Upaya Social Ventures Adds Laymen Agro to It's Growing Investment Portfolio of Social Startups

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Investment in the Coimbatore-based agribusiness to help improve smallholder farmer incomes and employ rural youth.

Laymen Agro shares Upaya’s mission to create dignified jobs and drastically improve incomes and livelihoods for people living in extreme poverty.

Upaya Social Ventures announced its latest investment in Laymen Agro, an early-stage social enterprise based in Tamil Nadu that procures and delivers farm-fresh milk and vegetables to families in Coimbatore.

Under its brand name VilFresh, Laymen Agro brings village-fresh products from small-scale farmers in the rural regions of Tamil Nadu in India to urban kitchens while ensuring as much as 80% of what the consumers pay goes back to the rural economy.

Laymen Agro was founded in 2016 by Selvakumar Varadharajan with a vision to build a sustainable ecosystem that solves three chronic problems prevalent in Tamil Nadu.

"For one,” says Varadharajan, “farmers are left with a thin margin as they are buying their inputs at a retail price and selling their outputs at a wholesale price. Secondly, rural youths are either unemployed or underemployed and are migrating to nearby cities for menial jobs. At the same time, urban citizens are paying more for less in terms of quality and quantity when it comes to agro products."

Laymen Agro bridges this rural-urban gap by employing rural youths to procure milk directly from smallholder farmers, package, and deliver the milk to urban households by 7:00 AM each day. Laymen Agro pays farmers up to 30% higher prices for their milk and provides inputs at wholesale prices, significantly boosting farmers’ incomes.

The company shares Upaya’s mission to create dignified jobs and drastically improve incomes and livelihoods for people living in extreme poverty.

“Upaya has always been about creating dignified livelihoods for the poor,” Says Kate Cochran, CEO of Upaya Social Ventures. “It is impossible to tackle that challenge without getting involved in agriculture, an industry that 90 million households in India depend on, but the vast majority cannot earn a stable income from. We are excited to partner with some of the brightest and most socially minded entrepreneurs in the country to help ensure that farming families keep more of their profit.”

Laymen Agro was one of 11 early-stage agribusinesses that participated in Upaya’s 2018 Accelerator Program, which consisted of three workshops focused on finance, social impact and organizational development. The Accelerator Program is designed to equip social entrepreneurs with the right tools to grow their businesses, connect them with professional resources, and provide exposure to potential investors. Having honed its approach over seven years and 16 investments, Upaya is gearing up for its next accelerator program and expects to select 8-12 early-stage enterprises for its third cohort in May, 2019.

The first investment tranche was deployed to Laymen Agro this week and will be used to replicate the company's model in two new cities in Tamil Nadu in the next two years.

About Upaya Social Ventures
Upaya Social Ventures (Upaya) creates dignified jobs for the poorest of the poor by building scalable businesses with investment and consulting support. Since 2011, Upaya has supported 16 small and growing businesses in India with investments and expertise, and those partner companies have created more than 12,000 lasting, dignified jobs. With offices in Seattle, Washington and Bangalore, India, Upaya is committed to a goal of helping its partners create employment opportunities in the world’s most difficult-to-reach regions and industries.

Please visit http://www.upayasv.org for more information.

About Laymen Agro
Laymen Agro aims to bring village fresh agro-products to urban citizens through an aggregation model that channels the lion’s share of the consumer’s price back to the rural economy. They turn rural youth into entrepreneurs (VillagePreneurs) to ensure better returns to the agro-outputs and supply agro-inputs at a wholesale price that doubles the net margin for the farmers. The VillagePreneurs collect milk, fruits and vegetables directly from farmers, take them to the nearby cities in less than 162 minutes, and distribute them under Laymen Agro’s quality-certified brand, VilFresh. The farmers get up to 30% better returns on milk and 40% to 60% better returns on fruits and vegetables, which increase the farmers’ margins, resulting in a substantial jump in their incomes.

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Heather Soehn
since: 06/2011
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