This article is a lightly-edited summary of the key takeaways from our speakers’ appearance on our podcast, “The Shape of Work.” If you haven’t listened to our show yet, be sure to check it out here. These speakers have an incredible stable of startup experiences to draw from, the kind of stories that are unbelievably helpful for HR/people managers to hear.
On this episode of The Shape of Work podcast, we welcome Vamsi Udayagiri, Founder & CEO of Hesa Technologies Pvt. Ltd, an integrated B2B rural marketplace. Through their initiative, 350+ people are earning 12,000-15,000 while sitting in villages.
GUEST AT A GLANCE:
Name of the guest: Vamsi Udayagiri
What he does: Founder & CEO of Hesa Technologies Pvt. Ltd.
Find him on LinkedIn.
Get Smart: “The world’s largest customer base links in rural areas.”
In this episode, you will get valuable insights into:
- The level of tech acceptance in villages.
- Challenges in the social commerce space.
- Handling diversity in the team efficiently.
- New startups appropriate for the Indian market.
- Is increased migration acting as a barrier?
- Responsibility of corporate organizations in this initiative.
The level of tech acceptance in villages:
Over his years of experience, Vamsi observes that very few people understand technology in rural areas. That was the reason why this idea behind their startup was delayed till 2019. It was the year the penetration of the internet and other technologies reached these areas. After the onset of the pandemic, many people reverse migrated from urban to rural areas. Here is where Hesa gave these people the option to be micro-entrepreneurs. Vamsi says that the situation has been relatively easy now. Moreover, he feels that people in rural areas have an entrepreneurial mindset. Simple and accessible platforms like Hesa can offer them an opportunity to widen their reach. They offer continuous training facilities from their on-ground and backend teams.
Challenges in the social commerce space:
Many social commerce models have not yet reached the isolated villages. They have reached villages that are technically an extension of urban areas. However, villages with a population of fewer than 1000 people are not approached by this model yet. The consumer influence is the same here if they receive decent incentives. However, many models are picking up these ideas. They have just started and will definitely change rural commerce.
Handling diversity in the team efficiently:
As a founder, handling people from all different backgrounds has definitely been a challenge for Vamsi. Today, their model is dependent on an army of village-level influencers. They have different people working in different groups, and they all come from separate backgrounds. Interacting with these people helps him and his team to scale this entire thing through. They also interact with investors, corporates, CSRs, the government, etc. It has always been a continuous learning process. Vamsi feels that this is where the right mix of teams works. He is thankful to his co-founders, execution teams, leadership team, and other members of his organization.
New startups that are appropriate for the Indian market:
There are enormous opportunities available in rural areas. Vamsi feels that the rural areas consist of a huge customer base. Talking about any business vertical in rural areas turns into a billion-dollar opportunity. The entire challenge is to figure out a way to address this.
Vamsi says that there are plenty of fintech and agri-tech startups trying to change things at the grassroots level. He feels that the biggest challenge is that the end customer is not the user of the platform. Less than 7%-8% of rural consumers perform business transactions using smartphones.
It is the reason why this model is created. Influencers know how to use smartphones, and they can reach out to plenty of people to widen the scope of the businesses. Many agri-tech startups are paving their way into the industry. Vamsi talks about one of their innovation programs focusing on innovators in every household. A lot of innovations are happening at the grass-root level. Giving them market access is the right way to go about it.
Is increased migration a barrier?
It is definitely a challenge, as Vamsi mentions. However, there are plenty of people who are going back to farming. He feels that we should find ways to get back to our roots and help the farming community to grow. It is a huge problem to solve and can be done at a government level. Marginal farmers having small acres of land are facing the major issue here. Due to financial constraints, they are bound to leave and work in industries. However, Vamsi is hopeful, saying that there are plenty of interventions already happening. There will definitely be a positive impact.
Responsibility of corporate organizations in this initiative:
A lot of corporate organizations have to take initiatives. Vamsi feels HR and people managers are doing a lot of work in this area. Large corporations have the bandwidth to use resources for training purposes. The entire rural upliftment is not only based on skill training but, more importantly, capacity building.
It helps the rural people understand the business, the effectiveness of their communication, and the benefits of what they are doing. Here is where corporate organizations need to take responsibility.