Bryan Lee, a 3rd Generation US-Chinese, and an alumnus of Kellogg Business School settled in India to start a social enterprise to lift millions of Indian farmers out of poverty. He founded Krishi Star in 2012 in Mumbai.
Typically, farmers in the Indian agriculture sector are stuck in perpetual poverty because they are small-scale producers of commodity products which are dependent on not just vagaries of monsoon but also the fluctuations of the market. Value chain or the number of participants involved in bringing these products to the market is fairly large. A farmer growing tomato in a village will often sell his produce to a local trader in the rural market. From this market, the tomatoes are transported to a large hub like the APMC at Vashi, Navi Mumbai. Tomatoes are then sold to restaurants, hotels and local vendors through a network of distributors. It is widely known that middlemen and traders in this value chain are the ones that make extraordinary profits at the expense of farmers and consumers alike. So, what can be done to address farmer poverty?
Poverty alleviation will happen if farmers assume a greater role in the value chain than just being small-scale producers. They can free themselves from the vagaries of farming by moving into manufacturing which is a sustainable income generation activity. Krishi Star helps them do this. They want to create a network of profitable farmer-owned food processing units and sell their products through Krishi Star brand. This will make the value chain of commodities much simpler and efficient.
Krishi Star wants to gain deeper expertise in the value chain of one commodity before they expand to other commodities. Currently, they specialize in production and marketing of packaged tomato products. They have tied up with 3 farmer-owned units for fulfilling their core requirements with the rest coming from a few commercial units on job-work basis. They procure their tomatoes directly from 200 plus farmers from Jawhar region of Maharashtra and also from several other aggregators. Krishi Star branded tomato products are sold to hotel, restaurants and catering groups in Mumbai, Pune and Nashik.