As is the trend with urban India, consumers in the rural regions are also expected to embrace online purchases over time and drive consumption digitally. The rural regions are already well covered by basic telecommunication services and are now witnessing increasing penetration of computers and smartphones. Taking advantage of these developments, online portals are being viewed as key channels for companies trying to enter and establish themselves in the rural market. The internet has become a cost-effective means for a company looking to overcome geographical barriers and broaden its reach. With the great vision of revolutionizing the rural retail industry, VilCart started its operations in the year 2017. The goal for VilCart has been to give rural consumers an urban environment to meet their demands and choices.
Currently, rural consumers procure materials from local kirana stores that operate purely on a cost-plus fixed margin. Local kirana stores follow the conventional method of procuring products from nearby towns which are almost 15 to 40 kilometres from their business point. This time-consuming procurement activity becomes the most challenging task of their business because the store owners have to close their stores at least for a day; to arrange their logistics, manage negotiations, and get the best bargains. Further, they have to invest more in stock until the next procurement cycle. Most kirana store owners opt for two-wheelers to reduce transportation cost and go through life-threatening commutes, especially on highways.
VilCart has built a mobile application in the local language where rural kirana stores get the convenience of placing an order right at their fingertips. The platform is integrated with state of the art supply chain solutions and logistics to reach the remotest villages irrespective of their population. In this way, the company provides direct access for kirana stores to get the best in class products and services from the manufacturers at a reasonable price. By doing this, VilCart is filling the gap between rural Kirana stores and manufacturers which was untapped until now. Besides, as an end-user, rural consumers can access new and quality products in the market which are otherwise considered premium products and are generally not affordable to them. Another advantage of using VilCart is low inventory stocking. Also, additional investment is not needed because kirana stores can place an order when their stocks are going to end. Usually, products are delivered within 1 or 2 days after placing an order.
VilCart aims to create a hub for rural e-commerce businesses with smart supply chain management, logistics, and technology solutions by eliminating middlemen and other stakeholders which add to the cost of the product. Further, VilCart would be a marketing and branding partner of rural Kirana stores which in turn reduces the cost of products and makes products available to rural consumers at best affordable prices, quality, and volumes.
VilCart started with the motto: “Hire Locally to Grow Globally”. The venture helps to create employment in rural India. Agriculture is predominant in the rural economy. But unfortunately, due to drought and climate change, the rural youth are migrating to urban areas in search of jobs for their livelihood. To boost the rural employment sector, VilCart has initiated in-house training and placements that help rural youth to look beyond agriculture to generate a steady source of secondary income for their family. Along with this, the Government of India has planned various initiatives to build and improve the infrastructure in rural areas. These initiatives can have a multiplier effect in increasing movements of goods and services, thereby improving the earning potential of rural areas resulting in higher consumption.
VilCart has a core team with its roots in rural areas. The team has diversified experience and expertise in business development, planning, financial modelling, retail, logistics, and brand development ownership across multiple organizations. Mr Prashanth Prakash, Accel Partners, has backed this startup and lends continuous mentoring as a backbone of this initiative. Mrs Jyothirmayee, CEO of Hiveminds, Mr Anand Banka, Head of Investments, Vedanta, Ex-Director of Ernst & Young, Mr Kalit, AGM, Vedanta, and Mr Girish, CEO of QSpiders & Test Yantra have also invested in this startup.
Kirana owners who are the customers of this startup, appreciate the initiative for reducing their risk of procurement and logistics, and for enabling them to save money through a streamlined service and platform.
At present, VilCart operates in 5 districts in Karnataka state and continues to expand rapidly across India. By the end of 2020, the startup plans to launch its services in 5 states, and by 2022, the plan is to expand its presence pan India.
VilCart was adjudged as the “Promising Startup Of The Year” winner at the Times Business Awards 2020. Mahesh Bhat and Amith S Mali from the VilCart team received the award from Mysuru City Police Commissioner Mr K.T. Balakrishna at the event.
For more information about VilCart, click here.