Press release: Essmart raises US$1.2M in financing for scaling innovative kirana shop network

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Based in southern India, Essmart builds an innovative last-mile distribution channel that enables socially impactful goods, such as improved agricultural tools and efficient household devices, to reach and impact their intended end customers. Essmart does this by connecting a catalogue of over 150 life-improving products to the local, mom-and-pop, “kirana” retail shops that account for 90% of India’s retail market. By providing local shop owners with appropriate marketing, quick distribution, and reliable after-sales service, Essmart helps local shop owners become active selling points of innovative, impactful technologies in their communities.

Essmart aims to build the world’s largest network of kirana shops selling socially impactful goods, and currently has a network of 600 kirana stores that reaches deep into rural areas. Manufacturers and suppliers leverage this shop network to distribute their impactful products, to gather valuable customer data on end customer needs, and to test new products. “We are connecting a broken supply chain,” said Jackie Stenson, Chief Executive Officer at Essmart. “Rural businesses and end customers should be able to access goods that improve their lives and livelihoods, while at the same time their voices should be heard up the supply chain so engineers can design better products that meet real needs.”

“Rural distribution of useful products is a key challenge for improving livelihoods at the base of the pyramid,” Adrian Ackeret, CFO of elea, noted. “Essmart’s well-conceived and efficient approach has convinced elea from the beginning. Creating a network of existing mom and pop shops generates impressive economic and social value for shop owners and for end consumers alike, and at the same time spearheads the transformation of informal retail in India. We are excited to add another innovative model in last-mile distribution, one of our investment focus areas, to the elea portfolio. As an active investor, we are very much looking forward to working alongside Essmart’s founders and management team in the years to come, providing strategic support and sector-specific insights.”

To date, Essmart has enabled life-improving products to impact over 185,000 people living in peri-urban and rural India. These products range from efficient cookers to solar lighting to organic pest control devices for farmers, and have helped local businesses and end users increase productivity by 37M hours and generate 79M Indian rupees in cost savings. Essmart’s innovative logistics and supply chain software, which addresses the unique complexities of moving unfamiliar durable goods into rural markets, and strong relationships with local shops has been key for creating life-improving technology access at the last mile.

With this new funding, Essmart will embark on a phase of growth and expansion throughout southern India. “This funding is a key milestone that allows us to begin scaling our operations while also implementing the operational structures that will let us continue to operate efficiently and effectively at scale,” said Prashanth Venkataramana, Director at Essmart.

“PG Impact is very happy to partner with Essmart’s management team to help the Company define and execute a growth and governance strategy that will optimize and accelerate both the commercial growth of the Company, and as a result – the social impact on rural BoP customers (kirana owners) and end users,” said Krysten Crainshaw, Global Director at PG Impact. “As the charitable entity of a global private markets investor, we are committed to creating non-financial value alongside our patient capital by facilitating access to the greater Partners Group network of employees, operators and advisors.”

Photo courtesy of Igor Ovsyannykov.

Source: Press release

impact investing, social enterprise, venture capital