Mar 17 2016 : The Times of India (Bangalore)
When Kumar Ramachandran sold his engineering device services company Vignani Technologies to Foliage, a US-based technology consulting and engineering services company in 2014, he wondered about the next entrepreneurial step he could take. He recalls his daughter then telling him: “You have earned your money; now do something that impacts the society and not just you.“
He and family were in the US then. He had been there since 1984, though he did spend some years in India in between, including when he was MD of Applied Materials India.
When his daughter made the suggestion, Ramachandran decided to return to India to do something in the rural sector. Ramachandran says his daughter has been his biggest motivator in the last two years. “I started looking at the fruit and vegetable industry and realized that the way it works today in India is almost the same as it worked 100 years ago. The consumers have changed but farmers remain the same,“ he says.
He first started a company called Gram Suchana Solutions that developed a portal to provide rural information in local languages.And last year, under that company, he started another venture called GS Farm Taaza Produce, a fresh produce supply chain management firm. The company supplies products to mainly retail stores across Bengaluru, Ooty, Mysuru and Mangaluru in Karnataka, Chennai and Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu, and Hyderabad. Retail firms such as Big Bazaar, Spar, HyperCity, Heritage, FoodWorld, Big Basket and Spencers are among its clients.
Ramachandran notes that farmers in India are at the mercy of nature and of the sabji maandis, which decide the prices. This leads to a farmer not being compensated properly for his produce. “I have tried to bring a small change in this age old system by procuring directly from the farmers,“ Ramachandran says.
Funding was never a problem for Ramachandran, given his long association with investors in Silicon Valley. The investors in Farm Taaza include Sudhe er Kuppam, former Asia Pacific chief of Intel Capital, who was also an investor in Vignani Technologies, and former Igate CEO Phaneesh Murthy. “It took me a month to raise $1 million and another two days to raise an additional $0.5 million,“ Ramachandran says.
He also says he did not have any difficulty turning to entrepreneurship or in moving from the perceived glamour of the technology world to the farm sector. He was Applied Materials' first managing director for India when the company launched in the country in 2002.But he indicates such positions are nowhere as glamourous as people imagine.
“At the end of the day , the larger picture is that you are just a part of the management,“ he says modestly .