Jaipur-based last mile rural distribution startup, Frontier Markets announced that it has raised $2.25 million pre-series A financing led by ENGIE Rassembleurs d’Energies, The Rise Fund, and The Singh Family Trusts (advised by Artha Impact), along with Teja Ventures and affiliates of Beyond Capital Fund.
Frontier Markets is a last mile assisted e-commerce and distribution company that leverages its network of tech-enabled women agents to market, sell and service products and services across rural India. The current investment will drive the company’s assisted e-commerce platform to the next level, adding digital marketing tools, AI enabled digital training, and a B2C solution onboarding their rural customers directly on their digital platform. The company will leverage its B2B2C e-commerce to drive digital and physical services to rural customers and become the primary income source for rural women.
165 million rural households do not have access to life-improving products and digital services. Product and service companies have not invested in brick-and-mortar infrastructure, and mainstream e-commerce platforms have not built the distribution infrastructure to reach these customers—despite widespread smartphone ownership and 4G connectivity. With limited mobility, rural women do not get to participate in product purchasing decisions – a need gap that Frontier Markets is trying to address by developing a high tech-touch platform to ensure local connect with rural customers through women entrepreneurs, curated product basket of solutions, local delivery and after-sales services, all managed through a digital platform for real-time tracking of services, customer satisfaction, and insights to track their impact and new opportunities.
Founded in 2011 by Ajaita Shah, Frontier Markets started as a clean energy access firm delivering solutions in lighting and appliances to rural households in Rajasthan. Since then, the company has pivoted to an inclusive products and digital service platform driving doorstep deliveries of appliances, agriculture, energy, and digital services with their network of women entrepreneurs to become an all-in-one market place for rural consumers. They have also developed a hybrid offline-online solution harnessing an on-the-ground presence with its consumer service centers, delivery team, and entrepreneurs all digitized to deliver real-time services, and value to the last mile. Today, Frontier Markets has over 4,000 women entrepreneurs who are tech-enabled using its proprietary assisted-e commerce platform to deliver over 1 million products and services to 700,000 rural customers in Rajasthan, UP, and Bihar. The company is associated with several partners including Samsung, Crompton, HUL, Eko India Financial Services, and more to curate products based on data insights collected through their tech platform.
In response to COVID-19, Frontier Markets launched doorstep delivery of essential goods and digital banking services as a response to the challenges presented by limited access to supplies in rural India. This funding round demonstrates the continued confidence of investors in the company’s business model.
Speaking on the announcement, Ajaita Shah, Founder and CEO of Frontier Markets said, “Prior to COVID-19, Frontier Markets invested in a technology platform that leveraged data to deliver a wider range of products and services in energy, finance, connectivity, agriculture and more to the last mile consumer, digitally onboarding all of our agent network. Today, we have added essential products and services—from food to protective gear to mobile banking, recognizing that our customers trust us and want us to deliver all solutions to them through our platform. We have a unique opportunity to drive innovative partnerships with digital service companies who are keen to access rural customers, as well as governments who want to add value to their constituents through women entrepreneurs. We will leverage on this experience to deliver future growth and scale throughout India with women at the center of the value chain.”
Lead Investor Anne Chassagnette, Managing Director of ENGIE Rassembleurs d’Energies’s commented, “The swift adjustment of Frontier Markets’ organization to the COVID-19 crisis and its ability to leverage its innovative tech platform to address the essential needs of rural population on short notice confirm our full support and our trust in its trailblazing business model. This is fully in line with our objective to promote shared and sustainable growth for all thanks to sustainable business solutions.”
“We have always believed in the transformative role of technology and data in scaling outreach and fulfilment of underserved consumers. Post-covid, what was “socially good” has now become essential and urgent – Frontier Markets is leveraging upon the untapped opportunity of 900 million rural consumers through rapid expansion of its technology platform and its network of digitally enabled women micro entrepreneurs,” remarked Virginia Tan, Founding Partner, Teja Ventures.
Frontier Markets envisions India’s first B2B2C rural platform to drive services to rural customers nationally. By 2025, the company plans to grow to 1 million rural women entrepreneurs serving 100 million consumers with all types of products and services relating to agriculture, Insurance and environment to drive economic empowerment in Bharat India. Thereby, making it the largest rural platform for product companies, service providers and more.