CEO and Founder of Ricult, a digital platform that utilizes big data to help develop and solve problems within the agriculture industry. Examples of the company’s services include analyzing data to help farmers increase crop yields and reduce risks related to their crop, using data to help agricultural banks and insurers calculate and evaluate risks more accurately, and analyzing data to increase the efficiency of the supply chain.
We have not seen a large number of successful AgriTech Startups in Thailand, could you please provide us with an overview of your thoughts on the AgriTech Industry in Thailand.
Mr.Aukrit Unahalekhaka states that AgriTech startups have not seen as much attention and interest when compared to startups in other industries despite the fact that Thailand’s agricultural industry is incredibly important, accounting for around 40% of the country’s GDP and has a value in the hundreds of billions of baht.
Two main reasons that Mr.Aukrit describes for why AgriTech startups do not get as much attention as startups in other industries is firstly because AgriTech startups are focused on tackling the problems and issues of those who primarily live in the countryside, making it more difficult for the startups to connect tech talent and trends with clients and solve their issues.
Secondly, when comparing AgriTech startups to Startups which focus on providing services such as: food delivery, housekeeping, and transportation, AgriTech startups require a much longer time in order to prove the value of their product/services. The reason behind this is because the latter set of services (food delivery, housekeeping, etc.), require much less time (1-2 days) to deliver the service/product whereas AgriTech services take a months (4+ months) to show a result that would prove the value of the product and service.
What impact has Covid-19 had on your business, if any?
Since the beginning of the Covid-19 Pandemic, investors are much more wary and careful about the companies that they are looking to invest in. VCs and individual investors are having to consider and evaluate what they think the impacts of the crisis will be on the company and if the company will survive and make it through the crisis or not. According to Mr.Aukrit, he considers himself relatively lucky in this regard as the Agricultural/AgriTech Industries have not seen much impact from the crisis at all and thus makes his firm and others within the industry more interesting to VCs and investors.
In your eyes, how active are Thai VCs currently?
Mr.Aukrit says that from his experience, Thai VCs are not as active as they were 3 years ago when they were investing in early stage startups at a relatively high rate. To Mr.Aukrit, nowadays VCs are less inclined to invest in companies in the seed round where they are asking for US$200,000-300,000. However, there is still quite a high level of activity in terms of investments into startups who are fundraising in their pre-series A and series A rounds, proven that they have gained traction with consumers, and have survived through the crisis. These startups are typically raising around US$1 million – 3 million.
What have been the biggest challenges in terms of due diligence for you during your fundraising process?
The biggest challenges for the Mr.Aukrit during the due diligence process have been the accounting/financial statements and documents. In the words or Mr.Aukrit, typically startup entrepreneurs focus more on creating the product and selling the product meaning that they do not prioritize one of the most important aspects of starting a business, the accounting, forecasting, and growth strategy.
A big mistake that Mr.Aukrit says he made was to underestimate the importance of finance and accounting documents during the fundraising process. He says he thought that because he was a smaller startup, he was not required to organize documents in the way that larger corporations would need to which made him unattractive to potential investors. Mr.Aukrit advises that as a startup looking to raise funds, you must make sure to find quality accountants and lawyers (part-time or full-time) that will be able to adequately maintain and organize financial, accounting, and legal documents.
What do you think differentiates Ricult from your competitors and draws investors in?
Firstly, Mr.Aukrit says that because the agricultural industry in Thailand is such a large industry, there is a lot of room to grow and there is a lot of potential to generate a lot of revenue within the industry despite not having a large percentage of market share.
Secondly, Ricult’s technology is not something that can easily be duplicated as the company provides ‘Hard Tech’ services which require years of research and development to perfect. This means that once the R&D has been completed, the company will be able to control the market as competitors will not be able to easily offer the same products and services.
Thirdly, the company has the potential to expand outside of Thailand once they are more established and stable within Thailand making the company attractive to investors as there is increased potential for growth.
What plans does Ricult have after the latest round of fundraising?
Mr.Aukrit says that his plans include recruiting and bringing on more talent as he believes that the current team is relatively small for such a large market and for the amount that they have received in this fundraising round. He hopes to take on more engineers and sales so that the company is able to take on more business. Mr.Aukrit also plans on increasing the company’s marketing efforts as they are reaching around 300,000 farmers in Thailand currently but want to increase that number to around 1-2 million farmers next year now that they have the funds to take on more clients. Finally, Mr.Aukrit wants to explore the potential to expand into other countries within the region such as Laos, Vietnam, or Cambodia to start off with.
In your eyes, what further support does the Startup Ecosystem in Thailand need?
Mr.Aukrit firstly addresses the investors, asking that they continue to invest in Thai startups and to not lose interest despite there being fewer startups being formed as there are still a number of quality Thai startups with a lot of potential forming.
Mr.Aukrit also says that he would like increased government support in encouraging and producing tech talent as Thailand is still lacking in the number of quality talent that are able to address issues and help develop the startup ecosystem further.
Finally he believes that the startup ecosystem would benefit hugely if established Thai corporations were even more open and willing to work and partner up with Thai startups as these partnerships provide investors with assurance and a high level of confidence in the products.
This article is a part of the ST Marketplace project by NIA.
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