Hesa is bridging the gap between urban and rural India by creating a marketplace for all the brands, businesses, enablers and aggregators to connect, engage, sell, buy products and services that include financial transactions in the rural pockets. Vamsi Udayagiri, CEO & Co-Founder, Hesa speaks to Mohd Mustaquim on their innovative interventions in the rural markets
What are the disruptions Hesa is bringing in the rural markets?
At present, the rural market in India lacks proper communication networks with low-tech literacy levels and proper last-mile distribution channels, making it difficult for the people residing in these areas to get access to supplies.
In order to solve these issues, Hesa, with its tech super app solutions, is bridging the gap between urban and rural India by creating a marketplace for all the brands, businesses, enablers and aggregators to connect, engage, sell, buy products and services, that include financial transactions in the rural pockets. While working with more than 84 lakh rural consumers in 87,000 villages in 42 districts of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Karnataka, we have emerged as one of the leading market disruptors.
The disruptions that Hesa is bringing in the rural market is to offer each business a target audience through its social, digital and physical platform called Hesa. The platform’s sole purpose is to connect rural areas with urban cities, Phygitally.
How do Hesa’s banking and financial services empower the rural population, and how are these services different for rural customers from other service providers?
We are committed to our services for rural India, and with this, there is an added advantage for the rural population with earning opportunities for Heesathis. Having a dedicated team of ‘Hesaathis’, the micro-level entrepreneurs of Hesa help people who require any sort of banking and financial services.
To further explain it, anyone who wants to do a digital transaction or any kind of UPI transaction approaches a Hesaathi. In parallel, the ‘Hesaathi’ helps these people do any sort of financial banking transactions; wherein people who used to travel to any nearby village or a district to do these transactions now through Hesaathi’s can make their payments and transactions easily.
In this way, the rural population also gets educated on important things such as how to use mobile phones, internet, and do basic financial transactions making them digitally savvy. People have started getting more independent due to the education they are receiving from Hesaathis, they are now able to make their own financial decisions and know how to invest and do basic transactions.
The value-added services provided by us are different as we are not only providing these people services but are also educating them about their financial needs and helping them understand their own self-growth, making them financially independent.
How do you deal with the farmers with your agro-based businesses? Kindly throw some light on it.
Farmers, one of the most important parts of society, are yet the most ignored. That’s why we at Hesa offer these farmers services that make their lives and living easy. We are creating a user-friendly platform that is supported and supplemented by the efforts of our Hesaathis, our on-ground workforce that allows these farmers to take their businesses and dreams ahead.
Our Hesaathis are in constant touch with these farmers and keep a check on them if they require any kind of loan, investment, banking services, or enable them to buy and sell their products online. By creating the last-mile rural commerce platform, we have connected nearly 650,000 villages across India.
How do these services empower the farming community in India?
At Hesa, we are building a trusted B2B digital platform backed by the strength and power of a large ground force called the Hesaathis. This powerful combination allows businesses the means to access and integrate into the rural market. Now, these Hesaathis provide important services to the farming community in a way that they are able to focus more on their day-to-day work rather than travelling to nearby villages or districts to do any basic work such as banking, financial or buying of agri products such as small as seeds to farm equipment to tractors or machineries to sort produce. Whether depositing money in a bank, selling their agri produce, or even recharging their mobile phones, it is a daily struggle, filled with long commutes and even longer queues. They continue to remain widely left out, and inaccessible, and businesses also find it hard to serve them. Through Hesa, we have embarked on a mission to paint this very canvas and change the narrative for India’s rural population by applying our experience of the rural markets and bringing together the social, physical and digital elements.
What solutions do you provide to the consumer brands who are willing to reach rural customers in India?
Today urban Indian consumers and brands enjoy a mutually accessible ecosystem with a click and swipe of a button. However, the rest of the fellow citizens residing in 650,000 villages in India, and are not able to get basic services. With our Agritech and FinTech verticals rolled up to make Hesa – the Rural Tech enterprise, it is indeed an opportunity to connect India to Bharat phygitally as the Indian rural marketplace is ready for disruption; we envision leading this space.
With our on-ground offerings for brands, we provide supply chain solutions which help a business to reach to these remote parts of the villages and along with this we help them assist in buying and selling of services. If a business, corporate wants to do a detailed survey and consumer insights, we provide them with these services as well, as we are very well-connected in the rural areas.
