What is Stellapps focus?
Stellapps is an end-to-end food value chain platform that is:
- Vertically integrated for non-linear unit economics
- Tech driven (from day 0), and data-led
- Enabling multiple value added services (agro inputs, neo banking, cattle exchange, dairy products, etc.)
We are built ‘demand backwards’ from a supply chain design point of view, with a focus on serving the premium consumer segment. Meaning, our operating locations that provide market linkage are determined based on ensuring we are as close to the demand point as possible to retain the freshness of the milk.
Has the original vision for Stellapps evolved over time?
Our vision to be an end-to-end food value chain platform has remained from day one. As we evolved, we have added various lines of business that fully brings this vision to life.
Stellapps originally started off as a technology company. We built a strong and robust mechanism to grade and pay for the milk that was collected. In due course, we were working with a million plus farmers, covering over 30,000 villages and more than 150 dairy processors. This gave us a good visibility to the earning capability of the farmer at a granular level (daily income). This in turn made it possible for us to enable formal financial products and services to be made available to the farmers which led to the birth of one of our subsidiaries, namely mooPay. As we speak, mooPay has been disbursing close to ₹ 1.5 cr worth of loans (approx. $15M) every month and is on target to ensure that this number goes up to ₹ 5 cr (approx. $50M) per month.
In this entire journey, Stellapps interacted very closely with the farmers and understood their livelihood sources, needs, aspirations and challenges. Understanding the farmers, especially the small and mid-sized farmers, sharpened the insights about the gap and opportunities to make a difference in the Agri/Dairy space through creating a “string of pearls” approach. We realized that providing market linkage is one of the biggest enablers to ensure a stable income stream for the dairy farmer and that led to the birth of another subsidiary, mooMark. We built a strong procurement network backed with a solid farm intervention team that worked closely with the farmers to help them implement modern methods of dairy farming. This entity is procuring 1.2 lakh liters of milk every single day from the South, North, and Western regions in India.
During this process of procuring milk, we also realized that a key component in helping the farmer improve the quality and quantity of milk is the inputs in terms of nutrition support for the cattle. This understanding along with the coming on board of a new investor, Nutreco, got us started with the farm input line of business, mooGrow.
What drives you to keep going in the face of inevitable startup challenges – where do you find inspiration?
Stellapps was started by a group of technologists who had had a very successful career in technology with leading companies. It was born out of the need to marry the founders’ passion for technology with the hunger to make a difference to the rural masses of India.
As an organization we believe in the power of technology and its ability to impact the lives of people across all sections of the society. Technology brings transparency, makes processes faster and more efficient and can accelerate the pace of change.
We, at Stellapps, believe in the possibility of making a huge difference to the lives of millions of farmers (small and large alike). This possibility is what drives innovation, keeps us awake at night, and drives us every single day to do something different.
We have built a strong and passionate team that firmly believes in the vision of the company. This team continuously challenges us to do more.
To sum it up, it is technology, customers, and our team that keeps us inspired.
What advice would you give to other startup leaders?
Starting a company is quite exciting. It provides one with the ability to fulfill a need in the market and in the process helping the teams that work for you, to realize their dreams. However, entrepreneurship can be quite daunting at times. One must learn to deal with lots of ambiguity; at times there are no precedents.
The first and foremost quality of a leader is to be passionate about their product / service and put their entire might behind the idea. They will face a lot of naysayers who can quote past precedents, fact and figures as to why the idea will not work but they have to persist if they really believe in their idea. They must not give up easily and persist in the face of obstacles.
Finding the right set of people can be quite a challenge. The leader must never compromise on the quality of hire, especially during the initial days. Key qualities to look for is alignment with the company’s vision, passion and above all a Founder’s mentality.
A startup leader must not be shy to admit that one does not know the answer to everything. One must be willing to admit that he or she has made a mistake and undertake course correction quickly. One must not be afraid to reach out to people (including investors) and seek guidance. One must listen to many but have a clear mind of his or her own. One must not be afraid to fail.
Can you share a bit about your professional background and your path to founding Stellapps?
I have a Bachelor’s degree in Electronics and Communication engineering and master’s in Telecom and Software Engineering. I started out as an embedded engineer in Wipro’s telecommunication division. During the first part of my corporate career, I worked across communication solutions for some of the leading names in telecom like Nortel (Bell NorthernResearch Labs), Ericsson, Avaya, Microsoft, AT&T, British Telecom, Cable & Wireless, among others. Before starting Stellapps, I was the global head of telecom value added services at Wipro.
Being a hardcore techie at heart, I always had a deep urge to solve compelling problems using technology as a key pivot. Along with my co-founders, we explored various industry segments like healthcare, automotive/transportation, agriculture, etc., and eventually pivoted around dairy (in agriculture) as a segment we could solve for, using Internet ofThings (IoT) as an important tool. Agriculture, in general, and dairy specifically, appealed to us as something that we could rally around; we were lucky to find a friendly dairy customer who happened to be our friend and colleague, as we were getting started. That started our journey towards building out a tech enabled, data led, food value chain platform with milk/dairy as an entry point.
How do you think an investor can best support an early-stage company?
An investor can support an early-stage company in multiple ways other than just infusing capital (which, of course, is an important support for an early-stage company). This support can be in the form of:
- Critical and strategic inputs on the business plan and approach to enable a better appreciation for the unit economics
- Helping leverage a broader network of partners and connects relevant for the business on various fronts (including technology, go-to-market business partnerships, legal, finance, strategy, academia, etc.)
- Enabling cross pollination of ideas, strategies, operational attributes from other industries
- Enabling mini pivots that can help the business to scale rapidly without compromising on the path to profitability
- Highlighting potential risks and mitigation strategies
All in all, being a mentor, guide, and a trusted friend.