Western Odisha Is one of the poorest regions of India. This area is dominated by tribal communities, and is infamous for malnutrition, unemployment and distress migration due to lack of local livelihoods.
But that’s what drew Ambika Satapathy and Sadananda Satapathy to the region.
With a diverse professional background, the pair decided to start their own company called ZooFresh to help empower small scale farmers and tribal women in the region with access to dignified livelihoods. ZooFresh is an agri-tech startup founded in 2016 that leverages innovative post-harvest technologies and retailing platforms to provide a competitive advantage to small sale producers of meats like chicken, eggs and fish.
Ambika and Sadananda’s mission is to eliminate wastage, enhance consumer health with farm fresh produce, and increase farmer incomes in one of the poorest regions of the world. They have a goal of impacting over 1,000 lives in the next three years.
Ambika’s experience in the food industry extends back to 2012, when she was a Young India Fellow, working with Alchemist Foods, a poultry company in North India. Prior to ZooFresh, Ambika was a Financial Analyst for a restaurant consulting firm, Tasanaya Hospitality.
ZooFresh is one of 11 agribusinesses participating in Upaya’s 2018 Agribusiness Accelerator Program. Our team spoke with Ambika to find out what inspired the duo to leave their corporate and governmental careers to begin a startup in this region of India.
Q: What problem are you trying to solve with your company?
Most producers in Odisha are small-scale farmers, often tribals, with average production capacity less than 5% of the large producers in neighboring states. Due to erratic market connect, post-harvest wastages are high, often amounting to over 40%, & farmers have little incentive to increase productivity.
Additionally, the meat and fish distribution are highly unorganized with most consumers buying from unreliable and unhygienic sources.
Q: How did you become so passionate about this issue? What inspired you to start your company?
Sadananda Satapathy, the cofounder of ZooFresh is originally from Bhawanipatna in Odhisha. He was working for 4-5 years in his Central government job in Delhi and wanted to do something on his own. He used to meet a lot of migrant laborers from his region and wanted to create opportunities to help them stay at home and earn decent incomes. Ambika Satapathy, was a Young India professional and had spent over 2 years in food industry and with Zomato – where she learned on how technology could be leveraged. Their complimenting skill sets helped them start Zoofresh after couple of experiments in starting business on their own in Bhawanipatna.
Q: What has been your biggest accomplishment with your company to date?
Having successfully set up a fully operational poultry farm, micro entrepreneurs for distribution and the traction that we have been able to demonstrate in the last one year.
Q: What has been your biggest challenge or learning so far?
We started a retail outlet a year ago and it did really well, there used to be lines outside the store to buy chicken as it was the only proper meat store where chicken was prepared hygienically within 100 kilometer radius. This helped validate our business idea and demand, but sadly due to road expansion work our retail outlet had to be demolished. This was a big blow to our business.
Q: What is your vision for your company?
To be a Technology-enabled supply chain & distribution company providing high quality meat and fish products across geographies
ZooFresh Foods is disrupting the meat industry by leveraging innovative post harvest technologies and retailing platforms to eliminate wastages, enhance consumer health & delight, and increase farmer incomes in some of the poorest parts of the world.