In Conversation with… Manjari Sharma, Co-Founder, Farm Didi.
What was the motivation behind your Start-up, and what is your start-up all about?
Farm Didi’s journey starts from the farms of India and the rural women who tend to those lands that feed us all. These farmer women produce amazing food while they don’t get to market it due to logistical challenges, lack of understanding of food quality and compliance, and inability to scale. Farm Didi, a social enterprise, has a two-fold mission, one is to provide healthy, natural, and authentic food to urban consumers while empowering millions of women entrepreneurs from rural India. While our entrepreneur Didi’s can pick the choicest of raw ingredients, carefully put them together in their kitchens and prepare amazing food, Farm Didi as the company helps them with training, compliance facilitation, and marketing of their wonderful products.
What are the challenges that you have faced during the Covid-19 pandemic?
We couldn’t manufacture food due to lockdown; our operations were stalled but we used this time to facilitate training and licenses for food entrepreneur didis across Aurangabad, Raigad, and Pune Taluka of Maharashtra. We conducted zoom meetings and ensured they were ready to sell their products when the market opens. We are a community of 100+ entrepreneur didis now. Now that markets are opened, we are all set to organize our food stalls and launch our products on e-commerce websites.
What were the financial challenges that you faced for the start-up at the outset?
So far, we have spent much time in the field with rural women to understand challenges and did some pilot product launches to understand gaps. We used a lockdown period to get some funds from friends and family to start our operations now.
How do you see your digital presence growing, keeping in mind the current scenario?
From a demand perspective, grocery and food shopping is primarily becoming online now. While on the supply side, our entrepreneur didis who work in rural India are increasingly using the internet and smartphones. Apps like WhatsApp and share chat are used widely in rural India. Every festival is also celebrated on WhatsApp stories nowadays.
What is your advice for emerging young entrepreneurs?
I would say,
(A) if you are considering becoming an entrepreneur, just do it! Entrepreneurship will help you build various degrees of skill sets which no other job can provide you! You grow very fast both
professionally and personally!
(B) Much work has been done for urban India, rural India where the majority of Indians stay has unique problems; I think the next set of unicorns will come from rural India now, and this is where you should invest your time!