In Conversation with… Quraishy Yousuf, COO, The Karat Farms.
Please help us know you better. (Your background)
I come from a small town called Tuticorin in South Tamil Nadu. I have done my B.tech in Chemical engineering from NIT Trichy and worked as Process Control Executive at CUMI Industrial Ceramics, Murugappa Group. I have worked in various Quality Management systems and managed a team of skilled workers for the day-to-day operation of the process line. Today, I majorly take care of operations and customer experience.
Tell us about your business venture. How did it all start?
Imagine the impact on future generations when we all start growing food at home.
A little over a year ago, my two co-founders (Siva, Rahul) and I explored this idea of growing a portion of our diet at home; on the terrace. We understood the problems a common man would face if he wanted to start growing food at home.
At the time, all had our respective corporate and industrial jobs in full swing, and we started experimenting by setting up a few terrace gardens at friends and families terraces. Few months down the line, when we mastered the art of growing food, we explored the ways tech could enhance this process. We quit our respective jobs, bootstrapped, and focused on designing a semi-automated growing system that enables urban dwellers to grow a part of their diet on their terraces. 8 months after this project started, we had our first MVP ready to hit the market.
Today Karat farms offer a hands-free approach to grow vegetables at home. Helping urban dwellers complement their diet with freshly harvested veggies. The gardens are blended with IoT and maintenance visits by our experts to ensure thriving harvests. These gardens are guided by these principles:
*Immersive customer experience
and Minimal effort.
How has your journey been so far?
The lockdowns and Covid-19 have to lead many urban dwellers to think about growing food and leading a healthier lifestyle. We launched our terrace gardens in September last year, and later launched the balcony gardens by October. Since then, we have a little under 2000 sq ft of vegetable gardens in Bangalore. We have also set up a vegan restaurant that uses fresh produce in its dishes. Multiple lockdowns did affect our supply chain, but we have managed to come through.
A month ago we launched our eCommerce store supplying seeds, garden starter kits, terrace gardens, and other garden accessories currently limited to Karnataka.
You would have faced many challenges as a part of this journey. What motivates you to keep striving?
The idea of growing food at home will become a reality, motivates me to never give up. It is vital to stay focused and enjoy the journey. All entrepreneurs know that there is always the possibility that they might have setbacks, but it is not constructive to concentrate on that.
How is the competitive scenario in the industry you operate in?
While we were aware that we are starting up in an industry where there a lot of corpses of previous urban farming startups who have failed and closed down, since lockdown we see a new competition almost every week. As they say ” You sleep and you wake up, 10 startups are doing the same thing you do.”
We do differ from all the competition as we have our “tech”, which was developed completely in-house.
The pandemic has affected many businesses. What are the immediate challenges your business faced and how do you plan to overcome them?
Multiple lockdowns in various places at different times majorly affected our supply chain. We faced a lot of difficulties in procuring and delivering the products from our fixed suppliers. To overcome, we had to look up local suppliers. This became tedious and time-consuming as we had to test and audit the quality of their products further delaying our operations.
Looking back at your entrepreneurial journey, is there something you feel you could have done differently?
There are a lot of things that could have been done differently. There’s a lot to learn at different stages of a startup but I would like to stick with what we had done and carry forward what we learned.
What would be your advice to all the budding entrepreneurs?
I would like to keep this very short and simple: “HUSTLE”.