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Dec 13, 2022
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Several white spaces in agriculture that are ready for a digital intervention.

-Jinesh Shah, Managing Partner, Omnivore VC

Team 100X interviewed some of the top investors across the globe about their venture investing journeys, startups, and India. Here, Jinesh Shah,

Managing Partner, Omnivore VC

shares his responses.

 

Q1. What is your motivation to be in the venture investing business?

Back in 2010, we saw a huge potential in Indian agriculture and yet no capital flowing into the sector. Therefore, deserving tech innovations were unable to raise any kind of institutional funding and most importantly, Indian farmers were being deprived of the possibility of a better livelihood. The motivation has stayed the same really - supporting agritech entrepreneurs and serving Indian farmers.

 

Q2. What is your view on the future of India as a market?

The tech revolution in Indian agriculture has only just begun. Agriculture in India goes well beyond paddy, wheat, and vegetables. There are several sub-sectors, what we like to call white spaces, that are ready for digital interventions. These would include high-value cash crops like tea, coffee, spices, plant-based proteins, agrifood life sciences, climate-controlled agriculture, embedded value chain fintech, and much more. We expect the sector to maintain a steady pace of growth in the coming years and will see large sustainable companies getting created from the current agritech startups soon.

 

Q3. Help describe your investment thesis and ideas you would like to back?

Omnivore invests in Indian startups developing breakthrough technologies for agriculture, food, climate resilience, and the rural economy. Our investment thesis focuses on six core agritech themes: Farmer Platforms and Fintech, Precision Agriculture, Agri B2B Marketplaces, Farm to Consumer (F2C) Brands, Agrifood Life Sciences, and Post-Harvest Technologies. We are deeply committed to furthering the agritech ecosystem in India and will continue paving the way for mainstream capital to enter this developing and promising sector.

 

Q4. Mention the top 5 emerging agritech trends in India.

Precision agritech

solutions have gained prominence over the past few years as it helps farmers reduce expenditures, solve the labour shortage, and navigate climate threats. A case in point is the steady adoption of Fasal's technology, on-farm IoT devices which help horticulture farmers achieve higher productivity, improved yield quality, and increased profitability. 

Automation

is another area steadily gathering momentum.

TartanSenseis developing robots for smallholder farms, which reduce chemical usage by 45 per cent, increase weeding efficiency by seven times, and significantly reduce expenditure and drudgery. 

Climate-smart innovations

for solving legacy issues in the Agri value chains are gaining momentum. Using climate-smart deep tech solutions and core technology stacks,

Ecozen

has revolutionized cold chains and the irrigation industry and has improved the income of 100,000+ farmers and enabled the generation of over 1Bn units of clean energy(kWh). 

Risk mitigation

is linked to erratic weather conditions by distributing and creating more insurance products for farmers;

Gramcoveris a rural insurtech platform, working with lakhs of farmers across geographies to bring more of rural India under various insurance products. 

Lastly, agrifood life sciences (AFLS) can be the most effective weapons in our arsenal to fight climate change. When we say AFLS we refer to four broad categories: agricultural (Ag) biotechnology, novel farming systems, bioenergy and biomaterials, and innovative foods. BioPrime’swork with ag biologicals is a great example in this category. Derived from organic matter, these tools can protect crops from climatic stress, pests and diseases, all without any harmful environmental side effects. 

 

Q5. What advice would you give to a startup founder?

When we assess startups, we primarily look for the four Ts - Team, Technology, Total Addressable Market (TAM), and Traction.  

We prefer founders to have relevant startup experience and preferably an education from premier institutes. Furthermore, given the complexity of tasks and roles in today's start-up ecosystem, it is too much to ask for one person to handle everything and therefore entrepreneurs need to invest time, energy and, if need be, money in getting co-founders before approaching any VC. In terms of technology, there is really only one question, how differentiated is the solution and how much money has already gone into similar solutions? Coming to the TAM, venture capital is for those who have the vision to scale exponentially and have the plan to back that vision because a VC will be looking to multiply the investment 3-4 times and that is not possible in an enterprise that does not have a sizable market. Finally, we have traction, which is essentially the product-market fit.

A good team should have higher ambiguity tolerance which is critical at the early stages. In fact, I'd rather invest in an A-team with a B-level business idea than the reverse. 


Q6. Books or Blogs you would recommend to entrepreneurs

Specifically to agritech entrepreneurs, I would suggest reading Omnivore by Michael Pollan, and The End of Plenty by Joel K. Bourne Jr.

 

About Jinesh Shah:

Jinesh Shah is the Managing Partner of Omnivore, a venture capital firm, based in India, which funds entrepreneurs building the future of agriculture and food systems. Omnivore pioneered agritech investing in India, backing over 40 startups since 2011, and currently manages INR 9.35 billion (approximately $130 million) across two funds. Omnivore defines itself as a “financial first” impact investor, seeking to deliver market-rate venture capital returns while impacting the lives of Indian smallholder farmers and rural communities. Every day, Omnivore portfolio companies drive agricultural prosperity and transform food systems across India, making farming more profitable, resilient, sustainable, and climate-proof. 

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). He is a member of the IMC Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Agriculture & Food Processing Committee. He is the Chairperson of the Executive Committee of Impact Investors Council and is also involved in World Economic Forum’s working group focused on agriculture. Jinesh is a Chartered Accountant with a B.Com from R A Poddar College and an MMS (Finance) from JBIMS. 

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