“Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field.”- Dwight D. Eisenhower
A techie converted into social entrepreneur, Yashovardhan Bhagat, started an agri organisation called Nature’s Cart along with Piyush Priyadarshi in mid 2018 in Ranchi, Jharkhand. After working for two and a half years at Flipkart, followed by a year with a political consulting organisation, Yashovardhan decided to abandon his stable career and go-ahead to discover his real calling. In this pursuit, he found aid from his hobby which is travelling. He traveled to rural India to understand it and eventually found his aim i.e., enriching the farmer-consumer relationship. During the course of his farm visits, he met his partner, Piyush who also worked with him in Flipkart, and was already researching on agriculture. Together, they started analysing the loopholes in the Indian farming industry. “While few agri companies promised “farm-to-fork” chemical filled vegetables, some claimed to be chemical free but in actuality lacked nutrition,” said Yasho while describing the demerits in the current farming industry.
After researching different agricultural techniques and agri-business models, they came across Zero Budget Natural Farming, an invention of Subhash Palekar, a farmer based out of Maharashtra who was later awarded Padmashri for his farming technique. Zero Budget Natural Farming involves zero production cost as nothing is required to be added from outside to the soil. Nature’s Cart trains and encourages farmers to use Zero Budget Natural Farming. This technique specifically is beneficial to small and marginal farmers.
Upon talking about how Nature’s Cart differentiates itself from other players in the market, Yashovardhan said, “Current agri-social enterprises are generally involved in selling, procuring, improving supply chain, increasing the quantity of production but no one is working towards providing nutritious food. Nature’s Cart directly works with farmers on how to produce highly nutritious product without chemicals.”
The duo also talked about some of the challenges they have been facing. The unorganised nature of the sector makes it particularly difficult for the business. They also have to battle customer perception that vegetables from a brand are expensive. Customers are used to conventional vegetables which look shinier but have low nutrition and high chemicals.
Despite these challenges, Nature’s Cart has been able to generate tremendous impact in such a short period of time. The daily wage of its 170 farmers has increased from Rs.100 to Rs.300-Rs.400. Yashovardhan also talked about the lifestyle shifts they have seen amongst the farmers. A few of the small farmers they work with even bought more land to expand their farming operations. On the customer end, via a modified e-rickshaw, Nature’s Cart provides around 200-250 kgs nutritious food per day to its customers. As of now, they are serving 600 unique customers. They are focusing their efforts in tier 2 cities because of higher loyality index in these markets. Upon seeing support from the customers, Yashovardhan’s family encouraged him to continue his passion to bring a difference in the agri sector.
While asked to share one advice to the budding entrepreneurs, Yashovardhan said, “If you are working as a social entrepreneur, especially with artisans, be honest to those people, with them ethical business becomes much more important. Sometimes in corporate we make ethics as second priority and profit as the first, but this cannot be done in social sector.” He also urged the society to start questioning what they are consuming, not just food but anything, as it is a best way to make oneself aware.
Image Credits: Nature’s Cart Team