Farmpal technology pvt. Ltd. depends on casual workers both directly and indirectly. This Pune based start-up requires manual labour for every part of process and to procure the products from more than one thousand farmers. Thereafter, it needs to be segregated by quality and later transported to supermarkets, hotels, restaurants and kirana stores. The objective of this start-up is to encourage collaborative farming as well as entrepreneurship development.
Coronavirus crisis crunching agri-based start-ups
However, the country-wide lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic has crunched the manpower. Most of the manpower that are hired for harvesting comes from Uttar Pradesh and they have gone back now. Presently, there are not enough hands in the fields and harvest is just wasting. Of the 50 people who were employed by the firm, 20 have gone back and have been out of contact since then. They have not laid off anyone, but many have left which has given rise to shortage.
Right now, India is facing mass departure of the migrant labourers coming from other cities after being laid off due to the ongoing crises. Hundreds and thousands of the migrated workers who came from villages to India’s megacities are left with no choice except to walk back home as the buses and trains have been suspended.
Farmpal itself has cut off 20-50% of the salaries for backend employees based on their contribution. Farmpal has always believed in running a lean business while their other revenues have not been impacted like other non-essential services, but it still pressurises on their ability to pay salaries.
According to Sethi, the founder of this startup,Farmpal has lost revenue from hotels and restaurants as they are nearly shut all the time. Demand from supermarkets like Big Basket and Nature’s Basket has also tapered overtime due to the pandemic. However, the retail demand has grown three to four folds.
Referring to the kirana stores, Sethi also said they have been selling 12 -15 tonnes per day and now it has reduced to 6 – 7 tonnes per day but this demand is only from the retail market side.The retail segment has had the highest margins for Farmpal and sale there has increased.
A little hope rising
This pandemic has brought new opportunity for Farmpal. Amidst the lockdown, housing societies now connect directly with the farms or business platforms to procure vegetables.
Sethi said thatthey have received at least 25 inquiry calls from the housing societies in Pune. They also delivered vegetables once or twice but with each delivery at least two men must accompany and that is not feasible.
He then added, as they are unable to keep up with the demand, they decided to refocus on business to business deals. Also, as there is low manpower, they have decided to operate in areas where there’s high/Maximum demand and customers. Sethi however,does not expect the rise in retail sales to sustain once the pandemic ebbs.
Farmpal has already collaborated with Dunzo to deliver groceries within the city. Also,Swiggy has launched ‘SwiggyGenie’ service for deliveries during the lockdown and now they are targeting Zomato.
He added.“while apps are likely to provide new business, the rise in the retail demand is expected to normalise to pre Covid level by the next year.” Even if the demand from supermarkets and hotels return, it will be difficult to predict the quantum as they are yet to see if the lockdown has led to any permanent behavioural change.