Omnivore: Making A Breakthrough In Food & Agriculture Industry

Jinesh Shah, Managing Partner, OmnivoreFood and Agri business as an asset class is becoming interesting for people to make investments. More and more investors are now looking at this sector and are exploring to take a long term bet. There are few funds like Omnivore (a food and agri focused VC fund), Ankur Capital, Villgro, Aavishkar which are dedicated to making investment in this sector. Few impact-focused funds and general traditional VC like Accel Partners, Nexus, Aspada and few others are also making investment in this sector. While there has been increasing investor traction in this sector, the quality of entrepreneurs trying to solve the problems focused on the Agriculture sector is further improving. The sector as a whole is seeing a positive trend on a holistic basis, which in turn is good for the agri ecosystem.

Agriculture as a sector has lot many problems, which in turn provides enough opportunities for the entrepreneurs to solve real life problems. The sector has problems like inefficient market linkages, absence of professional storage facilities (including the cold storage), inefficient usage of natural resources including soil and water. In addition, due to excessive usage of chemicals and absence of traceability, the consumers are not really trusting the quality of food being consumed by them. The Agri entrepreneurs are focused on solving these problems and hopefully in future will improve the overall ecosystem. Farmer platforms, rural fintech, precision agriculture, B2B market places, post -harvest technologies are few of the focus areas of the agri-tech startups. Entrepreneurs are trying to remove the inefficiencies of the sector and
create an innovation disruption with the ultimate goal to help the famers and farm ecosystem.

Consumers today are becoming conscious about what they are eating and have been demanding to know where their food is being grown. They are looking for traceability, transparency and are becoming a more engaged consumer. The consumer wants to understand where the food is being produced or what is being used as an input. People are also looking for convenience in terms of getting food delivered to their homes. Now, Indians because of the convenience are getting into more healthy and process food. It is ironical that more processed food is being consumed in the name of healthy food but the trend is there to stay.

The agri and food sector faces a challenge because the investor interest is at a nascent stage, and the sector has only recently started to see significant investment best being taken. However, this is normal for any sector in its early stage. It is around five to six years that the equity investments in agriculture sector has started up and it is yet to see any major exits. Though there have been significant mark-ups in the sector, real exits are yet to happen. Second challenge is that like other VC funded startups where people can pivot the business model very easily, the food and agri industry lacks this flexibility. When you are in the business of producing food that has its own lifecycle, it reduces the chances to do pivots. The sector now requires more patient risk capital, people who understand this space, after which with some in-depth knowledge they will be able to create a solution which will be more relevant to the Indian farmers at the Indian price points.

In spite of the slowdown, we are growing as a country at 5-6 percent per annum. That is still going to add 150-200 billion a year. There are a lot of transitions happening. Because of the new kind of consumer behaviour there is a shift in the demand pattern and people who will adjust are expected to see a significant business.

Jinesh Shah, Managing Partner, Omnivore
Jinesh co-founded Omnivore in 2010. Previously, he was Vice President and CFO at Nexus Venture Partners, one of India's leading venture capital funds. Earlier in his career, Jinesh worked in corporate finance roles for Datamatics (leading Treasury/M&A), Patni Computers (initiating the IPO process), and HCL Technologies (founding the BPO business). Jinesh is a member of the World Economic Forum's Global Future Council for Food Systems Innovation and a member of the IMC Chamber of Commerce and Industry's Agriculture & Food Processing Committee. Jinesh is a Chartered Accountant with a B.Com from R A Poddar College and an MMS (Finance) from JBIMS.