From Bihar's Heartland to Agri-Tech Glory: Shashank Kumar's Inspiring Journey with Dehaat

Agriculture is the prime pulse of the Indian economy. According to PIB, the sector accounts for around 19% of the GDP and two-thirds of the Indian population depends on it. It plays a crucial role in the socio-economic development of the country.

Dehaat is the startup that has been targeting this sector. It was the idea of Shashank Kumar and his other IITian friends who have proved that if you want you will. Throughout their 14-year operation, they have had a tremendous effect at the local level, which has been acknowledged by several organisations, including NASSCOM, Forbes, ET, Niti Aayog, the Bill Gates Foundation, and many more.

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What is DeHaat?

DeHaat is one of the leading Agri-Tech startups in India. It is a business-to-farmer (B2F) business. It is providing end-to-end solutions and services to farmers by using AI-enabled technologies, it aims to enhance supply chain efficiency and production in agriculture. The Company has a presence in 12 Indian states, DeHaat operates through a vast network of over 11,000 DeHaat Centers and 503 Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs), catering to over 1.8 million farmers. 

It offers AI-driven crop advisory services in regional languages for crops. Alumni of IIT Delhi, IIT Kharagpur, and IIM Ahmedabad founded the startup. It has achieved remarkable growth, recognized as a Great Place to Work for two consecutive years. Its impact has been widely acknowledged by widely known organisations.

Who is Shashank Kumar?

Shashank Kumar is a native of Chhapra district of Bihar. He is the founder of Dehaat. To set up his business,  he left his well-settled job.

Early days 

Shashank Kumar's journey began in the humble surroundings of a joint middle-class family in the semi-urban area of Chhapra district in Bihar. His parents worked hard to provide for their family. His mother was working as a teacher and his father was employed in the Bihar National Electricity Board. It was a modest upbringing as every Bihar middle-class child has. but one filled with love and aspiration, His parents always wanted to send him out of Bihar to earn and have a good job.

When Shashank was just a young boy of 12 or 13, his family was very happy as his elder brother secured a place in Sainik School. However, alongside this joy lingered concerns about the financial strain it imposed on a middle-class family. This is when Shashank, even at such a tender age, decided to help his parents and family. He took the exam at Netarhat Residential School in Jharkhand, a school that offers scholarships to its good students. Miraculously, he succeeded against the odds, securing a spot among the hundred fortunate scholars out of the twelve to thirteen thousand hopefuls.

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His educational journey was marked by brilliance and dedication. He topped his school in 10th standard and achieved state ranks. After this, he was urged by family and relatives to aim for the prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT). Shashank accepted this wholeheartedly and eventually graduated in 2008 with a degree in textile engineering from IIT Delhi. But he didn't stop there. He also pursued a minor in business administration from IIT Delhi's Management Studies Department. He has always had keen interest in both technical and managerial aspects.

Journey of leaving a settled job for a startup

He got a place in college placement and joined a reputable management firm, Beacon Advisory Services, where he spent about two and a half years and was receiving a good package. One fine day he read a book on entrepreneurship that sparked a profound change within him. But still belonging to a middle-class family, he thought many times if it would be a good idea to leave his job.

He learnt about Sanjeev Bikchandani when he was struggling with what to do. Someone asked in Sanjeev's talk how a person knows with surety about the idea he is thinking of executing. So Bikchandani said to ask your heart, will you work on your idea if you don't have funding? You will find the answer yourself. This helped Kumar decide that he wants to do something in Agritech. Although he says he learned from his own experiences as well as of other people's.

Fuelled by his passion, Shashank took the bold step of leaving his secure job at the end of 2010, ready to embark on a journey driven by purpose and dream to do something different.

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He says his story is similar to Abhimanyu's (Mahabharat character), he knew that he had to attend IIT. After that, though, there was no clear direction. He did what he felt like doing, and Dehaat was created.

Teaming up with his old friend from IIT Kharagpur, Manish Kumar, Shashank founded the non-profit foundation Farms & Farmers in 2011, with the noble aim of uplifting the farming industry. The inception of Green Agrivolution under the Dehaat banner in 2012 marked the beginning of their impactful journey. However, the road ahead was fraught with challenges. Farmers were initially sceptical of Shashank, a young man in his twenties, claiming expertise in agriculture.

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Team assembling

After knowing the challenges and hurdles in the Agriculture sector, he found that the journey would not be easy to deal with alone. He needs people who might have the same vision or dedication for this startup. He couldn't help but think of Manish, who was his friend and shared his enthusiasm for giving back to the community. However, as time went on and Kumar realised that he needed additional support, his school friend Shyam asked him one day what they were doing as he felt curious. Kumar explained to him and he decided to join the enterprise and left his college placement job offer. 

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Later, Amrendera, a computer engineer, expressed his desire to join after reading about them. Adarsh, a mechanical engineer, also desired to work in agriculture. Subsequently, Abhishek joined while conducting surveys in Bihar on behalf of a Singaporean firm. He chose to enlist after getting to know the group. All these were IIT Alumni. 

Hurdles and challenges

In their starting days as entrepreneurs in 2013, living in a remote part of Bihar was not easy. Every day they used to ride their bikes and go exploring the land farmers who are interested in their idea. According to him, that time travelling to the City was similar to travelling abroad.

Yet, through perseverance and dedication, he managed to win over a few, laying the foundation for what was to come.

Despite the initial doubts and financial constraints, Shashank and his team pressed on. They did not have enough funds and money. With only a loan of 20 lakhs from the bank, they forged ahead, overcoming obstacles one at a time. The journey was arduous, with rejections from over 85 investors, but every setback only fuelled Shashank's resolve to succeed.

He likened their journey to that of a bamboo tree, which grows slowly but steadily, eventually yielding remarkable results. And indeed, the fruits of their labour began to show. From humble beginnings, Dehaat expanded its reach to encompass different states, impacting the lives of countless farmers along the way.

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Today, as the CEO of DeHaat, Shashank Kumar stands tall, his vision and determination has transformed a small initiative into a thriving Agritech company. Shashank's story is not just one of entrepreneurial success but of resilience, passion, and unwavering belief in the power of dreams of a middle-class person. As he looks back on the journey, Shashank knows that the path ahead may still be challenging, but with a team of over two thousand by his side, he believes there's nothing they cannot overcome.


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Written By Manvi