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The world of agritech and fintech has traditionally been male-dominated, but in recent years there has been a surge in the number of female entrepreneurs making their mark in these industries. These women use their expertise and creativity to create innovative solutions that are changing the way we think about farming and finance.
One of these women who founded a successful start-up in the agritech and fintech space is Hema Nandiraju, co-founder of Hesa Technologies. As an entrepreneur, she not only revolutionized the industry, but paved the way for other women to follow in her footsteps.
SME Futures spoke to her about her entrepreneurial journey and the impact her platform is having on small farmers traditionally excluded from formal financial services.
What inspired you to become an agritech entrepreneur?
I have always been committed to using technology to solve real problems and Agritech has the potential to make a significant impact in rural areas. I saw the challenges faced by rural communities with limited access to technology and proper distribution channels, making it difficult for people living in those areas to access supplies. The opportunity to make a difference was obvious to me.
I was motivated by the idea of empowering rural consumers and businesses and bridging the urban-rural divide. At Hesa, we are focused on creating a platform that is easy to use, accessible to all and can help rural consumers and businesses thrive.
Seeing the impact we are making in rural areas and the positive feedback we receive from our users motivates me to keep working in this space and pushing the boundaries of what is possible with Agritech.
Can you tell us how Hesa is tackling a specific problem in agriculture?
Hesa is a rural technology company dedicated to addressing multiple challenges faced by rural communities in India. One of the specific problems that we are dealing with concerns agriculture. We have found that farmers in rural areas often struggle to sell their produce at a fair price as they may not have access to a broader market or lack the bargaining power to negotiate prices.
To meet this challenge, we have developed an Agritech vertical that connects farmers directly with buyers through our platform. By cutting out middlemen, we are able to offer farmers a fair price for their produce while giving buyers access to high quality produce at a competitive price. Our platform also offers a range of support services, including transport and storage solutions, to help farmers sell their produce more efficiently.
In addition to our Agritech vertical, we also offer a Fintech vertical that provides financial services to rural communities, including access to credit, insurance and other financial products. Specifically, we focus on connecting farmers with various financial service providers using cutting-edge technology.
In doing so, we strive to bridge the gap between these farmers and the financial services they need to thrive. These services can help address some of the critical challenges faced by rural communities in India, including poor infrastructure, poor financial literacy and limited access to markets.
Hesa is committed to using technology in innovative ways to have a positive impact on agriculture and the environment. We believe that by using technology to create more efficient and sustainable farming practices, we can help build a more resilient and sustainable future for rural communities in India.
What were some of your challenges as a woman in the agritech industry and how did you overcome them?
One of the biggest hurdles I’ve had to overcome is the pervasive gender bias that exists in this industry. I’ve often been underestimated or dismissed because of my gender. I had to work twice as hard as my male peers to prove my caliber.
However, I overcame these challenges through my persistence, determination and a strong support network. I’ve made it my mission to surround myself with people who share my vision and passion for creating a more sustainable and equitable future for rural communities in India. One of the things that has helped me overcome the challenges is my unwavering belief in Hesa’s mission.
I am determined to use technology to create more efficient and sustainable farming practices and build a more resilient future for rural communities in India. Ultimately, I believe that my gender has been an asset rather than a hindrance in my journey as the founder of Hesa. Being a woman has allowed me to bring a unique perspective and approach to problem solving and has allowed me to bring a more diverse and inclusive perspective to the table.
I hope to continue to inspire and empower other women to achieve their dreams and make a positive impact in their respective fields.
What impact has your company had on local communities and farmers, and how have they responded to your initiatives?
Our business has made a significant impact on the local communities and farmers we serve. Our model has empowered 19,000 rural families, giving them access to various products and services through our super app. Not only has this helped improve their standard of living, but it has also created economic opportunities in the areas where we operate.
One of the key impacts of our business on the local community has been our support for farmers. We recognize the vital role farmers play in sustaining the local economy, and we’ve worked hard to help give them access to the resources they need to thrive. Through our initiatives, we have helped 50,000 farmers by giving them access to the right farm inputs and value-added services, and connecting their products to the marketplace.
The community response has been overwhelmingly positive and we are committed to continuing our efforts to support the local economy and promote sustainable growth.
How important is digital and technological equality for women in today’s modern world?
It is imperative that women have digital and technological equality in today’s modern world. Technology is rapidly transforming every aspect of our lives, and women need access to the tools and resources necessary to fully participate in the digital economy.
Digital and technology equality means ensuring that women have equal opportunities to acquire digital skills, access technology and participate in the technology industry. It also means ensuring that women are heard and represented in the development of new technologies and products.
Studies have shown that heterogeneous teams and companies perform better and have different perspectives when developing new technologies. Women make up half of the world’s population and their contributions to the technology industry are critical. Closing the gender gap in technology benefits not only women but society at large.
It can lead to the development of more innovative and inclusive technologies that can address some of the world’s most pressing challenges. The promotion of digital and technological equality for women is not only a societal imperative, but also an entrepreneurial necessity. Businesses need to foster an inclusive culture that values and supports the contributions of women in technology.
How can women bring a positive perspective to the agritech sector?
The agricultural industry plays a crucial role in feeding the world’s population. By using technology, we can make them more sustainable, efficient and productive. As women, we bring a unique perspective and range of skills to this space and our contributions are vital. I want to assure you that you are not alone.
There is a growing community of women in agritech and we are here to support one another. Connect with others in the industry, attend events and participate in online communities to network with like-minded people. Collaboration and knowledge sharing can lead to innovative solutions and positive change.
The last thing I want to say is that I encourage you to take risks and have faith in your abilities. The agribusiness needs more women leaders and innovators, and we have the potential to make a significant impact.
What advice would you give to other aspiring female agripreneurs?
My advice would be to stay focused, be persistent and don’t be afraid to take risks. Starting a business is never easy, but it can be particularly challenging for women in male-dominated industries like agriculture and technology.
But I believe that women have a unique perspective and can bring fresh ideas and approaches to the industry. Find mentors and advisors who can offer advice and support, and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.
In addition, there are several government programs and initiatives in India specifically designed to support and encourage women entrepreneurs. These include the Annapurna Scheme, the Mahila Udyam Nidhi Scheme, the Mudra Yojana Scheme, the Stand-Up India Scheme and the Women Entrepreneurship Platform.
And most importantly, believe in yourself and your ability to make a positive impact in the world.