Game-changing startup: Kuza
by Sriram Bharatam, Founder & Chief Mentor, Kuza
Unreasonable FUTURE is a unique multi-year initiative bringing together disruptive entrepreneurs to create a more sustainable and equitable future for all. Its founding sponsors are Pearson, Fossil Foundation and Accenture. This Q&A series spotlights a few of the ventures in the program to provide a glimpse into the innovative work that is being nurtured.
Empowering rural youth to help farmers increase productivity & income
How would you describe your business to your grandmother?
At Kuza we are changing the status quo by nurturing and growing youth as Agripreneurs—agricultural entrepreneurs, while democratizing access and creating opportunities for smallholder farmers to learn, connect (with other ecosystem partners) and grow (their Agri business).
We use technology to bring new ideas to remote areas. Agripreneurs visit a cohort of smallholder farmers in rural communities, taking a backpack which holds a Wi-Fi router, portable cloud designed to work without power and internet and a projector. They use this to stream specially created, bite-sized learning videos on best agriculture practices, life and business skills, which farmers can watch using tablet devices that Kuza lends them. The farmers need not be digitally literate.
What problem does your business solve for society?
Smallholder farmers contribute to 80% of agricultural produce in Africa, yet they don’t have access to extensive resources and are dependent on middlemen. They are the people creating value and taking risk, but earn the least in the supply chain.
Additionally, about 90% of the 1.8 billion young people worldwide between the ages of 10-24 are living in low and middle-income countries. Most of these youth are unemployed and live-in agrarian societies and rural areas.
Enter Kuza; we’re revolutionizing the resilience of over 500 million smallholder farmers by handpicking enterprising rural youth and enrolling them in our REDI program (Rural Entrepreneurship Development Incubators) to become Agripreneurs—each supporting 200 farmers to increase their productivity & income.
Where did you source inspiration?
Late in 1999 there was a hurricane (cyclone) in Orissa, India; over 13 million people lost their livelihoods and over 100,000 lost their lives. We (the future founders of Kuza) developed an idea to support the hurricane victims and put together one of the world’s first crowdfunding campaigns; it was called Cause an Effect. The idea went viral and we raised over $1.5 million in 45 days to support the hurricane victims. A global community of 18 million people from 70+ countries actively participated in the campaign.
We won the Kauffman award for Social Entrepreneurship for this effort and began a new chapter as social entrepreneurs. To date Kuza has impacted over 5 million lives and created 150K new jobs across 9 African countries and South Asia.
What’s something you know now that you wish you knew when you started your business?
We wish we had the wisdom and clarity on how to leverage the power of communities to create a sustainable social business model at the time when we started.
What’s the best place for people to learn more about your company’s work or to follow your progress?
Please visit our company website or follow us on our social channels: Sriram Bharatam | Bharathi Bharatam