Ninjacart: Connecting farmers to retailers

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    Kartheeswaran Kandasamy, COO & Co-Founder, Ninjacart

    Ninjacart’s business-to-business model connects farmers to retailers directly. It resolves supply chain challenges with technological expertise to create seamless operational experiences for all key stakeholders to achieve smooth last mile delivery. Our operational journey, it claims, stands out when compared to those of our competitors because we aim to understand the ‘Farmer Harvest Calendar,’ which provides an overview of the availability of fruits and vegetables in each season, which estimates the demand and supply. To bring out all the elaborate details from business model to technology and others, Rural Marketing’s N. Bobo Meitei interacted with Kartheeswaran Kandasamy, COO & Co-Founder, Ninjacart. Excerpt of the interview.

    Give us a detailed picture of the business model of Ninjacart. How different is it from those in competition? 

    Ninjacart is India’s largest fresh produce supply chain company that aims to revolutionise the Indian food supply chain. Ninjacart’s unique business-to-business model connects farmers to retailers directly. It resolves supply chain challenges with technological expertise to create seamless operational experiences for all key stakeholders to achieve smooth last mile delivery. 

    Here is a brief description of our company’s business model: 

    Demand-led harvest: Our operational journey stands out when compared to those of our competitors because we aim to understand the ‘Farmer Harvest Calendar,’ which provides an overview of the availability of fruits and vegetables in each season, which estimates the demand and supply. A thorough review is conducted of market demands, which is analysed using ML and data analytics techniques. Farmers are then given a week’s notice, outlining what and how much is expected from them. Food supply chain models that are different from Ninjacart are more haphazard because of lack of organisation. Ninjacart has regularised its operations with technology and foresight.

    Tagging and storing: After the produce is collected, it is delivered to Collection Centres (CC), where it is inspected for quality. Crates store-approved products, which are then weighed and tagged for easy end-to-end tracking and identification. The farmers then receive a message regarding the price of their crops and the amount is credited to their respective bank accounts. This allows each item of produce to be tagged right from the time of harvesting to the time of delivery unlike other food supply chain models.

    App-monitored loading and unloading: The crates are subsequently transported to the Fulfilment Centres (FC), where they are loaded and unloaded utilising customised trolleys. The entire process is monitored through an app, saving precious time. Every day at 2 a.m the products are loaded into cars for delivery at Distribution Centres (DC). The harvesting of technology gives Ninjacart the upper hand over its competitors. 

    RFID Tag: On arrival of produce the RFID tag is read to check that the correct vehicle has arrived, and the security tag number is validated to ensure that no tampering has occurred. The customised ramp, created for facilities without docks, is used to discharge items from the truck. To avoid mistakes, each dolly is scanned with RFID guns. The previous day’s empty crates are loaded and returned to the Fulfilment Centres (FC). This allows for the accountability of each and every item of produce.

    Dispatch: Dispatch begins once the last-mile vehicles arrive at the MDC at 5 a.m. Last-mile routes are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis, as well as based on previous performances. In the meantime, items are divided according to the route. To ensure transparency, weight and quality inspections are conducted. In order to maximise space and utilise the same vehicle for several trips, the dispatch takes place in different slots.

    GPS for route optimisation: The cars are fitted with GPS and other route-optimisation technologies to ensure quick delivery to customers. The embracing of technology has allowed Ninjacart to truly revolutionise the food supply chain.

    What kind of disruption has Ninjacart introduced in the industry? How has the gap been filled in the food supply chain?

    Ninjacart’s four strong principles range from providing fair market value to making timely payments. More farmers use GPS today to gain a micro-level understanding of their crops, minimise the environmental effect, and conserve resources. The great majority of precision agriculture sensing devices provide data for farmers to adapt their activities to changing environmental conditions. Ninjacart farmers have access to the appropriate market, owing to its infrastructure and logistics. It has enabled them to enhance their lifestyle and revenue. Ninjacart not only helps farmers in locating the best marketplace for selling their products but also ensures that they are sold at a reasonable price.

    Ninjacart benefits farmers, workers and end consumers holistically.

    Better price realisation

    Due to lack of understanding of market realities, farmers often face losses. To minimise price risk, the national price average and market demands are taken into account before farmers are given price and demand confirmation before harvesting. 

    Payment guarantee for all stakeholders

    To improve the supply chain to benefit all, we have put together a large crew for front-end and back-end duties. Facial recognition technologies track employee productivity, ensuring accountability and timely payment.

    Better market linkage

    .Ninjacart allows farmers to sell their produce on several markets from the comfort of their farmland. A farmer-specific software tracks and processes everything. Farmers are thus able to determine prices for their products, based on market value.

    .Explain the benefits that Ninjacart has given to farmers and retailers as well as to customers.

    .Ninjacart’s system has proven beneficial to all stakeholders. 

    For farmers

    .The returns for farmers have increased by 20% because of direct market access

    .They also have a transparent relationship with their customers

    .Payment is made within 24 hours of receiving fresh produce

    .A real-time logistics network helps manage inventories, minimises processing time, and improves efficiency, leading to less food wastage and scarcity

    For retailers

    .Retail outlets get the best market prices with higher profits. The app also gives  access to promotions and discounts

    .It is easy for retailers as the product is delivered at their doorstep. They can also opt for an easy self-pickup from a Ninjacart location nearby

    .Multiple intermediaries are avoided

    .Ninjacart offers a vast variety of veggies and fruits that are sourced from farms across the country

    For consumers

    .100% traceability to farms, improving food safety and hygiene.

