You would expect Karthik Jayaraman to be familiar with the nitty-gritty of sourcing agricultural products from around the country. It is, after all, the raison d’etre of WayCool Foods and Products, the five-year-old startup he co-founded. The company procures fruit and vegetables, dairy, and staples like rice and lentils from farmers across 12 Indian states, and sells to hotels, restaurants, and retailers.

Despite this, India’s Byzantine agriculture laws sometimes leave Jayaraman at a loss. Since agriculture is a state subject, the rules for marketing of produce vary widely across states depending on the crop.  “I’ll be the first to tell you I don’t understand all the rules,” Jayaraman says candidly.

India’s latest agricultural reforms, the most far-reaching in decades, aim to fix this by replacing the complex web of regulation across states with a national law. Earlier this month, the Union government made it possible for India’s 146 million 146 million Agriculture Census 2015-16 Agriculture Census Read more cultivators to sell their produce outside the regulated markets, or mandis, designated for their villages. They can now sell to any buyer with a permanent account number (PAN) anywhere in the country.

“Any such system ossifies after a period and you need to shake it up. This is a reform whose time has come,” says Jayaraman.

For the likes of WayCool and similar businesses like Sequoia-backed Green Agrevolution (better known by its agri marketplace, DeHaat) and Tamil Nadu-based PayAgri Innovations, it’s a watershed moment. These companies finally have a chance to be a genuine alternative to the existing markets for both farmers and large buyers.

Unencumbered, aggregators can expand their procurement across the country and scale up faster than before. This will, in turn, mean more investments in the sector, which, despite its vast potential, has been held back by moribund regulation.

Even as investments have been on the upswing, between 2016 and 2019, only around $585 million was poured into agritech startups, according to startup tracker Tracxn. For context, B2B online marketplace Udaan raised a similar amount similar amount The Times of India Udaan gets $585 million, valued at $2.7 billion Read more in a single round in October 2019 at a valuation of $2.7 billion. By contrast, India’s highest valued agritech, Ninjacart Ninjacart The Ken Ninjacart’s jujutsu moves Read more , is worth only around $350 million.

Besides freeing up trade in produce, the government has also approved an amendment to the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, removing restrictions on the stocking of certain crops, and created a framework for contract farming.

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.

View Full Profile

Available exclusively to subscribers of The Ken India

This story is a part of The Ken India edition. Subscribe. Questions?

MOST POPULAR

Annual Subscription

12-month access to 200+ stories, archive of 800+ stories from our India edition. Plus our premium newsletters, Beyond The First Order and The Nutgraf worth Rs. 99/month or $2/month each for free.

Rs. 2,750

Subscribe
 

Quarterly Subscription

3-month access to 60+ new stories with 3-months worth of archives from our India edition. Plus our premium newsletters, Beyond The First Order and The Nutgraf worth Rs. 99/month or $2/month each for free.

Rs. 1,750

Subscribe
 

Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

Rs. 500

Subscribe
MOST POPULAR

Annual Subscription

12-month access to 150+ stories from Southeast Asia.

$ 120

Subscribe
 

Quarterly Subscription

3-month access to 35+ stories from Southeast Asia.

$ 50

Subscribe
 

Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

$ 20

Subscribe

Questions?

What is The Ken?

The Ken is a subscription-only business journalism website and app that provides coverage across two editions - India and Southeast Asia.

What kind of stories do you write?

We publish sharp, original and reported stories on technology, business and healthcare. Our stories are forward-looking, analytical and directional — supported by data, visualisations and infographics.

We use language and narrative that is accessible to even lay readers. And we optimise for quality over quantity, every single time.

What do I get if I subscribe?

For subscribers of the India edition, we publish a new story every weekday, a premium daily newsletter, Beyond The First Order and a weekly newsletter - The Nutgraf.

For subscribers of the Southeast Asia edition, we publish a new story three days a week and a weekly newsletter, Strait Up.

The annual subscription will get you complete, exclusive access to our archive of previously published stories for your edition, along with access to our subscriber-only mobile apps, our premium comment sections, our newsletter archives and several other gifts and benefits.

Do I need to pay separately for your premium newsletters?

Nope. Paid, premium subscribers of The Ken get our newsletters delivered for free.

Does a subscription to the India edition grant me access to Southeast Asia stories? Or vice-versa?

Afraid not. Each edition is separate with its own subscription plan. The India edition publishes stories focused on India. The Southeast Asia edition is focused on Southeast Asia. We may occasionally cross-publish stories from one edition to the other.

Do you offer an all-access joint subscription for both editions?

Not yet. If you’d like to access both editions, you’ll have to purchase two subscriptions separately - one for India and the other for Southeast Asia.

Do you offer any discounts?

No. We have a zero discounts policy.

Is there a free trial I can opt for?

We don’t offer any trials, but you can sign up for a free account which will give you access to the weekly free story, our archive of free stories and summaries of the paid stories. You can stay on the free account as long as you’d like.

Do you offer refunds?

We allow you to sample our journalism for free before signing up, and after you do, we stand by its quality. But we do not offer refunds.

I am facing some trouble purchasing a subscription. What can I do?

Please write to us at [email protected] detailing the error or queries.