Community of women is growing in agritech, and we are here to support each other: Hema Nandiraju, Hesa Technologies
The agriculture industry needs more woman leaders and innovators, and we have the potential to make a significant impact, believes Hema Nandiraju, Co-founder, Hesa Technologies
Bhoomika Singh March 7, 2023
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The worlds of agritech and fintech have traditionally been dominated by men, but in recent years, there has been a surge in the number of woman entrepreneurs who are making their mark in these industries. These women are using their expertise and creativity to develop innovative solutions that are transforming the way in which we think about agriculture and finance.
One such woman who has created a successful start-up in the women agritech and fintech space is Hema Nandiraju, Co-Founder of Hesa Technologies. As an entrepreneur, she has not only disrupted the industry but has also paved the way for other women to follow in her footsteps.
SME Futures spoke with her about her entrepreneurial journey and about the impact that her platform is having on the smallholder farmers who have traditionally been excluded from formal financial services.
What inspired you to become an agritech entrepreneur?
I have always been passionate about using technology to solve real-world problems, and agritech has the potential to make a significant impact in rural areas. I saw the challenges that rural communities faced with limited access to technology and proper distribution channels, making it difficult for the people residing in these areas to access supplies. The possibility of making a difference was evident to me.
I was motivated by the idea of empowering rural consumers and businesses and bridging the rural-urban divide. At Hesa, we are focused on creating a platform that is easy to use, is accessible to everyone, and can help rural consumers and businesses to thrive.
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Seeing the impact that we are making in the rural areas, and the positive feedback that we are receiving from our users, motivates me to continue working in this field and keep pushing the boundaries of what is possible with agritech.
Can you tell us how Hesa is addressing a specific problem in the agriculture industry?
Hesa is a rural tech enterprise that is addressing several challenges that are faced by the rural communities in India. One of the specific problems we are addressing is in the agriculture industry. We have noticed that the farmers in rural areas often struggle to sell their produce at a fair price, as they may not have access to a broader market or may not have the bargaining power to negotiate prices.
To address this challenge, we have developed an agritech vertical that connects farmers directly with buyers through our platform. By cutting out the intermediaries, we can offer the farmers a fair price for their produce while also providing the buyers with access to high-quality products at a competitive price. Our platform also offers a range of support services, including transportation and storage solutions, to help farmers to sell their products more efficiently.
In addition to our agritech vertical, we also offer a fintech vertical that provides financial services to rural communities, including access to credit, insurance and other financial products. Specifically, we focus on connecting farmers with various financial service providers using cutting-edge technology.
By doing so, we strive to bridge the gap between these farmers and the financial services that they need to thrive. These services can help to address some of the critical challenges that are faced by the rural communities in India, including poor infrastructure, low financial literacy and limited access to markets.
Hesa is committed to using technology in innovative ways to make a positive impact on agriculture and on the environment. We believe that by leveraging technology to create more efficient and sustainable farming practices, we can help to build a more resilient and sustainable future for the rural communities in India.
What have been some of your challenges as a woman in the agritech industry, and how have you overcome them?
One of the most significant hurdles that I have had to overcome is the pervasive gender bias that exists in this industry. I have often been underestimated or dismissed simply because of my gender. I have had to work twice as hard as my male counterparts to prove my calibre.
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However, I have overcome these challenges through my persistence, my determination and a strong support network. I have made it a point to surround myself with individuals who share my vision and passion for creating a more sustainable and equitable future for rural communities in India. One of the things that has helped me to overcome the challenges is my unwavering belief in the mission of Hesa.
I am deeply committed to leveraging technology to create more efficient and sustainable farming practices and building a more resilient future for the rural communities in India. Ultimately, I believe that my gender has been an asset rather than a hindrance in my journey as a founder of Hesa. Being a woman has allowed me to bring a unique perspective and approach to problem-solving and has enabled me to bring a more diverse and inclusive perspective to the table.
I hope to continue to inspire and empower other women to pursue their dreams and make a positive impact in their respective fields.
What effect has your company had on local communities and farmers, and how have they reacted to your initiatives?
Our business has significantly impacted the local communities and farmers that we serve. Our model has empowered 19 lakh rural families, providing them with access to various products and services through our super-app. This has not only helped improve their standard of living but has also created economic opportunities in the areas that we operate in.
One of the most significant impacts of our business on the local community has been our support for farmers. We recognise the critical role that farmers play in sustaining local economies, and we have worked hard to help them access the resources that they need to thrive. Through our initiatives, we have benefitted 50,000 farmers by giving them access to the right agricultural inputs and value-added services and connecting their products to the market.
The response from the community has been overwhelmingly positive, and we are committed to continuing our efforts to support the local economy and promote sustainable growth.
How important is it for women to be digitally and technologically equal in today’s modern world?
It is imperative for women to be digitally and technologically equal in today’s modern world. Technology is rapidly transforming every aspect of our lives, and women must have access to the tools and resources that are necessary to participate fully in the digital economy.
Digital and technological equality means ensuring that women have the same opportunities to acquire digital skills, access technology, and participate in the tech industry. It also means ensuring that women’s voices are heard and represented in developing new technologies and products.
Studies have shown that diverse teams and companies perform better, and having diverse perspectives in developing new technologies is essential. Women make up half the world’s population, and their contributions to the tech industry are crucial. Closing the gender gap in technology will benefit not only women but also society as a whole.
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It can lead to the development of more innovative and inclusive technologies that can address some of the world’s most pressing challenges. Promoting digital and technological equality for women is not just a social imperative but also a business necessity. Companies must foster an inclusive culture that values and supports women’s contributions to the tech industry.
How can women bring a positive perspective to the agritech sector?
The agriculture industry plays a critical role in feeding the world’s population. By leveraging technology, we can make it more sustainable, efficient, and productive. As women, we bring a unique perspective and set of skills to this field, and our contributions are vital. I want to assure you that you are not alone.
There is a growing community of women in agritech, and we are here to support each other. Reach out to other in the industry, attend events, and participate in online communities to connect with like-minded individuals. Collaborating and sharing knowledge can lead to innovative solutions and positive change.
The last thing that I want to say is that I encourage you to take risks and to be confident in your abilities. The agriculture industry needs more woman leaders and innovators, and we have the potential to make a significant impact.
What advice would you give to other budding women agripreneurs?
My advice to them would be to stay focused, be persistent, and not be afraid of taking risks. Starting a business is never easy, but it can be especially challenging for women in male-dominated industries like agriculture and technology.
But I believe that women have a unique perspective, and they can bring fresh ideas and approaches to the industry. Find mentors and advisors who can offer guidance and support, and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
Additionally, there are several government schemes and initiatives in India that are specifically designed to support and promote woman entrepreneurs. These include the Annapurna Scheme, the Mahila Udyam Nidhi Scheme, the Mudra Yojana Scheme, the Stand-Up India Scheme, and the Women Entrepreneurship Platform.
And most importantly, believe in yourself and your ability to make a positive impact on the world.