What challenges did you face while creating a tech-savvy on-ground workforce in rural India, and how did you tackle these challenges?
People in rural India know about the digital revolution that has taken place in the last couple of years. The use of the Internet is becoming common in remote parts of India and people yet don’t know about the benefits that the Internet can bring to them.
The challenge we faced while building a tech-savvy on-ground workforce was to find Hesaathis who know how to use a smartphone with an Internet connection in it and also can do basic transactions over the phone. Our typical Hesaathis are the ones who are the owners of the kirana shop, progressive farmers, youth, women-led self-help groups (SHGs) and truck and auto drivers; anyone with an entrepreneurial mindset and the base to be trained on the use of Hesa’s app. These people have the ability, knowledge and connectivity in their circles where they live so we try to educate them in a way where they can help us.
People who are between the ages of 18-30 are the ones who have a good reach of the actual target audience and we educate them to become tech-savvy so that they can help and educate people around them. The challenge was to teach people beyond an age who had never had or used a phone with an internet connection.
What solutions does this on-ground workforce provide in the rural markets?
Through Hesa, the rural entrepreneurs at the village level become a one-stop aggregator for a wide portfolio of products and services including financial transactions and agri-related buying and selling and bill payments. Now the role of these Hesaathis is to provide important services to the people in rural India be it simple mobile phone research or basic financial services.
Our solutions include banking, finance and insurance which is an end-to-end means to reach every individual for a range of financial services. Then agro-based businesses which are complete solutions to access and transact with the farming community. We are also providing solutions to NGOs and CSR activities to make a larger, more meaningful impact that helps micro-level entrepreneurs.
How do you convince your customers in rural India to adopt your services, and what responses do you get from them?
Word of mouth plays a very important role here for the people to adopt our services, Hesa’s Hesaathis make sure to build relations with the people and educate them about the kind of services which Hesa is providing them. People living in rural India or the remotest parts of the village often have a problem adjusting to the fact that a corporate firm can come to their aid or is here to stay, this is because of the lack of trust they have that someone can come to them for their education or help them with job opportunities.
With our connectivity of Hesaathis, we know the ground reality of what people in these areas want and how they are living. These Hesaathis are spread through the villages and are connected through Hesa’s tech platform, they are the ones who are in constant touch with the people and take their feedback on what more or what kind of services they want so we are able to meet their requirements.
What channels do you opt for promoting your solutions amongst your target customer group?
Our main channel which we adopt for promoting our services is Hesaathis. These Hesaathis are owners from the Kirana shop, progressive farmers, youth, women-led self-help groups and truck and auto drivers; anyone with an entrepreneurial mindset and the base to be trained on the use of Hesa’s app. They are an integral part of the network as they manage the supply chain at the village level, handle banking transactions, organise buying and selling of products and services, facilitate village-level mapping and surveys, and conduct brand campaigns and product promotion by creating rural visibility for the brands. Hesaathis have more influence with their consumers and know what their demands and wants are, making them an advisory persons where a consumer comes and asks these Hesaathis for advice.
In what geographical areas do you operate in India?
Hesa, since the beginning, has emerged as a market disruptor and has capitalised on over 30 lakh rural consumers in 27,000 villages in 28 districts of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Karnataka and over 35,000 ‘Hesaathis’.
How will technological disruptions, particularly modern cutting-edge technologies, transform rural India?
Automation and technology have started playing an essential role in agriculture. We see a lot of startups that have created tech to support soil, fertiliser dissemination, herbicide, and pesticide, among other goods and services. Over the past few years, the technology has proved extremely useful, where farmers can grow crops in areas where they thought they could not succeed. Still, all of this is possible thanks to the tech solutions of agricultural biotechnology. Genetic engineering has made it possible to introduce certain strains into other genes of crops or animals; that’s why farmers can process for efficiency and improved production through tech.
What new offerings are you going to bring in the future?
We are committed to provide our services in remote parts of India. Hesa is working towards the goal of providing a wide range of products to rural consumers that’s why we have collaborated with Oxecart which is an auctioning platform to help farmers get better market linkage and competitive prices. In addition to this, we have also partnered with aiqahealth which is a tele-consultation platform, to redefine the way rural Indians are benefited with healthcare needs by providing doorstep medical services.
We are also planning to offer predictive analysis of the entire buying and selling patterns that will be beneficial for the consumers. Our next step will involve where we are able to reach our end consumers directly as well as with the Hesaathis approach.
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