Founding Student Name(s): Dhanashree Mandhani
Brief Description of Solution: Prym Solutions is building a data-driven platform called Salam Kisan – an agricultural ecosystem providing a centralized end-to-end solution for all stakeholders in the agriculture value chain in India. We bring together agricultural stakeholders, services, products, and technologies. We provide services and AI-powered tools for farmers to increase their yield and profitability through our digital platform. We also have physical stores where farmers can buy/rent state-of-art devices, farm inputs and sell farm outputs. What truly makes us end-to-end is that we provide financial services, value addition, and government convergence. These products and services are targeted at 209 million small and marginal farmers in India.
What led you to launch this venture? Growing up, I watched my grandfather and father build companies and create brands and products that impacted people’s lives. Many companies that my family owns are in the agriculture sector. I was also born in a small town and always heard stories about farming and rural India from my grandfather.
Two summers ago, I started working as a marketing intern in one of my family businesses. I closely watched problems that farmers in India faced. They included misinformation to informal credit systems, fragmented supply chain, lack of data-driven farming, lack of farm mechanization, and middle men and agents profiting off of farmers leaving them with little to no income. Let me summarize the problem in a statement: agriculture in India is decentralized, fragmented and at the least efficient level. This problem, coupled with my upbringing and the resources I was born into, gave me the inspiration to build Salam Kisan with the vision of driving rural communities toward resilience and sustainability.
What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with venture? In August 2022, we launched a social campaign to generate awareness around latest trends in agriculture, rural development, and employment generation. We hosted 12 events in different regions, reaching around 10,000 farmers. The motto of the campaign was, “For the rural community, by the rural community.” These events were hosted in local venues and schools, and women from low-income groups managed these events from catering to hosting workshops. These events helped women generate a revenue of over $7,000 and the campaign was a huge success.
How has your business-related major helped you further this startup venture? Everything I do in my business is tied to a concept I learned in class. Everything I learn in class can be applied to some aspect of running a company. Starting a company in college has not only enhanced my learning experience but also made me see the true value of education. The Gies College of Business and University of Illinois Urbana Champaign have been two of my greatest resources in learning, application, and networking. The plethora of resources that the University offers is unmatchable.
Which business class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? All my classes have proven to be useful in different aspects of the business. Initially, while making the business plan and while creating a customer-centric solution, BADM 325 (Consumer Behavior) helped me place customers at the center of the company and all our activities. Over the summer, my team size grew to 22 employees and BADM 310 (Management and Organization Behavior) helped me put systems in place. We learned about organization culture, employee motivation incentives and other parts of organization behavior in BADM 310, and that helped me create an employee-centric culture while placing systems and processes to manage a big team size.
What business professor made a significant contribution to your plans and why? I spoke to Dean Jeff Brown in November 2021 about my business plan, and he was kind enough to make multiple introductions. He introduced me to the startup ecosystem in UIUC and the Chicago area, connected me to Venture Capitalists, and other entrepreneurs and resourceful individuals. He also encouraged me to participate in iVenture Accelerator, an incubator for the top student startups at the University of Illinois. During the summer, I did participate in iVenture Accelerator, and Professor Noah Isserman and Director of iVenture Manu Edakara have been the two greatest mentors at UIUC. They help me navigate management and leadership as well as inspire me to set goals both personal and professional and achieve them.
What founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial journey? How did he or she prove motivational to you? My father is an industrialist and business owner who runs over 11 companies in different industries including agriculture, steel, fintech, real estate, chemicals, and warehousing. Over the last 15 years of my life, I have watched him start, run, manage, and lead multiple companies. He has inspired me every day with his finesse with people; his drive to add value and inspire; and his hard work and ability to be one of the most empathetic yet powerful leaders I have known. I have watched him at his lowest and at his peak. His ability to navigate every situation and never giving up on any of his companies has been my greatest motivation.
What is your long-term goal with your startup? I want Salam Kisan to change the face of Indian agriculture and impact not only farmers but various rural communities in India. I believe that the way we develop models at Salam Kisan for every vertical in the agriculture value chain is community-centric, which will help us make rural communities prosperous and bring a wave of development in rural areas. A long-term goal is to generate employment for women and vulnerable rural communities and formally make them a part of the workforce.