As a people we’re constantly heading towards a health-conscious dispensation; one that pays attention to food sources, storage and transport hygiene, and attention across the entire value chain. Whether it’s a remote village in Guwahati or a high-brow neighbourhood in Mumbai, people care for their health. So, when operations and technology expert Siddharth Das and behavioural scientist Chetna Shridhar teamed up to set up a solution to help provide a trusted link between farmers, their products and the end-users, it came as a welcomed development.

That signalled the birth of Ruralnomics, an e-commerce and supply startup with a major aim to bring agriculture, supply and e-commerce under one roof to unbundle the value chain and create easier access for products, sourced and packaged under the most hygienic conditions. Co-founder Das explains that Ruralnomics Pvt. Ltd was borne out of a clear vision to transform the hyper-local, e-commerce, and fresh food space in Northeast India.

“Since our induction in Assam in October 2020, we have continued to live true to our tag line, By Local, For Local, To Uplift Local. The vision of the company is to be the most respected fresh food hyperlocal e-commerce start-up in the Northeast region by 2025. We saw an opportunity by identifying the problems in the fresh food value chain and this startup is simply our response. We resolved to solve the problems of price, quality and cleanliness, especially in fresh meat products. We knew we could bring positive customer experience in meat buying,” he notes.

That was the driving force behind what is now one of India’s most promising supply and e-commerce firms. Reality soon dawned on them when it became known that to be successful, two things were key; “First of all, we needed to own the entire supply chain to have control over prices and also provide hygienic fresh food products to our customers, and secondly, we would have to ensure that the product is fresh and is not stored in cold storage,” he explains. With these two taken care of, the company would be on track to achieving its objectives.

Thankfully, Das and Shridhar were able to put together a formidable team of experts, including Dr Elvee Marbaniang and Shailang Marbaniang – both directors; Mirlang Phanbuh, head of operations; and Gautam Nath, head of brand and operations in Assam. This dynamic team has shown its resolve and worked in tandem with the vision of the founders with some great achievements recorded thus far. Their flagship products RunoFresh.com and Runopay (a payment platform) have certainly gained attention in the Northeast and beyond.

As Das says, “In 10 months we were servicing 5000 households with a repeat order of at least twice from our customers in a month. We were able to achieve this because we took every difficult stage and stumbling block as a learning process. We were also quick to introduce a service desk to measure our NPS, get feedback from customers, and make changes wherever necessary. Also, because we’re aligned to the hyperlocal market and community retailing, we’ve been able to grow our trust index in the region,” he says.

Starting wasn’t exactly easy as the organisation needed to resolve issues surrounding supplier onboard processes like proximity, cleanliness, halal/non-halal definition, readiness to serve, supplier engagement, delivery SLA, turn-around time and roster, the definition of B2B and B2C delivery, supply inflation dynamics, local influence in market control, creating BCP with multiple products and new zones, payment solutions, local laws and local MSP rates, business license and even Covid-19 guidelines, among others.

Surmounting these hurdles has helped to prove their resilience and commitment towards changing the narrative in the industry, one city at a time. “At present, RunoFresh.com is an online e-commerce platform focused on Northeast India and plans to penetrate all segments of the society. The primary motive is to change the customer experience of buying non-veg online and offline with a single agenda to win trust and confidence, while proving that meat buying can be a world-class experience,” Das reveals.

While funding such a company can be a tough task, Ruralnomics has been able to maintain a sustainable model. As a bootstrapped company, it has remained self-sufficient. This made it tough for the startup to function effectively during its initial days. Supply and delivery were a major issue, especially since the meat is not frozen as a policy. But with the experiential edge, collaborative partnership and support, as well as the genuine commitment of partner farmers, Ruralnomics has been able to forge ahead strongly.

As Northeast India continues to evolve and bloom, Ruralnomics is desirous of further collaboration with farmers, suppliers and customers because their trust is what has kept the startup going. From the dedicated gesture of delivering food at midnight on the eve of a total lockdown to empowering farmers and ensuring cleanliness in the fresh food supply, these past months have been a bundle of emotions. The no storage policy continues to define the character of Ruralnomics to satisfy customers.

The company was recently declared as the winner of North East Launchpad, the largest business plan competition in the Northeast region of India. As they look towards the future, Das says the app is going through upgrades to make the digital experience even more exciting and user-friendly. On the other hand, there is a plan to open an omnichannel across the Northeast by 2025 to continue to engender the culture of healthy foods across the world.

Also read: COVID-19: National recovery rate increases to 98 per cent



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