Sun, Nov 25, 2018 1:58 PM
"What do you need to start a business? Three simple things: know your product better than anyone, know your customer, and have a burning desire to succeed."
-Dave Thomas, Founder of Wendy's
What makes an individual an entrepreneur? What sets that person apart from the crowd? What makes a venture succeed or fail? What is the secret recipe? We can get a variety of responses to these questions but in essence if we look closely, it’s the entrepreneurial zeal that creates all the difference. The little nuances that creates larger impact.
Smartkrishi is one of such venture that has survived it all and seen the light of success. SmartKrishi Nepal was founded by Anil Regmi, an engineer by academic qualification and zealous entrepreneur by profession. With its four years of existence SmartKrishi has won numerous awards and recognition inside and outside the country. It was selected in the Idea Studio season 2. Similarly, it was also selected among the top 5 ventures in youth agripreneurs project.
From an app born in a competition to a successful business venture, SmartKrishi and Anil Regmi have come a long way. In this backdrop Aakriti Thakali from Sharesansar visited Mr. Regmi. The excerpts of the interview are:
Smartkrishi started as an app developed in a competition, what made you hang on to it and bring it to life?
SmartKrishi was born in a competition called the Ncell App Camp, 2014 from where 33 workable ideas were selected. Unfortunately we couldn't make it to the top 5 but I had already made the app and it felt bad to let it go in vain. So, I worked for another month on the app, added new data, upgraded the app a little and finally launched it on January 02, 2015.
It was a very basic app, but since there weren't any agricultural apps back then the popularity began to grow. The winning app went dormant after a while but we kept on adding data and updating the app towards friendlier user experience and easy usage format. Slowly and steadily the network ad outreach began to grow and here we are today.
It has been around four years since SmartKrishi first came into existence, how would like to describe your journey so far?
The journey so far has been great. I'm satisfied with what we have accomplished. Through this app, I've got to meet new people with new ideas and variety of background. I've been recognized for the work I have done, which is a great pat-in-the-back really. Similarly, even when I'm in field, we get to hear from farmers and it reassures me that the work I'm doing is creating some actual impact and that gives me great pleasure.
The main target customer for SmartKrishi are the farmers, and the smart phone penetration was not so good back then. So how hard was it for you to reach them and convince them to use your app?
Three years ago, like you said, the number of phone users was not that exciting and most of our users were people living abroad. However, now the scenario has changed. Smart phones have become cheaper and the people visiting home from abroad always bring 2 to 3 iphones. So the user base has dramatically increased over the years.
Now that people have the means to access it, the only question is how to reach out to them. So we are relying heavily on social media platforms like facebook and instagram to reach out to as many people as possible. Similarly, we also occasionally organize training programs in remote villages in collaboration with other agri-based organizations.
After reaching them the next step is to convince them and that is pretty smooth when we show them how the problems they are facing can be solved through the help of SmartKrishi app. In Nepal, when farmers have problems they don't have a platform to seek effective solutions from and they mostly resort to traditional methods. But through SmartKrishi, this problem can be accessed and solved directly from their smart phones.
Based on your experience, how hard is it for an entrepreneur to survive in Nepal?
To be a successful entrepreneur, not just in Nepal but all over the world, a "can do" attitude is most. The second thing is an idea that solves a market problem and also matches your skill set.
So after that when your enter the market, whichever sector you choose, it will take 2 to 3 years just to breakeven. In that case, you need a strong will and perseverance. Continuing the list, the other thing we can't miss is financial back-up, which will support operations till 3 to 5 years.
Summing up my own journey, yes entrepreneurial journey is not a bed of roses but as I look back it is all worth it. With the right kind of mind-set it'll be not easy but easier to survive.
How have your financials been up till now?
Initially I didn't have any financing, so I put in my own money. As time passed I got recognized and won awards, which helped us financially. Later on various agricultural products, machines and tools sellers approached us to promote their product via our platform and that started generating some steady cash. So currently, we've crossed the breakeven ceiling and have started making profit.
Until you hit breakeven, it's very risky and one may start questioning the applicability of that idea. So other than your own will, how important was your family's support?
Well yeah, the risk is always there but it was something I was passionate about and since I had made it myself there was always this attachment that kept me going all this time. Coming to my family, they weren't particularly enthusiastic and still they hope that I'd get a job and earn regular salary. But they know that I am doing something good, so there isn't much pressure.
So I think the bottom-line is your own will that matters the most.
We can see many creative ventures that has excelled in Nepal, and we have seen even more of those who failed. So what are the features necessary to survive and then thrive?
In my experience, I've felt there are three salient features necessary to survive and thrive in entrepreneurial arena and they are:
The idea must be new, novel and must solve a problem. So you need to carry out adequate research before starting working on it.
Planning and vision
Having a clear vision and proper planning is of utmost importance. You need to figure out your funds inflow and outflow for the next 3 to 4 years so that you can operate without breaking down.
Persistence and perseverance
Today most business incubation centers have died because the ideas aren't coing as they used to and even among the new ventures most fail to persevere through harsh times and they fade away. So if you think your idea is worth toiling for, you need to persist and work against the wave.
What is your end-goal or the vision for Smartkrishi?
I haven't thought of a far end goal, but my current focus to make the most out of this e-commerce platform. My goal will be fulfilled when every farmer will be able to access real-time information from SmartKrishi to make smart and informed decisions. When farmers won't have to walk miles to buy machines, rather can order it online. When they have access to the latest innovations in commercial farming. My goal will be fulfilled when Nepal will be an agricultural economy not just on papers but on real terms, when the 80% of population dependent on agriculture will rise above the poverty line. That is the vision of SmartKrishi.
Connectivity – Logistics – Application
What kind of prospects do you see for the budding entrepreneurs of the coming generation?
The prospects are endless. If it had been a developed country, then everything would have been done and to start something new would require a huge investment. But Nepal is just trying to grow out of the shadows, which opens avenues in all sectors – all you need is a brilliant idea and the conviction to materialize it. The idea should solve a market problem and should be based on the customer's money making model. SO when your customers make money, you do too.
Even if you don't have an idea of your own you can look at other developing countries because the problems are going to be somewhat same and we can see the type of intervention that is happening and then act accordingly.
What do you want your legacy to be?
I want to be recognized as the person who dared to do something new and did it too. When I started there were no apps in this field and a very small user base but I had faith that if I could satisfy the existing users, then this number would grow. So through my story I want people to infer and learn that even by working from a niche market we can be successful.