The Silicon Review
In the recent years, the startup ecosystem in India has been redefining the economy of the country. There are many factors that are driving the emergence of startups such as availability of funding, evolving technology, consolidation activities by firms, and the growing demands of products and services within the domestic market. The burgeoning number of startups indicates that the startup trend is becoming revolutionary owing to the open commercial culture and strong demographics in India. It is expected that entrepreneurship will soon see a significant growth, and its success will drive the country to an even more dynamic future.
In the light of the above mentioned, it is indeed a pleasure to introduce Shankam Innovations, a startup founded by 27 year old Vijay Yashvanth BC, putting in its best efforts and hard work to help farmers, agri input companies, finance lending institutions, greenhouse companies, etc. looking to increase the productivity & yield using less resources like water, electricity and fertilizers and also monitor the respective variables for improved decision making.
Founded in 2017, Shankam Innovations is headquartered in the Silicon Valley of India - Bangalore, and has its operations in Gujarat. The company is recognized by Government of India and Government of Karnataka as an official startup in the field of innovations and technology services and was one among the top 10 in Indo-Israel innovation challenge conducted by the GOI.
In conversation with the thought leader, CEO Vijay Yashvanth BC
Q. Can you tell us something about your market landscape?
India is a land of agriculture, and 52% of the population depends on agriculture for their livelihood. Agriculture and its allied sectors account for 13% of the GDP and generate approximately $245B by the same. India holds as the second largest agricultural land in the world.
A drop in landholdings (average 1.4 hectares), a decreasing agricultural land versus a growing population, decreasing groundwater levels, lack of mechanisation, low yield per unit crop and a dependence on middlemen are some of the challenges for the growth of agriculture in India. Added to that, the absence of an organized marketing structure for produce, malpractices in the existing unorganized agricultural markets, inadequate facilities for transportation and storage, scarcity of credit, and limited access to superior technology to get timely information are some of the many afflictions which obstruct the Indian agricultural sector.
In India, 85% of the water is used mostly for irrigation, leaving the other industries searching for more water. Kombe is on the mission to solve this problem of water scarcity of the country. It focuses on increasing the yield of the farmers and also conserve more water in irrigation so that the saved water can be used for other industries/purposes.
The core target here is to unburden the agro industry with respect to the factors that prove as an obstacle in the growth and productivity of the same. For a country such as ours, where more than half the population lives off feeding the others, the above mentioned factors play a very crucial role in slowing down India’s growth rate. And therefore, the main target beneficiary would definitely be that same population.
Q. What were the hurdles that you had to go through while building your business, and how did you overcome them?
A struggle is present in every entrepreneur’s life. Shankam Innovations too had to face many hurdles when it started due to lack of funds, limited engineering resource, conducting product pilot run in different geographies, etc. However, the biggest hurdle for us was to penetrate into the market and reach out to the customers.
We all have ideas, but translating those ideas into something tangible -a product or a service is what separates doers from thinkers. Facebook was not the first social network; the iPhone was not the first smartphone. What differentiates these companies from others is their level of execution, how they took existing products, improved them and successfully built enterprises around them. A process that has been highlighted by many entrepreneurs in the history of technology.
The agricultural sector in India is disorganized and digital penetration is very less. Reaching out to the customers and explaining the product & value propositions which will solve their problem was a real tough task. We partnered with a few non-profit organizations, to reach out to the customers. Network effect will play a crucial role in this sector.
Q. “It is difficult to start a venture, but far more difficult to maintain it.” How would you interpret this saying?
Companies are the result of the work of founders and employees. Putting together a great group of talented people is obviously not enough to succeed, but it is a step in the right direction. Founders are responsible for building companies that have dynamic goals and attractive scopes for employees and for creating the right culture to promote innovation and growth. The company’s vision should be an interpretation of their own ideas and execution.
It is very difficult to start a venture if we don’t have the knowledge about the Eco-System and how it works. My mentor, Shivakumar Swamy JP, who is a serial entrepreneur himself, helped me in shaping myself to understand the ecosystem and ways to define the product by pricing, the services we are rendering, and the value propositions we are offering and methods to retain the customer. When it comes to our technology solution, we have the best architects who were associated with some greatly renowned firms. It takes team efforts on a whole to run the show, and we are building the team and resources required to do that.
Q. What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business’ success?
It’s important to highlight -and repeat over and over- that creating a startup and building a lasting company are two very different tasks. Most startups close within the first two years of operations, thus increasing the importance of understanding that failure is part of the job and an experience people can learn from.
Success is a big word to use right now. With a balanced team and right leadership, we are seeing an exponential growth which will increase the valuations over the next coming years. Getting funded at the right time to conduct various field trials, and making few iterations in the product has set our business in a good position currently. My Mentor helped me to shape everything right and make me understand the business. My brother-in-law too assisted me in setting up the company and helped me financially in the initial days. These were the positive factors that have contributed to keeping me in the business.
Q. How do your product and service offerings benefit your clients?
Our product “Kombe” is an IoT based Cloud Platform that aims to support farmers with precision farming and its services. Using Artificial intelligence & Machine Learning, Kombe solves the problem of detecting the NPK levels and other micronutrients in the soil and gives the required necessary information to the user. It not only improves the profitability and productivity of the farmers but also aims both to create as well as conserve wealth.
With Kombe, farmers get real-time decision support and recommendations across the crop life cycle that is customized depending on geographic locations, crop type, and soil type. It also provides insurance companies with innovative products and services designed to support the agricultural industry. These systems include modules for quote and policy processing, field-level mapping, customized user-driven dashboards, data warehouse reporting, mobile applications.
Shankam Innovations also renders the IT engineering services to scale the product from design to MVP.
Meet the man behind Shankam Innovations
Vijay Yashvanth BC, Founder and CEO
Vijay, a 27 year old engineer, was born and bought up in the Silicon Valley of India - Bangalore. An engineer experienced in Design and New Product Development [NPD], worked for German Companies before landing in the world of startups. He has worked in the power and energy sector for over a half-decade and is a certified developer from National Instruments. As a CEO, he is involved in every aspect of the company from sales to product development and technology, building new business models based on the dynamic nature of the customers whilst improving the financial growth and customer retention. Vijay is passionate towards building products which solve real-world problems. His current technology focus areas include Artificial Intelligence, Data Analytics, IoT [Internet of Things], Image Processing.