Agritech start-ups in India have been successful in attracting funding from numerous investors including but not limited to large multinational companies, consumer funds, and generalist venture capital firms. There has been a significant growth in agritech investments in sync with the maturing of the agritech ecosystem in India.
The past ﬁve years have witnessed a strong surge in the development of this ecosystem, with a 9X increase in institutional funding in the sector during this period. In 2014-2019, the sector has pulled in US$ 1.7 billion (bn) as compared to US$ 0.2bn in the preceding five year block. One of the deals that caught eyes in the sector in 2019 was Tiger Global investing as much as US$ 89 million (mn) in Ninjacart. In 2020, tech adoption among farmers and resilience of the sector acted as a catalyst for fund raise by various agritech start-ups such as FreshToHome, WayCool, Arya Collateral, DeHaat, Bijak, Intello Labs, and Clover Ventures, amongst others. Omnivore has invested about US$ 15mn in 10 agritech start-ups during 2020, as compared to US$ 6.5mn in seven agritech start-ups during 2019. The year 2021 has started off well with agritech start-ups pulling capital within the very first month. Investments in this space include Dehaat, raised US$ 30mn in Series B led by Prosus Ventures (along with the existing investors including Omnivore) CropIn, raised US$ 20mn from Temasek backed ABC World Asia and Agri10X, raised an undisclosed seed funding from Omnivore.
Cross-border investments in the sector have not disappointed either. Certain Indian start-ups, such as AgNext, CropIn and Intello Labs, went global. Whereas, some international agritech start-ups, such as Plantix and Indigo, entered Indian markets.
Omnivore in its report “The Future of Indian Agriculture & Food Systems: Vision 2030”, has predicted that the post COVID-19 era would hold tremendous opportunities for the agritech segment, but not without considerable risks. The trends in the market underline increased capital deployment and rising investors’ interest in the sector. Various favourable policies announced by the Government for the agriculture sector recently along with the expected corresponding strengthening of infrastructure, logistics and capacity building, is expected to provide a strong tailwind for the agritech sector and investments in the sector.
In 2010, Omnivore came to be the first sector specific impact venture capital fund, based in India, which sought to fund entrepreneurs building the future of agriculture and food systems. Moreover, it has generally been credited with having redefined and mainstreamed investing in agritech start-ups. Omnivore is actively engaged in investing in Indian start-ups that strive to develop breakthrough technologies for food, agriculture, and the rural economy. It is a belief in Omnivore that for transforming rural India, the profitability of agriculture needs to be tapped. This could be done through improving sustainability of farming and reducing the extent of uncertainty borne by farmers in India. Omnivore’s vision of agricultural prosperity is driven by their theory of change, comprising three pillars: increasing smallholder profitability, enhancing smallholder resilience and improving agricultural sustainability. Omnivore’s first fund has been fully deployed and around 45% of the capital from its second fund has been deployed. Omnivore is looking to raise a third fund in late 2021.
Mark Kahn, co-founder of Omnivore along with Jinesh Shah has been the driving force behind the success story of Omnivore. Mark has been able to shape and give a definitive direction to Omnivore’s vision and investment thesis by using his prior experience in the sector. Mark spoke with Gaurav Dayal, Partner in Lakshmikumaran & Sridharan’s Delhi Office, about Omnivore’s early beginnings, its willingness to back ideas that improve farmer’s profitability, its focus on ESG implementation by investee companies, its focus on climate change and impact on the sector as well as the role played by the government in supporting the sector.
ABOUT MARK KAHN
Mark Kahn is a Managing Partner at Omnivore, a venture capital firm, based in India, which funds entrepreneurs building the future of agriculture and food systems. Omnivore pioneered agritech investing in India, backing over 20 startups since 2011, and currently manages INR 9.35bn (approximately US$ 130mn) across two funds. Every day, Omnivore portfolio companies drive agricultural prosperity and transform food systems across India, making farming more profitable, resilient, and sustainable.
Previously, Mark was the Executive Vice President (Strategy & Business Development) at Godrej Agrovet, one of India’s foremost diversified agribusiness companies. At Godrej Agrovet, Mark was responsible for corporate strategy, M&A, R&D and new business incubation. Earlier in his career, Mark worked for Syngenta and PFM.
He is a BA (Honors) from the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from Harvard Business School, where he graduated as a Baker Scholar. Mark is a member of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) National Council on Agriculture, a member of the Governing Council of the Maharashtra State Innovation Society, and a member of EMPEA’s Venture Capital Council.