    .Produce is hygienically handled and doesn’t lose its nutritional value.

    Take us through how you have married technology with the brand.

    Ninjacart is powered by technology in a manner benefitting farmers, retailers, and end-users in a unified manner. 

    Ninjacart’s long-term infrastructure is technologically supported. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and data analytics are employed to benefit all stakeholders. 

    This results in the precise execution of challenging human tasks. For example, to identify the type of product to acquire, we examine purchasing history and order frequency. It improves traceability and transparency. The ‘’Harvest the Farm’ calendar and weather forecast helps farmers plan their harvest. Future-ready ERP improves productivity, decreases operational costs, and serves as a source of information.

    There are several technological tools employed:

    Facial Recognition: The software captures the face, breaks it into small pieces to form data streams. 90% accuracy is required to mark attendance. The data is used to track productivity of employees and solve common problems.

    Constraint-oriented modelling: Constraints include distance, vehicle, cost, capacity, and time. A metaheuristic optimisation technique called Guided Local Search maximises objective function and reduces supply cost.

    Future-ready ERP: Mobile-ready ERP removes all use of paper in the supply chain.

    Demand Forecasting: Deep machine learning improves forecasting by 97% and reduces the overall wastage to 4% [Traditional supply chains have wastage of up to 25%].

    Vehicle Route Planning: This is the key to driving the Ninjacart supply chain to move tonnes of fresh produce from farms to retailers in less than 12 hours. The algorithm utilises information such as customer location, tonnage, crate count, and delivery time window to determine the optimal delivery route.

    It also utilises vehicle information to assign the delivery route the next day for door-to-door store deliveries. The algorithm further optimises the vehicle route towards the customers’ locations. 

    Traceability infrastructure: Since consumers place a high value on their health and well-being, it is vital to add value through creativity and achieve common goals. The traceability infrastructure guarantees 100% trackability, and ensures safe food. Our ability to adapt residue-free farming practices has increased because of this. Techniques such as drip irrigation help farmers to lessen water wastage and deterioration in soil quality.

    RFID Scanning: Ninjacart uses RFID chips on crates to bring transparency to the supply chain by tracking the movement of vegetables and fruits. Route optimisation reduces carbon footprint while travelling through 15 states and 50 cities.

    What are some of the major innovations that Ninjacart has introduced so far?

    Ninjacart aims to deliver as much innovation as possible to provide a regular and secure supply of fresh fruits and vegetables.

    One of the many concerns we addressed was the lack of transparency in the traditional supply chain. Ninjacart employs RFID chips on crates to track SKUs from beginning to end, allowing for crate planning to ensure a seamless supply without wastage.

    Due to a lack of market awareness, farmers used to harvest and convey items to the mandi before determining market demands, resulting in huge losses. With the Ninjacart Farmer Harvest Calendar, farmers gain information about crop demand and availability.

    Farmer apps help estimate demand and determine price indent. Both purchase and selling prices are established using a nationwide price average.

    We have created an easy-to-use tool to assist merchants, small companies, restaurants, and mom-and-pop shops in navigating fresh produce, pricing, and inventory management online.

    We strive to provide ‘Safe Food for a Billion People,’ and we have noted a rise in the number of consumers looking for safe food during the lockdown, driving us to establish ‘Food Print.’ It is a traceability system that guarantees safe food till the final mile of delivery.

    Kindly share the future plans of Ninjacart.

    Ninjacart aims to be the global agri-commerce digital network that resolves structural challenges, including information asymmetry, payment hassles, distribution inefficiency, and helps in finding new consumers with tech-first solutions.

    The “’Agri Seed Fund” curated by Ninjacart is a two-year programme to strengthen innovation and expedite disruption in the agriculture industry through seed investments. The investment aims to strengthen the agri-ecosystem by encouraging innovative ideas and enabling enterprising teams to get started.

    Ninjacart’s partnership with Avanti Finance has given us a boost in our goal of digitising the entire agri-ecosystem. We intend to co-create and make available relevant loan solutions to the agricultural community at a fair cost.

    Ninjacart has signed an MoU with the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmer Welfare earlier this year to develop market links and promote best practices in the farming industry. Ninjacart will design and host the Agri Marketplace Platform (AMP) to enable farmers to receive a fair price for their harvest. 

    We have also collaborated with Kilofarms, an agritech startup, to promote residue-free farming methods. We intend to invest in cutting-edge technologies to speed our ecosystem. This will help us to reinforce our position as a one-stop shop for farmers, retailers, small companies, and Kirana stores.

    We are constantly working to improve our work culture at Ninjacart. We want to invest in employee experience, work tools, and a positive workplace. As a new year’s present, we initiated an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) buyback valued at Rs 100 crore for our former and current employees in January 2022. We acquired Tecxprt to further our vision. Tecxprt has a vast expertise in integrating SaaS-based end-to-end solutions, allowing for the development of powerful networks. We want to increase opportunities for participants, thereby contributing to the improvement of the agri-ecosystem.

    Read more: KVK Baramati onboards GROWiT as technology partner for protective farming

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