The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of technology in agriculture, which accounts for 60 percent of India’s GDP.
However, B2B traders, who control nearly 75 percent of the agri value chain, continue to be plagued by limited access to technology, information, distribution, and customer acquisition channels.
This problem is even more compounded in the dry commodities segment, which has traditionally trailed the perishables or fruits-and-vegetables (FnV) category, even though ticket sizes in the former are much higher.
Navo Mumbai-based TradeBridge (born out of its parent company Ashapura Agrocomm, a leading dry fruit processor and distributor) wanted to fill the gaps in the B2B agri trading ecosystem, and make tech-led interventions in the value chain.
TradeBridge Founder Sameer Bhanushali (centre) with the core team
Founded in July 2020, TradeBridge is essentially a B2B agri marketplace that connects buyers (wholesalers and retailers) with sellers (farmers, processors, and importers), and enables them to list, sell, buy, and discover commodities at a fair and transparent price.
Sameer Bhanushali, Founder and CEO, TradeBridge, tells YourStory,
“Business in this space is mostly done via APMCs and mandis that are scattered all over. Even though trade has evolved, it is still very primitive with little technology being used. The agri sector has non-standardised products, price volatility, and discovery challenges. We have tried to address these three problems with our platform.”
Marketplace model: Connect vendors and buyers
TradeBridge operates a 24×7 marketplace that makes it convenient for wholesale buyers to discover products, compare prices, and place bulk orders (ranging from 1 to 10-20 tonnes). They simply have to login with their email ids and phone numbers to access the platform, and fill in KYC details to start transacting.
The platform currently offers 70-80 SKUs in categories like almonds, pistachio, walnuts, cashews, seeds, and dehydrated fruits (peach, kiwi, cranberry, prune, plum, etc.), and plans to add spices, pulses, grains, tea, and coffee shortly.
“We strive to provide the finest quality of nuts and seeds to the ever-changing and growing Indian snack market. Our vision is to be the biggest and most trusted player in the highly competitive dry fruit segment in the next five years.”
TradeBridge stocks 70-80 SKUs in dry fruits like almonds, cashews, pistachios, etc
TradeBridge doesn’t own any stock, but takes care of logistics, quality inspections, payments, returns, and grievance redressals. It has tied up with third-party delivery partners like Gati, V-Xpress, VHL, and others to serve 700+ pin codes across India.
The founder explains,
“We have partnered with suppliers to source the products; the vendors control the trade, and we don’t own anything. We want to build a fair and transparent marketplace without any bias. We only want to be the facilitator and become the Amazon of the agro commodity space.”
“That is how we can scale up to thousands of commodities on the platform,” he says.
The startup also looks to introduce systems to improve food traceability and sustainability, and launch credit and insurance for small traders in the business.
The platform has onboarded 10,000+ B2B customers in a year
Early growth and business model
In a year of operations, TradeBridge has crossed a GMV of Rs 40 crore, with an average ticket size of Rs 85,000. It has signed up over 10,000 customers, including 4,000 monthly active users, and notched up a repeat order rate of 50 percent.
The founder claims that the customer onboarding rate has doubled or tripled in the last two quarters, and order sizes have grown.
“Initially, the ticket size was smaller because there is no precedent to a platform like ours in the market. Now, a customer who was ordering for Rs 10,000 is buying products worth Rs 10 lakh,” he says.
Some wholesale buyers, including large mandis like Begum Bazaar and Sadar Bazaar in Hyderabad, organised retailers like Reliance Retail and Star Bazaar, and D2C brands like The Green Snacks Company, go on to place larger orders worth Rs 30-40 lakh.
Photo: YS Design
However, TradeBridge wants to cater to not just the modern trade but also the “small-town guy who sits out of Jammu and the lakhs and lakhs of small and medium buyers” across the country, says the founder.
The platform is clocking orders from remote villages in Kerala, small towns of Odisha, areas in coastal Andhra, and even restaurants and bakeries in South India.
“Earlier, these people would never even think of buying from someone in Mumbai. Kiranas and dry fruit merchants wouldn’t want to hear about digitisation, but now people are open to the idea of digitisation,” Sameer states.
TradeBridge has multiple revenue streams: a) platform fee, where it takes a percentage of each transaction between buyers and sellers; b) memberships and subscription plans for buyers; c) ads and promotions carried out by sellers to market their offline businesses. It is also getting into credit lending shortly.
Sameer says, “We are tying up with micro-finance operators to lend credit to buyers. This industry needs finance; if we can fund transactions and give people the ability to buy on credit, our sales can balloon 5X.”
Future roadmap and market overview
TradeBridge operates in a dry fruits and spices market estimated to be worth Rs 3 lakh crore. Online penetration is less than two percent in this segment.
TradeBridge plans to enable foreign vendors on its platform in future
In fact, the post-pandemic tailwinds in the B2B agritech sector were one of the top trends in Indian agriculture in 2020, according to a December report by Accel-Omnivore. These platforms seamlessly connected all stakeholders digitally after the breakdown of traditional supply chains following the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Agritech startups, which had co-existed with the traditional ecosystem, discovered that they were essential. Ultimately, the pandemic helped catalyse a shift across the agricultural economy, away from traditional, informal, and analogue markets towards innovative, formal, and digital ones,” the report stated.
The bootstrapped startup is looking to raise a Series A round to enter new categories, add customers, and enable foreign vendors on its platform. It is targeting a reach of one million customers and a billion-dollar GMV in the next three years.
However, TradeBridge has no plans of getting into the B2C trade.
Sameer sums up by saying, “The general reluctance of kiranas ki mere ko digital nahi samajhta [I don’t understand digital] is gone. Now they have a 24X7 online market, credit, ease and transparency. It is a huge phygital opportunity for us, and we will add to the ecosystem. What we offer is much superior to an offline business. And, people no longer want to visit crowded mandis in Chandni Chowk.”