Vamsi Udayagiri, Founder and CEO, Hesa, a Rural B2B digital platform for Rural Customers
Vamsi was recently recognized by the Business Sight Magazine as one of The Topmost Thriving Entrepreneurs to Follow in 2021.
Vamsi Udayagiri is a social entrepreneur. He has always been fascinated by rural value chains. To uplift the market he has founded a startup ‘Hesa’. Hesa is a rural B2B digital platform for rural customers. Hesa in the Sanskrit language means ‘Excellence’. Vamsi also holds the office of CEO of his startup.
He tells us that they at Hesa are redefining the way e-commerce is done in rural areas. Since there is less availability of market services in the villages, villagers have to travel to nearby mandis and marts for basic market needs. He adds that almost 85 crore of India’s population has to make extra efforts to get services because businesses didn’t reach out to them. Hesa is a mobile app filling that gap among businesses and rural consumers.
The operations at Hesa
Vamsi tells us that since the rural consumers can’t access the digital platforms as easily as urban consumers, they are establishing a micro-entrepreneur in villages so that they can cater to the needs of the rural consumers.
What are some lessons Vamsi learnt from his challenges?
India is a diverse country. Different villages in India have different languages, cultures, ways of life etc. Vamsi tells us that in 2011 and 2012, he visited around 4800 villages just to understand them. He tells us that it is very difficult to get a sector-specific market in rural areas. So one of the biggest challenges in going to the rural markets for businesses is that you cannot go with a single product line. Vamsi further tells us that B2C models do not always work for rural markets so don’t always go for a B2C business model, try B2B2C so that you get a larger customer base and you can upsell and cross-sell different things.
Chances of bad debts in rural areas versus in urban areas
Vamsi says that he does not want to compare the financial loyalty and honesty of urban and rural sectors, but he has experienced that the people of rural areas are trustworthy when it comes to money. There are multiple reasons behind it. One of those is that they care a lot about their reputation in the village. They don’t want to be labelled as cheaters among their peers. Hence they are very focused on paying the full amount if they buy something on credit or EMI.
How technology is changing rural markets and consumers?
Vamsi believes he could scale his business in rural areas only because of the availability of technology. He says the way to take your business forward is first digital then physical. He has termed his business as a ‘phygital’ store.
How are the elders in rural India reacting to the availability of everything from around the world in their village?
Vamsi affirms that rural areas are developing and people there are accepting and understanding new ideas. In his opinion, the reaction of the elders and leaders is very good overall. They are experiencing the benefits of technology and communication in their daily lives and adjusting quite well to it.
How does Hesa handle after-sales services in villages?
Vamsi affirms that after-sales services are challenging when it comes to rural areas. However, once a product is sold, the after-sales services are an obligation of the brand, but they try to sell the products of the brands which have their service centres within a 40-50 kilometres radius of the buyer’s house.
How are the aspirations of the younger generation of rural India different from that of urban India?
Vamsi tells us that he often talks to the younger generation about their aspirations and dreams and he feels that they are quite enthusiastic. He believes that the kind of concepts they bring in and the kind of energy they put in to create something is phenomenal. Speaking of rural kids, Vamsi says that their aspirations are even higher and they are working nicely towards achieving them.
Anuradha Kapoor is the Founder and Director of Swayam, a feminist organization committed to advancing women’s rights and ending gender inequality and violence against women, established in May 1995.
Swayam’s multi-faceted approach to addressing violence includes direct support to women in crisis; emphasis on empowering women, men, and youth to address violence in their communities; broad campaigns, training, research, and publications to shift social and cultural norms that perpetuate gender-based violence; and work at the state and national level with government and judicial bodies to influence policy and practices.
Anuradha is an Ashoka Fellow, an Eisenhower Fellow, and was a member of the Civil Society Advisory Group for UN Women’s Multi-Country Office for India, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives.
She is an activist, trainer, and consultant for women and human rights organizations, academic institutions, and UN agencies and has co-authored articles, research, and manuals on the issue of violence against women. She has also co-edited ‘The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005, a Litigation Guide and Compilation of Judgements in 2015. She was a speaker on the online course ‘Confronting Gender-Based Violence: Global Lessons for Healthcare Workers’ conducted by the Johns Hopkins Center for Clinical Global Health Education.
Anuradha is actively involved in advocacy on women’s rights and keenly advocated for the introduction of The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, and has since been working to ensure its effective implementation at the State and National levels. She has contributed towards other legal and policy initiatives including the Civil Society Alternative Report for India to the CEDAW Committee in 2014 and to numerous laws related to violence against women being introduced/revised in India namely laws dealing with Sexual Assault, Dowry Prohibition, and Marital Property Rights. She also made submissions to the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women and the Justice Verma Committee in 2013, and to the Parliamentary Committee on the controversial proposed amendments of Section 498A in 2011.
Anuradha has been invited to speak on issues related to violence against women at various workshops and seminars conducted by organizations working on women’s rights and human rights issues in India and abroad. These include women’s rights courses conducted by Women’s Studies Departments in Calcutta University and Jadavpur University, a panel by UN Women during the Commission on the Status of Women in 2015, at international conferences on Human Rights, Equality and Gender issues at the University of Connecticut, USA organized by the UNESCO Chair in 2006, 2008 and 2013 and at The 2nd International Conference on the Training of the Judiciary’ organized by the National Judicial Institute, Canada. She was also invited as an expert to the Global Technical Consultation on the Coordination and Governance of Essential Services to respond to violence against women and girls, in 2015 in Spain organized by UN Women as well as on numerous technical advisory committees of UN women and other organizations.
A believer in alliance building, Anuradha initiated the setting up of AMAN Global Voices for Peace in the Home, an international network of organizations working on Domestic Violence, and has initiated and coordinated national-level campaigns against violence on women and girls.
As part of the Asia Pacific Forum on Judicial Education on Equality Issues, Anuradha was involved in conducting Judicial Training in India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh with judges and judicial officers from the High Courts and District Courts.
Anuradha has a Bachelors’s Degree in Commerce from Lady Shri Ram College, University of Delhi. She schooled at La Martiniere for Girls in Calcutta.