who are the most important part of the supply chain but mostly remain faceless and nameless.
As ReshaMandi ’s concept is unique and has never been tried before, therefore, we can be considered as the disruptors in the sector. ReshaMandi aims to transform the natural fibre supply chain and we remain India’s first and largest farm-to-fashion natural fibre digital ecosystem. Currently at ReshaMandi, we work with 60,000+ farmers, 10,000+ weavers, 6,600 reelers and 4,000 retailers.
Talking about competition, a competitive landscape provides a fertile ground for businesses to grow, innovate and flourish. We have around 40 B2B players in the sector, which shows the opportunity that exists in the market and the significant value that can be created across the ecosystem.
A steep learning curve is in store for all players as they will compete to onboard the biggest buyers and specialized suppliers, as they expand into new geographies and categories. Companies deeply invested in the ecosystem of textiles will have an advantage compared to those that are mere aggregators. Other key aspects for success will be the best use of technology, creating a world-class online experience and the offline customer experience.
2. Given the limited internet penetration level, how have you been able to digitise the sector and address the issues of connectivity? How did you get the farmers, retailers, weavers to join the ReshaMandi app and do business?
At ReshaMandi, we have not faced connectivity issues because the majority of our stakeholders have access to the internet. All of our transactions also use a One Time Password (OTP), which simplifies the process even if a farmer does not have internet access. All ReshaMandi locations have Wi-Fi, that our stakeholders use to make payments at the location. As a result, we have few to no problems when it comes to connectivity issues, and it is not a challenge for us.
Relationships are important, which is why we became India’s first and largest farm-to-fashion digital ecosystem for natural fibres supply chain. The first few days were extremely challenging. We had to persuade farmers about our platform and the value it offers. We had to educate the farmers, as well as all our other stakeholders, about the kinds of advancements that ReshaMandi brings. Once we convinced a handful of people, it was just a matter of networking within the stakeholder communities. Today, through our super app, we have successfully enabled 100% of our farmers on the platform to transact digitally.
3. How have you leveraged the tech stack to ensure that you are bringing value to your stakeholders and increase their revenues?
One of the most effective approaches for increasing output yield and quality is to enable technology at the farm level. This is an important aspect of ReshaMandi’s business. We reduce crop failure risk by 80% by using AI-enabled crop tracking and providing IoT-led advisories directly to app users, providing the stakeholders with increased production capacity and, ultimately, higher revenue. The quality of the cocoons has greatly improved, and as a result, the farmer’s rates have increased by more than 35%! On the other hand, we have been meticulous in developing our platform’s user interface, ensuring that the app truly speaks their language while providing information, advisories, consulting, and solutions to their problems.
We recently introduced automated payout systems. Previously, payout for cocoons was a time-consuming manual process that required several internal approvals and took approximately 2-4 days to complete. However, with the introduction of an automated payout system on our platform, ReshaMandi uses payment gateways to complete the transaction digitally within 3-4 hours, bringing a lot of efficiency, transparency and reducing manual errors, thus resulting in payouts being rolled out faster, further assisting the stakeholders in their audits.
ReshaMandi is helping retailers solve the procurement issue and it has played a major role in increasing the revenue of retailers. To give an example, a retailer in Delhi had to travel across India for sourcing as the consumers needed specific textiles. After his introduction to ReshaMandi, he has been able to open a new store – despite COVID-19 – and quality assurance and traceability have become much easier.
4. What are the challenges you have faced in the process of getting the farmers, weavers, mill owners, reelers and others to use the ReshaMandi app?
The initial days were difficult because we had to convince stakeholders about our platform and the value we bring to them. Typically, stakeholders in this ecosystem are exploited and underpaid on the pretext of poor product quality. This is largely due to a lack of understanding about the market value of their produce. We are attempting to mitigate this problem by educating them on the most recent technological solutions, such as Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. Our technological interventions have revolutionized the natural fibre supply chain since its inception, helping to regulate this unorganised segment.
ReshaMandi’s Super app connects different stakeholders across the supply chain. The platform is a single-stop solution providing linkages across verticals as well as integrations with fintech partners and marketplaces. For stakeholders, the app offers insights across the value chain. These include updates on weather and soil quality for mulberry produce which in turn impacts cocoons, market linkages of both input procurement (cocoon) and selling output (yarns), maintaining ledgers, information on best practices and purchasing machine tools, etc., for weavers.
The language barrier was one of the most difficult obstacles we faced. Stakeholders were eager to know about the concept and were open to our ideas and technology. Since the launch of the app in 2020, the app has witnessed growing engagement from farmers, reelers, weavers, retailers. The engagement seen by the app in terms of procurement and sourcing is immense. Approximately, we have transacted around 570 mega tonnes of cocoons, 4 mega tonnes of yarns and about 1 mega tonne of raw cotton till date, using the app.
