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Pioneer in AgriTech

Mahesh Jakhotia (Pilani, ‘06) and Nukul Upadhye (Pilani, ’06) are the co-founders of Bijak, a platform for agricultural products connecting buyers, suppliers, traders, food processors, retailers and farmers. 

Mahesh Jakhotia shares his journey as a co-founder of Bijak, what makes the agritech platform stand out from the crowd, how the team connected with the farmers and plans for Bijak’s future.

My co-founder and I are BITSians who had our entrepreneurial ventures during our Pilani days (2006-11), but weren't successful. The primary reason for not being successful was the lack of courage and persistence in sticking around my thesis despite all the headwinds I faced. After gaining a decade of rich experience across investment banking, VC, and operator roles, I finally retook a plunge in 2019 with a lot of boldness at heart.

I started my journey across the hinterlands of UP, spending almost multiple quarters of 2019 in Kannauj, Agra, Nizamabad, Warangal, etc. experimenting on MVP with the farmers and traders across the region. My experience with Jhunjhunu district’s villages helped build a strong camaraderie with the farmers/traders.

The trigger for starting up was the connection with agriculture that each of us founders had since our childhood, coupled with picking up a massive sector riddled with many complex & chaotic problems.

The agricultural economy works on trust and familiarity. To on-board the first set of 100 B2B customers, we had to do a lot of pro-bono work, make them feel that we are dependable, and align their vision to ours. Once they had the comfort, they took a leap of faith and could see the potential benefits & increase in profits across their transactions. Fast-forward 3 years down the line, we have more than 50,000 B2B transacting customers across 28+ states and 1500+ regions across India. More than 88% of them joined through word of mouth & organic referrals. If there is some genuine value in the platform, I believe the farmer/trader ecosystem would be more than willing to experiment on your platform.

Besides trust, our tech was robust and intuitive enough for them to use it. The initial hook for customers was to see the mandi prices across their locality to know the current trend of prices of their produce. Eventually, once they got accustomed to the platform, they started transacting with counterparties & making payments via Bijak's payment gateway. The provision of credit, Agri insights, and counterparty ratings played a significant role in the adoption of the product.

When we started, Bijak was the only Agritech Company that enabled the ecosystem instead of replacing or rebuilding infrastructure from scratch. 80% of India's Agri flows through these enablers, primarily consisting of mandi traders, unorganized aggregators, and FPOs. Our goal was to provide a transparent & accountable platform so that the good players get better liquidity & business. Eventually, the players not adding any value get weeded out with time.

We currently process nearly INR 3000 Cr of payments yearly, which is less than <0.5% of India's Agriculture value. Given that we have just scratched the surface, our goal is to double down on our business product offerings, build a highly profitable free cash flow generating business, and improve the technology offerings provided on our platform.