AgriVijay, a Pune-based agrotech startup founded by Vimal Panjwani and Shobha Chanchlani, in the midst of the Covid outbreak in June 2020, has developed a market for renewable energy products connecting farmers and rural households.
With a vision focused on increasing farmers’ savings and incomes, reducing dependence on fossil fuels such as diesel and firewood, as well as contributing to climate change mitigation, AgriVijay ” empowers farmers for tomorrow ”with renewable energy products in solar, biogas and electricity.
In the beginning
Holder of a BTech in bioinformatics and an MBA in agribusiness from the Symbiosis Institute of International Business (SIIB) in Pune, Vimal Panjwani never thought he would have his own startup, this too in the middle of an epidemic of Covid-19. Panjwani has a decade of experience in different multinational companies.
While considering changing roles after quitting his job in February 2020, Covid arrived and Panjwani remained distraught.
According to Panjwani, “I was at home with my mother, Shobha Chanchlani, a retired government worker from Rajasthan, when she said I couldn’t sit at home and wanted to do something in the house. life. She asked me why I didn’t start my own business instead of building it for others? I was never inclined to become an entrepreneur, but she pushed me to become one. I was passionate about farmers, climate change and renewable energies. She was prepared to invest all of her funds and we thought we would work on that.
“I got the idea that farmers still struggle to get renewable energy products at the village level – whether you are talking about solar energy, biogas, electricity, wind or hydropower. ; farmers do not know the product and do not get it at the village level. So we have decided why not open a renewable energy market where we will understand the energy needs of farmers and help them to increase their savings and income and we will also alleviate the problem of climate change which is urgently needed. AgriVijay was born from an idea, ”said Panjwani.
Panjwani wants farmers and everyone else in the ecosystem to win. “Vijay, in Hindi, means to win and the farmers must feel the connection to our Indian business. Our vision is to make agriculture win with renewable energies. Therefore, we named our startup AgriVijay, which was officially registered on June 25, 2020. This journey started from an apartment in Pashan during the Covid-19 lockdown period.
Born and raised in Ajmer, but settled in Pune, Panjwani had traveled to Rajasthan in November 2020. During this time he was working on the business model, idea, pitch deck, marketing. Stuck in Rajasthan due to the lockdown, Panjwani launched operations from his hometown.
According to Panjwani, “We hired a small team including a field sales manager and decided to use local languages to communicate with farmers to discuss their energy needs issues. We started a call center through which farmers started contacting us. After hearing their problems, we started to recommend a solution based on renewable energy which can be solar, biogas, electric or other. Our field sales team started meeting with farmers to discuss energy needs with them. So we decided that we needed to have two types of models – offline and online.
Renewable energy stores
In the early days, Panjwani and his team realized that farmers were not buying solar water pumps, solar inverters, biogas digesters, or electric tractors online. “These are very capital intensive products and farmers are not very comfortable buying these products online. So we launched our offline model, called the renewable energy store model, which is located at the village level. These stores located in the villages are opened by businesses that have been impacted by the Covid and want cash. In addition to trading in money, we actually bring savings to the rural community and also earn some income. This is why this model has worked very well. Our first store opened in December 2020, then we started receiving orders for solar pumps, solar inverters, biogas digesters. When we arrived in Maharashtra in February, we had already generated a good volume of business in Rajasthan. We had around 10 renewable energy stores in March 2021, ”said Panjwani.
According to Panjwani, “When we started in Maharashtra on April 15, 2021, we witnessed the second wave and then the lockdown was announced again. I think we were born in Covid and the challenge of containment has actually made our needs worse, but made us more resilient. For over a month and a half, we were locked in our homes, trying to communicate with the farmers, deliver orders, and complete the installations.
“When the second lockdown opened, we grew really fast. In Maharashtra, we now have 40 revolving stores activated in Maharashtra from June 2021 to date. We covered the whole Vidarbha region. We have a branch in Baramati with the support of Atal Incubation Center and Niti Aayog, ”added Panjwani.
AgriVijay has a team of 15 members spread across Maharashtra and Rajasthan. With offices in Baramati (Pune) and another in Jaipur supported by the Bajaj Foundation, AgriVijay recently entered the UK with its first international office. “We are joining the global movement on climate change and the Sustainable Development Goals because we hire rural youth and train them to become renewable energy warriors. We are also building small rural businesses at the village level as renewable energy stores, ”says Panjwani.
“We have a sales and technical team in the field as well as the call center. The availability of renewable energy products only in urban or semi-urban areas limits the options for farmers to choose these products and become renewable energy producers. Our renewable energy stores educate farmers and their community about renewable products and also make them available at the village level.
“We also make product recommendations, delivery and installation. We have over 25 companies in solar, biogas and power as partners at the head office level, giving us over 150 product lines of huge renewable energy products for farmers. All of these companies are either startups or other big brands such as Shakti, Toyota, ”said Panjwani.
Insurance and IME
AgriVijay has now launched free solar insurance on renewable energy products. “Most of the farmers and families weren’t switching to solar products because they were worried that someone might steal the solar panel or that natural disasters like heavy rains, sand dunes could damage the panel. Therefore, we started offering free solar insurance against theft and damage so that farmers can easily switch to renewables with us. We are also launching an easy EMI program starting next month with a reputable NBFC and bank so that poor, small and marginal farmers can buy these products in installments. By next month, we will launch the EMI program in Baramati and Jaipur for farmers, ”Panjwani adds.
AgriVijay has touched the lives of 5,000 farmers and their families in Maharashtra and Rajasthan to date, says Panjwani. “We have brought 100 farmers and their families on board with products such as solar water pumps, solar water heaters, solar inverters, biogas digesters, solar street lights, and we have mitigated thousands of tonnes of emissions. of GHGs and CO2 in just 10 months. We want to open 1,000 renewable energy stores with 10,000 farmers / families. We are not just a market. We are an Agritech social enterprise and we want to stay that way. We want to grow our portfolio of ideas and products in rural India, but at its own pace. “
Panjwani says, “After lifting our first round of funding, we want to expand our model to other states, mainly Gujarat, Telangana, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh, where farmers are actually waiting to have an option for increase their savings and income. We also plan to open 1,000 renewable energy stores over the next five years. We are trying to mitigate at least 100,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions. We will soon be opening small offices and points of operation wherever our stores expand. “
“We are also going to start our B2B department. We will work with the CSR departments of companies looking to deploy funds or adopt a village or penetrate a renewable energy product into a village or do something with their CSR funds. We will help them to make these products available, to install them and to increase the savings or the income of the village or the community. We will also add this to our portfolio as a source of income, ”he added.
Challenge of traditional distributors
According to Panjwani, “Usually distributors deal with a particular product, technology or company. The USP of AgriVijay is that we are multifaceted and the product line is huge. We have solar milk can coolers, solar dryers, biogas generator sets, electric tractors, electric two-wheelers. We are also adding electric charging stations – the infrastructure for renewable energy. Being multifaceted, which is why we are currently in direct competition with dealers and distributors. “
Does it work?
“Previously, we paid 15,000 to 20,000 electricity bills to irrigate our vegetable farms. Now we are saving that money. We got a return on investment on the solar water pump installed by the AgriVijay team in just 1 year. We also got free solar insurance from the team, which makes us feel secure against theft and damage caused by natural disasters.
– Farmer Shahbuddin, Khanpura village, Rajasthan
“I took the AgriVijay franchise after the second COVID19 lockdown. I generated a profit of about ??20,000 in three months by educating farmers and communities on and selling solar inverters, solar water heaters and pumps.
– Swapnil Chandgude, owner of a renewable energy store, Baramati