Published: 08th October 2018
Meet the people behind a Hubballi-based startup Freshboxx, a grocery app for Tier II cities
This duo has captured the North Karnataka market by creating an app to sell fresh fruits and vegetables straight from the farm. Now, they plan to expand their business to Bengaluru soon
Bengaluru is a city that hosts many start-ups and most of them have seen their success stories here. Some of these have expanded to other cities and even other countries. Be it a food, health or shopping app — everything finds a place in India's Silicon Valley. Note how we specifically mention Bengaluru and not Karnataka as a whole. But for a change, this time, two youngsters from Karnataka's Tier II cities marked Hubballi on their map to begin their journey.
Rohan Kulkarni, CEO and Founder of Freshboxx, who is a native of the town of Gokak, pursued an MBA from the Chanakya Institute of Management. He launched his start-up venture Freshboxx, where people in Tier II cities can order vegetables and fruits online, in 2015. Having worked with different corporate companies for more than seven years, Rohan has been through good and bad phases like either a pay hike or sometimes, going through a recession phase too. The last venture that he worked for was MCX Stock Exchange where he used to deal with agricultural products. It was during this job that he learnt about how middlemen and traders misuse money and because of that, the right profit never reached the deserving farmers.
Together we work: Freshboxx team which started with four people has grown to 25 people
He says, "I have witnessed two turmoils in the IT industry. While one was in 2008 and the other one was in 2014, both were due to a recession where many people lost their jobs. When I thought about starting a venture, I was a bit sceptical because it is difficult to groom people, give them a job and sometimes, remove them for the sake of cutting costs or due to lack of funds. Keeping this in mind, I drew up a plan to start a venture that will not be affected by recession or financial issues. It is food, agriculture and pharmaceuticals that will flourish all the time. Hence, the idea of Freshboxx was born."
Rohan took a six-month sabbatical before he started Freshboxx to do some groundwork by being a foot soldier in the agriculture market. "When I did my groundwork in APMCs and vegetable markets, I realised that none of the ventures has invested their time to crack the supply chain and help farmers directly in Tier II cities. Back then, there was only Bigbasket which had started in metropolitan cities, so, it was the right time for us to capture the market in Tier II cities. People were also becoming tech-savvy and app usage had increased. Thus, we started with Freshboxx online where people can order vegetables and fruits through the app, " Rohan explains.
Freshboxx won the Sandbox Startup Challenge organised by the Despande Foundation and won a seed funding of ₹1 lakh in 2015. Out of 250 finalists, they won the Elevate 2018 award. It was a programme held by the Government of Karnataka to bring start-ups to one platform
But Rohan didn't do this alone. Fresh out of college, Rohan's friend and Freshboxx's co-founder, Pavan Patil had started his own venture called UrMajesty which is a last mile logistics start-up and on-demand delivery solution platform. "Rohan was looking for a good match for his venture in terms of logistics. With my company being one of those, we soon started doing door delivery of vegetables and fruits," says Pavan. Like any other start-up, Freshboxx too had challenges in the market, but they did not budge. "After three months of setting up the venture, we reviewed the performance and needed some funds to continue running the company. We were not able to cross more than 100 orders per day. Our mentor CM Patil, CEO of Sandbox Startup, insisted on increasing the revenue through various strategies. Our first retailer was Aditya Birla's More Stores. We started receiving ₹50,000 worth of orders every day. Now, we are present in Reliance and Big Bazaar, and with Nilgiris going to set up 12 new stores in the North Karnataka region, we are the only player in their stores now," says Rohan.
Freshboxx, which once catered to Hubballi and Dharwad, has now spread to all the cities in the North Karnataka region, Mangaluru and even Goa. Surprisingly, all this happened by just word of mouth. "We did not bother to spend money on advertisements because we wanted the venture to expand organically. This year, we are aiming to make a turnover of ₹20 crore as opposed to last year's turnover of ₹5 crore. We are currently looking for investments and talks are on with bigger companies," says Rohan.
Fresh from the farm: Freshboxx gets their stock of vegetables and fruits from farmers and stores them in a well equipped warehouse
You need not worry about the quality of products that the Freshboxx delivers to your doorstep. They have collection centres in Belagavi and Gataprabha, and a highly well-equipped warehouse at Hubballi. Explaining how the chain works, Rohan says, "We get fresh produce from farmers at the collection centres and store them at our warehouse. Imported fruits and vegetables come from Mumbai once in 15 days. We are also planning to set up a warehouse in Bengaluru as well. Whenever a person places an order on our app, we see that good quality fruits and vegetables are delivered at reasonable rates within a day. We have seen a good response from customers and farmers too. Since we are providing the touch-and-feel experience, we have won their trust."