HYDERABAD, 18 JUNE: The concept was there ever since Internet arrived, but it has now come home.
A seven-month-old start-up, www.myhomefarm.in, is selling vegetables online in Hyderabad at prices 10 per cent cheaper than those at supermarkets or the government&’s famous Rythu Bazaars.
“My open challenge is to show any place in the twin cities which sells better vegetables,” its founder and CEO Mr Suresh Iyer said.
A customer goes online and chooses a regular or medium basket, enough for a family of four for a week, or builds one&’s basket and gets the delivery on a pre-determined day of the week before 10.30 a.m. Other than credit cards, cash on delivery is also accepted.
Mr Iyer says, “Online booking is a must. We do not accept telephone orders, except from senior citizens. If a customer persists we explain the risk of us forgetting or causing a mismatch with another customer. They do understand.”
He has other unconventional mantras. “If the service provided to a customer does not yield a profit after satisfying the customer, then there is no sense saying customer is king.” Today a customer got two snake gourds less.
“It was in short supply or was bad. I messaged that the money would be refunded.”
He grows vegetables with six farmers on a 20 acre farm at Vantimamidi, 33 kilometres away. Harvesting is done before sunset and moved to his warehouse in Secunderabad. The office kills any notion of e-commerce. Two tables, with two worn out computers, are surrounded by plastic chairs. They separate an almirah and a pedestal fan. Two vans outside deliver vegetables packed in plastic nets in modular baskets across Hyderabad.
Mr Iyer, 50, an electrical engineer from Osmania University was an advertising professional before joining a software company. During his visit to Texas ranches in 2011 he realised his passion for farming. “I returned home and resigned my job which was paying me Rs 1.5 lakh a month. Everyone called me a fool.”
He won’t say that he is proving them wrong, yet. “I have to reach the magic number of 600 customers from today&’s 300 to break even. The subsequent plan is multi-city franchises and 10,000 customers.”
Why vegetables and not groceries or anything else? “Selling vegetables does not attract taxes,” he grins.
“The real challenge is to keep afloat for the next 6-12 months and we will be there. Actually it has to click, as I don’t have any other option,” he says with measured confidence. "He knows it&’s vital as he has invested Rs 27 lakh and has a turnover of Rs 6.2 lakh.”
Have supermarkets felt his impact? “No. Many are not even aware. I just deal with a small miniscule part of the market.” He will sell one tonne a day when with 1,000 customers when government data states Hyderabad&’s daily vegetable tonnage is 800 tonnes worth Rs 2 crore.
“When I started I had 100 customers and I thought I will touch 600 in no time as I have plenty of friends. But only six friends are using my service. The others are net-savvy, but have not booked a vegetable basket even once. This was a shocker. It rankles me even now.” “The other thing is customers are not referring customers. They are happy, book week after week and don’t have complaints. They willingly put their testimonials with their pictures on my website, but don’t refer anyone. Incomprehensible!” he exclaimed.