Krishi Star(Founded by Bryan Lee & Arnav Saxena) is an early stage social enterprise that enables small farmers increase their incomes. The company manufactures value added food products especially the Import substitutes from raw materials sourced directly from small farmers. These products are manufactured at a factory which is owned by Farmer producer organizations. So, at the end of the day all profits earned by the factory due to optimum capacity utilization, is distributed between the shareholders (farmers). KrishiStar was also a part of Village Capital – CIIE IIM A Last Mile 2014 batch.
When they began the selling process, they decided to focus on tomato as a crop but did not know what tomato products would make sense to the market. So, they began tapping into their existing school network and found that many alumni were either running hotels in India or had had a good network in the hospitality industry in Mumbai..They began writing to the alumni and asked for meetings. The response rates for the emails were not great initially but a few of them responded. They also used some personal contacts by networking and also walked in to some hotels and spoke to the prospects and many of the prospects got thrilled by the social cause behind the venture and volunteered to help in giving their suggestions. The prospects gave some initial ideas on what might be required by the hospitality industry and Krishi Star team went back to make those products and took it back to the chefs in the hotels to get them to taste it and find out if the chefs liked it and also double checked with them that they would really want it and would pay for the products. Based on the discussions they had with multiple restaurants, they realized Italian restaurants would be the ideal choice and began solving their problems of getting reliable and good quality tomato products with a localized, good quality product which is made from raw materials directly sourced from farmers from within India at a great price.
They chose a set of early adopters and kept showing them the prototypes (food products made in hand to begin with to demonstrate the taste branded by low cost labels to show how the end product will look like) and finally after the contract, They automated the food products by creating a factory and branded the products with professional labeling .The prospects also iterated with the team on changes that need to be made in the tomato products and finally some chefs gave the go ahead to the product and the selling began.
Bryan’s advice to entrepreneurs as an early stage founder is that the initial set of prospects will have more ownership in buying the product from you if you co-created the products along with them. The quality of the product is more important for prospects to buy than the personal liking they would have on you.