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As we drive through the villages in Nuh, Haryana, on a sweltering June afternoon, the farms mostly seem devoid of any crop. These horticulture fields in this district 75km south of New Delhi are being readied before sowing begins for brinjal, bottle gourd, and cabbage in August, three months after the last harvest. But before Rao Mahlla Horticulture, a farmer producer company (FPC)—a collective with 2,260 members—makes any big decisions for the new crop season, it’ll peruse a vital report from New Delhi-based agritech startup Absolute.

“The report is based on soil samples from our farms and gives a schedule for which fertiliser to use for which crop, and how frequently,” says Mohammad Yusuf Khan, chief executive of the FPC. The FPC has been working with Absolute since June 2020, and sells 20-25% of its output to the company, more than 2X of what it supplies to other corporate buyers.

In the time the FPC has built a relationship with Absolute, the startup has rapidly evolved into an agritech major.

Two years ago, Absolute had raised only $3.2 million, according to data provider Tracxn. But in May this year, it  announced announced The Economic Times Absolute raises $100 million in funding led by Sequoia Capital, Alpha Wave, Tiger Global Read more that it had mopped up $100 million from marquee investors such as Sequoia Capital, Tiger Global, and Alpha Wave Global. Not just that, Absolute’s valuation has jumped by  10X 10X Entrackr Absolute raises $100 Mn from Sequoia, Alpha Wave and Tiger Global Read more to $500 million since last year.

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Only three companies—Ninjacart, WayCool Foods and Products, and DeHaat—have raised bigger rounds in the agritech and agri-produce supply-chain space. But Absolute is now worth as much as DeHaat DeHaat The Ken WayCool, DeHaat’s direct line to farmers as agri Licence Raj ends Read more —also backed by Sequoia—even if the gap between their toplines is considerable.

Absolute’s parent Ecso Global’s revenue in the year ended March 2021 was Rs 28 crore ($3.6 million), while DeHaat’s sales stood at Rs 360 crore ($46 million).

None of this would be so surprising if Absolute weren’t such a mystery to many. “It’s the Loch Ness monster of Indian agritech,” says a venture capitalist. Another investor calls it a “black box”. According to a third one, the seven-year-old company’s fundraise “came out of left field”.

They and several others The Ken spoke to for this story requested anonymity since they didn’t want to be seen publicly commenting on Absolute.

AUTHOR

Seetharaman G

Starting out as a business journalist in 2008, Seetharaman has written about energy, climate change, retail, banking, and technology. He has worked with Business Today, a fortnightly, and the Sunday edition of The Economic Times.

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