An Exclusive Interview with Subhadeep Sanyal, partner of Omnivore

Subhadeep Sanyal, partner of Omnivore
Subhadeep Sanyal, partner of Omnivore


Subhadeep Sanyal joined Omnivore in 2011 and in addition to his investment responsibilities, he manages Omnivore’s technical assistance facility, supporting capacity building initiatives across their portfolio. He was Omnivore’s first non-founder hire, having been recruited while still in business school and Omnivore’s primary liaison with the Government of India and its network of agricultural research institutes, as well as a member of the FICCI Taskforce on Agri Startups.  

Omnivore was founded by Mark Kahn and Jinesh Shah in 2010. The impact investor backs Indian startups developing and using technology in the food, agriculture and rural sectors. 

How Omnivore is helping the farmers in the time of farmer protest and new farm laws? 

We are generally a venture company and we invest in the various Agri sector related company and right now we have 26 agritech company to whom we are investing. This investment in agritech company is helping farmers to grow. We don’t deal with farmers directly but yes, we help agritech company and by this network it helps farmers to grow and help them to become Atma nirbhar. 

Does COVID-19 pandemic have an impact on your organization?  

No, not to that much when the whole nation was facing COVID-19 we have seen the growth since we deal with agriculture sector companies and they were doing great. This is also thanks to growth in the field of the digital media sector. We have not yet faced so much impact but our growth has increased.   

Some of our investment company deals with:

Arya Collateral which provides post-harvest services across the agricultural value chain, including warehousing, warehouse receipt financing, rural storage discovery, collateral management and market linkages.

GramCover is a tech-enabled insurance marketplace for rural India. They are focused on the development and brokerage of rural insurance products to farmers.

DeHaat serves over three lakh farmers in Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha and UP. It uses a franchise model, working with over 1000 local micro-entrepreneurs, to work closely with farmers. The startup helps raise farm income by providing better access to markets and inputs, apart from advisory services.

Stellapps is an end-to-end dairy technology solutions company – the first of its kind in India. Their innovative applications and state-of-the-art mechanization tools leverage the Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, Cloud, Mobility, and Data Analytics to improve Agri- Dairy supply chain parameters, including milk production, milk procurement, cold chain, animal insurance and farmer payments etc. 

If I tell you about the COVID-19, yes it has disrupted the supply chain but to cope up with this we provided grants or support to all the companies. We have provided masks, sanitisers, PPE kits etc. to those companies which directly deals with farmers. 

What Challenges do you saw as Omnivore as a startup in 2011 times?

It was basis struggle what all goes through but in fact, we were very sorted like we made surveys, research and how to connect with companies and farmers. We studied in Biological parameters as that time digitalization was not strong and we use to tell everyone we have not some to purchase but to invest capital. After 2015 things changed many startups especially in agriculture started and that all made our key way to success. 

Why is impact measurement important to us?

Omnivore invests in startups building the future of agriculture and food systems in India. Our portfolio companies create a significant impact on smallholder farmers and the environment. We believe that a robust impact policy and measurement processes are critical to achieving our vision of transforming Indian agriculture and food systems.

Specifically, they can:

• Help us understand the on-ground impact and identify ‘what works’: By capturing the different facets and extent of impact created by our portfolio, we can develop a better understanding of the business models and solutions that create impact. This will allow us to sharpen our thinking and impact hypotheses for future investments.

• Enable us to ‘course-correct’ as needed: Robust impact measurement systems can help us monitor the impact achievements of our companies and enable us to work with them to address issues and course-correct if necessary.

• Build a more informed Agri and impact investment ecosystem: By publicly sharing our impact achievements and findings, we can inform the broader agriculture and impact investment ecosystem’s thinking on ‘what works’, catalyzing funding and entrepreneurs to area and solutions with demonstrated ability to unlock impact.

What will agriculture look like in 2030?”, we asked ourselves. We wanted to think beyond 2020, beyond COVID-19, beyond our second fund, one decade into the future. What emerged was Omnivore’s Vision 2030.

We highlight 8 trends that we believe will disrupt the status quo of the Indian agricultural system by 2030 while meeting the objectives of climate-smart agriculture:

  • Precision agriculture and automation will be the norm, even among smallholders, across the sowing to the harvesting value chain.
  • Quantum leap in biotechnologies will produce plants that are more nutritious and resilient and regulate farm health more efficiently.
  • Fragmented land holdings and asset ownership will go through widespread consolidation, real and virtual, to achieve economies of
    scale for smallholders.
  • Farmers will improve their relationship with global and local consumers, offer enhanced safety & quality, and improve income.
  • Agricultural labour will contract and move towards higher productivity jobs, higher up in the value chain; agricultural training will
    respond to cater to a younger farmer.
  • Production of high-value output such as leafy greens and cruciferous will become more specialized and protected, and have its own
    dedicated logistics chain.
  • Rising animal protein and dairy consumption will push technology adoption across the animal and fisheries value-chain, increasing
    diversity of diets, driving up efficiency and lowering costs in a safe and conscious manner.
  • Food science will pursue consumer-centricity, yielding affordable processed products that address malnourishment, lifestyle diseases, and ecological concerns. 

What emerging trends do you see in agritech?

The pandemic caused disruptions across the agri-supply chain, including the closing of markets, breakdown of procurement, and halt in several on-ground operations. The pandemic also caused many migrants to move back to their homes leading to skewed labour availability. In the same time period, the government announced far-reaching reforms. All of these have contributed to new business models gaining importance in the agritech landscape. Four of these are summarized in the exhibit below:

  • Rise of B2B platforms and farmer marketplaces – Digital platforms have seamlessly connected various stakeholders in the supply chain.
  • The emergence of Farm to Consumer Brands (F2C) – Rising health awareness has led to a demand for safe and traceable food products. This could potentially lead to the creation of a vertically integrated farm to consumer brands.
  • Adoption of precision agriculture – The rising penetration of smartphones has made farmers more comfortable using precision agri-technology. The onset of COVID-19 has driven adoption as on-ground manual support reduced.
  •  Creation of E-Markets – The new government reforms coupled with the disruption of market linkages due to the pandemic has accelerated the creation of inter-state e-markets involving farmers, traders and buyers. We could see the emergence of several startups providing services for enabling this transition.

This interview was taken by Pritam Kashyap, Senior Journalist, Krishi Jagran on December 24, 2020. We look forward to more interactions and collaborations in the future as well. 

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