FarmDidi in Shark Tank: A Startup Empowering Rural Women in India

In the world of startups, where financial gains often overshadow societal contributions, FarmDidi stands out as a beacon of profit hope and empowerment. The company was founded by Manjari Sharma in 2021, FarmDidi is more than just a business, According to Manjari it's a revolution aimed at uplifting the rural women of India.

This journey, rooted in Manjari's deep-seated passion for social service, is a testament to the power of determination, empathy, and resilience.

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Early Life and Education

Manjari Sharma's story begins in the small town of Bahadurgarh in Haryana. Since childhood, Manjari was deeply influenced by her socially active grandfather, who dedicated his life to mentoring students and serving the community. This early exposure to social service ignited a spark in Manjari and shaped her dream of making a significant societal impact.

Manjari pursued her education with unwavering determination. After completing her schooling at Bal Bharati School. She attended Ramjas College at Delhi University, where she earned a Bachelor's degree in Mathematics. She used to travel daily from Bahadurfgarh to her college in Haryana roadway buses.  Alongside her studies, Manjari also used to teach mathematics and science to over 50 schoolchildren, as she always desired to give back to the community.

She also completed an M.B.A. (Master of Business Administration ) from Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta in 2016. 

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Manjari also worked with renowned brands such as redBus, Infosys, Kearney and Wipro, and gathered invaluable insights along the way.

Manjari Sharma
Manjari Sharma Anukrit Johari and Asmita Ghodeshwar in Shark Tank India

A Turning Point: The Bihar Project

The pivotal moment in Manjari's journey came during her time at the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta (IIM). In 2015, she participated in the 'Badh Chala Bihar' research paper competition organised by the Government of Bihar. This initiative aimed to explore key development areas such as education, health, law and order, agriculture, and women empowerment. She spent 2-3 weeks in rural areas

Manjari and her team travelled across three districts in Bihar and witnessed firsthand the significant feminisation of the agricultural sector. With men migrating to cities for better-paying jobs, women were left to manage the fields, livestock, and household chores. This experience exposed the harsh realities faced by rural women. It has ignited a desire in Manjari to create a sustainable solution to help rural women with their income.

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The Birth of FarmDidi

After working for 4.5 years as a management consultant, She quit her high-paying job. Inspired by her experiences in Bihar, Manjari launched a D2C online platform called Didi Business, where Self-Help Groups (SHGs) could sell their products. Initially, over 100 SHGs participated, ensuring a consistent and abundant supply. However, this initial phase was fraught with challenges. Quality issues, hygiene concerns, and lack of proper infrastructure plagued the production process. Additionally, SHGs were often exploited by B2B buyers who prioritised low costs over quality and delayed payments, undermining the dignity and hard work of these women.

Recognising the need for a more robust and sustainable model, Manjari initiated a comprehensive training program for women. This 'mini-MBA' equipped them with essential business skills, including product management, supply chain logistics, market understanding, and ethics. Hygiene and food safety training were also prioritised to ensure the highest quality of products.

How The FarmDidi Model works

FarmDidi's business model is simple yet profound. Partnering with NGOs, FarmDidi identifies suitable SHGs and provides them with the necessary training. Raw materials are supplied through distribution partners and retailers, and the women, or 'Didis,' produce 100% natural, preservative-free pickles, papads, chutneys, and other traditional products in community kitchens.  

They also mention the names of Didi on every product label they make. These products are then collected, packaged, and sold through platforms like Amazon, Flipkart, and FarmDidi’s own website.

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Despite initial funding challenges, FarmDidi persevered, relying heavily on personal finances and support from a few angel investors. Manjari's vision extended beyond mere business financial growth; Manjari aimed to empower 1 million rural women, transforming their lives and communities.

The Shark Tank Triumph

Recently, Manjari appeared on Shark Tank India Season 3, Manjari Sharma, alongside co-founders Anukrit Johari and Asmita Ghodeshwar, presented their pitch with unwavering confidence and passion. she and her team asked for 50 lakhs for 2% equity at the valuation of 25 crores. The valuation of ₹25 crores, also sparked debate among the sharks.

Despite these hurdles, Vineeta Singh and Peyush Bansal saw the potential and heart behind FarmDidi's mission. They offered ₹1 crore for a 10% stake, valuing the company at ₹10 crores. They accepted the offer.

The FarmDidi is a powerful reminder that true success means not financial gains alone but the positive impact, we leave on the world. Manjari Sharma’s unwavering commitment to social service and her fearless pursuit of a better future for rural women is an inspiration to us all.  

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Written By Manvi