The Indian Dairy industry contributes to about a third of the country's agricultural GDP. At 22% of global production, India is also the world’s largest producer of milk. Yet, farmer incomes remain under pressure with exports being minimal due to quality and traceability issues. Cattle as a crucial ‘economically productive’ asset and income source for marginal farmers has failed in most parts of India.
Stellapps is working to solve this problem. The company is a tech-enabled farm productivity network that drives measurable impact in quality, improves farmer income and payments, and ensures increasingly discerning buyers have quality traceable milk and milk products.
Farmers with less than five acres make up the vast majority of the farmers in India. Due to this structural challenge, technology-enabled farming could make a significant difference to the farmers’ productivity and eventually impact their incomes. Productivity enhancing toolkits such as IoT devices, cattle wearables, herd management systems, waste to energy generation, energy efficient coolers and traceability infrastructure from farm to fridge are just some of the products and services being developed by Stellapps.
Scaling Challenges and Opportunities
Building farm tech is non-trivial and scaling its use in a fragmented ecosystem is an enormous challenge. It has been clear to us at Celesta since January 2017 when we first met the founders of Stellapps that scaling this enterprise required multi-disciplinary support.
While Stellapps already had the backing of strong agritech focused seed investors (Omnivore – India’s most prolific Agritech VC), it also required the support of co-investors that could bring years of expertise to guide the growth. Leveraging our relationships, we worked to add to our shareholder group, which included The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF). Stellapps is BMGF’s first equity investment in India aligned to BMGF’s objectives of bettering farm incomes--especially for small and marginal farmers. We also reached out to ABB Ventures given their interests in the dairy processing industry. And lastly, because the disparate and fragmented ecosystem necessitates innovation in communication to ensure the Stellapps platform is effective despite sparse network infrastructure, we had Qualcomm participate due to their focus on communication.
Collaboration to Drive a Tech-enabled Ecosystem:
Collaborating and leveraging an ecosystem is at the heart of scaling a business. Along with its proprietary tech stack, Stellapps has partnered within each area of intervention to enhance productivity. In the agricultural inputs and services value chain, this includes partnering with veterinarians, and cattle feed and nutritional mix manufacturers.
Rolling out a herd management system on mobile so that each farmer has access to animal health and relevant nutrition ingredients is a critical shift in quality and productivity for a marginal farmer’s daily farm economics. Launching a fintech marketplace and a payment mechanism for timely receipts of dues from dairy processors allows for appropriate flow-based finance. Stellapps is also working with local micro-entrepreneurs for milk collection and cooling and IoT sensor-enabled transporters to measure quality in transit.
Where We’re Headed
In just three years of our investing cycle, we are now present in more than 30,000 villages in India, and are able to trace more than 11 million liters per day (10% of India’s milk flow). This shift toward establishing quality protocols has paved the way for certification and traceability in Stellapps’ trademarked process to discerning buyers.
It took more than 250 days to build the farm network for the first million liters poured and currently takes less than 40 days for each million liters. The company is on track to supply one million liters per day, making it to the top five private dairy enterprises in the country to reach this scale. Celesta is excited about Stellapps’ future because the company has a stellar track record. But most importantly, we believe the company is well on its way to positively impact millions of Indian farmers.