If innovation changes life as we know it, small business owners who choose to make a difference are likely behind it. While the value of entrepreneurship to every economy is by now well debated and well known, it takes an individual or a few thinking outside what trends to build for the future.

Historically, in India, agriculture has been the enterprise of the majority. In a country that has seen farmer suicides and the like, it is imperative that some entrepreneurs focus on the agriculture sector while impact funds seek them out as a priority.

An example sets itself up in the case of Gramco Infratech, a rural solutions company. In 2013, Samridhi Fund invested ₹15 crore in Gramco, a Series A round of equity for the start-up.

While the all round development of a country depends on the opportunity in rural markets, not everyone takes on such a challenge. Raman Singh Saluja, Founder and Managing Director, Gramco Infratech, says, “Organised infrastructure is limited in rural areas. Incomes here are low and, therefore, spending is less. It is going to take a lot of investment and attention to make India’s rural markets viable.”

Comprehensive approach

Gramco’s customers are largely farmers. The Madhya Pradesh-based start-up has taken a comprehensive, end-to-end approach with its offerings. Saluja is clear he wants to offer globally competitive services to target consumers. Gramco deals in soil management, warehousing, collateral finance, seed multiplication programmes, contract farming, cleaning and grading services, and, also buys produce from farmers. The company then sells to agriculture produce markets; however, considering commodity price fluctuations, the farmer is always free to choose to whom he sells.

Saluja set up Gramco nearly six years ago. In spite of poor income status of many farmers and challenges with ensuring the farmer is not exploited by APMCs or PPP players, Saluja’s interest in the space has ensured that his own company makes profits but also offers “fair opportunities” to farmers. Overall productivity enhancement and better commodity storage facilities lead to the sector getting healthier over time.

Larger impact

To make a widespread difference, it takes more than one entrepreneur and more than one stakeholder in the agriculture sector.

Samridhi Fund is offered by the UK’s Department for International Development in partnership with India’s SIDBI. The fund caters to companies, selected from Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, and making a ‘developmental’ difference; businesses have to be economically viable too.

Food security is vital for India. Investing in technological innovations can enhance food production and help grow exports from India. Gramco is setting its sights on growth at various levels. “We’re looking at increasing capacity to 60,000 tonnes and storage capacity to at least 12 locations by June,” shares Saluja, although the company is present only in Madhya Pradesh right now.