Jaipur-based last mile assisted ecommerce and distribution startup Frontier Markets Consulting has raised $2.25 million (Rs 16.8 crore at current exchange rates) in a bridge funding round, dubbed a pre-series A round, led by Engie Rassembleurs d’Energies, The Rise Fund and The Singh Family Trusts.
Teja Ventures and affiliates of Beyond Capital Fund also participated in the round, according to a statement.
Engie Rassembleurs d’Energies is the corporate impact investment arm of French energy firm Engie; The Rise Fund is TPG Growth’s global social impact entity; and The Singh Family Trusts is managed by London-based Tom Singh, founder of the New Look chain of high street fashion stores in the United Kingdom. Artha Impact advised The Singh Family Trusts on this deal.
“Post Covid, what was ‘socially good’ has now become essential and urgent – Frontier Markets is leveraging the untapped opportunity of 900 million rural consumers through rapid expansion of its technology platform and its network of digitally-enabled women micro entrepreneurs,” Virginia Tan, founding partner of investor Teja Ventures, said.
Founded in 2011 by Ajaita Shah, Frontier Markets is a platform that makes appliances, agriculture, energy and digital services accessible to people in rural India. The startup has built a network with 4,000 women, equipped them with its proprietary assisted ecommerce platform and leveraged the network to market, sell and service products from brands in rural India.
The company said the fresh funds will be used to power its assisted ecommerce platform with digital marketing tools, artificial intelligence-enabled digital training, and a business-to-consumer (B2C) solution to onboard rural customers on its digital platform. It will also build its own branded product line and pilot franchise expansions in new states, it added.
Frontier Marketing was part of the third cohort of Financial Inclusion Lab, an accelerator run by Bharat Inclusion Initiative.
The platform works on a hybrid offline-online model, offering on-the-ground consumer service centers, delivery team and entrepreneurs.
The company claims to have delivered over a million products and services to 7,00,000 rural customers in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. It has collaborated with brands such as Samsung, Crompton, HUL and Eko India Financial Services to curate products based on data insights collected through its technology platform.
In view of the Covid-19 pandemic, Frontier Markets has launched doorstep delivery of essential goods and digital banking services in rural India, the statement added.
“Today (since Covid-19 outbreak), we have added essential products and services — from food to protective gear to mobile banking, recognising that our customers trust us and want us to deliver all solutions to them through our platform,” founder Shah said.
“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 centre of the value chain,” she added.
The company aims to expand its network to one million rural women entrepreneurs and serve 100 million consumers by 2025.