5. ReshaMandi has been using technologies like AI and IoT, please highlight some of the innovations you have made in the past two years?
Our application is a 360-degree solution that includes all players in the natural fibre sector, including farmers, reelers, weavers, and retailers, by allowing them to buy and sell their output straight from the app. ReshaMandi is a technology-driven platform in which our IoT devices assist farmers with best practices in mulberry plants growth and produce, silkworm rearing process, and assessing cocoon quality.
With sustainability at its core, the brand is working at the grassroots levels with all the stakeholders to help them increase productivity and profitability. Apart from English, our industry-first app is available in five regional languages: Hindi, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, and Marathi, giving farmers in rural areas easy access to the app. Providing the right inputs to farmers itself has improved productivity by 20% and reduced crop failures by 10%.
The technological advancements that we have are:
- Farm IoT for MoriCulture for soil analysis concerning moisture and carbon content affecting cocoon production. RM App for alerting and sending advisories to farmers
- ReshaSaathi Rearing shed IoT for temperature, humidity, light and air quality analytics and advisories via RM Mobile App
- Rearing shed automation clubbed with ReshaSaathi, Wi-Fi plugs and automation devices for zero-touch quality produce
- AI/ML atop computer vision for non-destructive classification, grading and assessment of cocoon quality
- Macro advisories based on environmental conditions and common recommendations from the scientific community are dispersed using the ReshaMandi mobile app to farmers
- Integrations with fintech players to provide one-click loan disbursals via RM mobile app.
- One-stop regional digital platform in the form of an RM mobile app for farmers to stay updated on what’s happening in the industry via feed, macro advisories, khata, market linkages, community, etc.
- The daily Mandi rates for cocoons are available on the app
- Similarly for reelers, they can transact on the app for buying cocoons and selling of yarns as well
- Integrated and continuous catalog sourcing from weavers
- Custom requirement gathering for retailers to build a strong sourcing pipeline
- reshamandi.com – A one stop platform for buyers, design houses, brands and enterprises for all their natural and regenerated textile sourcing needs
These technological interventions have aided farmers in overcoming the Agro block. To elaborate, technological interventions have aided 5,500 farmers in our network across Karnataka, increasing their income by nearly 30% and ensuring consistent market profits.
6. What does your technology and business roadmap look like for the next two years?
ReshaMandi is a growing company. In just two years, we have been able to establish a strong network and demonstrate the impact we have had on the ground by improving the quality of life of our stakeholders and increasing productivity.
We have gone global in order to bring India’s iconic natural fabrics to the world and we intend to become a one-stop natural and recycled fibre sourcing platform in countries such as the Middle East, Europe, North and South America, and South East Asia.
We have launched ReshaMudra, a new venture that will provide personalised credit solutions to the stakeholders of the textile industry. Through this, we will provide working capital solutions as well as long-term loans to business partners across the ecosystem, allowing them to secure critical funding to help them grow their businesses or weather difficult times.
We are constantly working to expand our network to include farmers, reelers, weavers, and retailers. We certainly have plans to strengthen our technology stack and attract the right talent to help us grow the business.
We are developing a model that spans the ecosystem and includes services such as merchandising, automation, sourcing, and so on, making ReshaMandi a one-stop shop for all of our stakeholders. We intend to use technology to map patterns and trends in order to assist stakeholders in identifying what is trending and in demand among consumers.
7. Could you highlight any case study of the impact ReshaMandi has had across farmers and how the company has helped them grow?
Being a farmer in India is, to put it mildly, difficult. It is a time-consuming and expensive practice that is subject to the whims of the weather and other unknowns. ReshaMandi has aided farmers throughout India.
There are several such examples, but we would like to highlight the story of one of our farmers -Gurumallesh. He is a Bachelor of Arts graduate from Muddapurra, Karnataka, and is a rare example of an educated youngster eschewing city life and pursuing a successful career in agriculture. Gurumallesh began his farming career on his father’s farm, where he grew pomegranate, cotton, maize, and vegetables. However, market fluctuations, crop disease, and extreme weather patterns nearly forced Gurumallesh to abandon agriculture, until he discovered silk farming.
Silk cocoons are extremely sensitive and gradually lose mass. Silk producers, on the other hand, are paid based on the weight of their product. As a result, the longer it takes for cocoons to travel from farm to market, the lower is their value. Gurumallesh had to travel nearly two to three days to sell his produce and then deal with middlemen on top of the loan sharks who were already out to fleece farmers like him.
In such a difficult time, Reshamandi helped Gurumallesh in getting a fair value for his cocoons and providing services which in turn helped him save time. ReshaMandi’s technology intervention and people-first approach have assisted Gurumallesh and farmers like him in increasing productivity by 20% and income by nearly 30%. Margins are increasing, allowing them to afford better raw materials, higher quality labour, fertilisers, and other inputs.