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Indian agri-tech startup WayCool bags USD 32 million from Lightbox

WayCool plans to use the fresh funds to automate its supply chain and build the next layer of data analytics required to improve operational efficiency.

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Chennai-based agri-tech startup WayCool Food on Friday said it has raised USD 32 million in series C round led by Indian venture firm Lightbox.

The funding round–a mix of equity and debt–also saw participation from Dutch entrepreneurial development bank FMO, as well as from its existing investors LGT Lightstone Aspada and venture debt firm InnoVen Capital. Veda Corporate Advisors was the exclusive advisor to the transaction.

Founded in 2015 by Karthick Jayaraman and Sanjay Dasari, WayCool is a B2B food development and distribution services company that runs a tech-enabled supply chain platform to supply fresh produce, staples, and dairy products directly from farmers to its 8000 enterprises in Southern India. Its operations entail product sourcing, food processing, branding and marketing, and last-mile distribution, among other things. It claims to deliver 2000 items and 250 tonnes of food per day.

Its clients, according to media reports include hospitality chain Taj Hotels, handset maker Nokia, computer maker Dell, and food delivery app Swiggy. The company said it works with nearly 40,000 farmers to improve farm income while bringing efficiency through its direct supply chain model.

WayCool plans to use the fresh funds “to automate its supply chain and build the next layer of data analytics required to strengthen supply chain efficiency.” It will also develop and expand its range of value-added products to enterprise and retail customers. At present, it has brands such as Freshey’s, Kitchenji, Madhuram, and Shuddha, and is in the process of developing a new range of branded products.

“Given our direct relationships throughout the supply chain, it gives us the ability to better project demand and supply for products across various categories such as fruits, vegetables, dairy, and staples,” the company said in a statement.

WayCool is also looking to deploy funds for its agricultural extension program. The company has recently set-up an agricultural research center where it will collaborate with multiple startups to bring the most relevant production technologies for expanding farmer base.

Jayaraman, co-founder and CEO, WayCool, in a statement said that he is committed to building “a lean, efficient, and profitable enterprise” that makes social impact an integral part of its operations. He believes Lightbox’s deep experience in technology and brand building will help the company “as we strengthen our digital backbone, and our move into value-added products” and that the “FMO’s guidance will be of the essence in building a culture of impact orientation across the organization…”

This is FMO’s first agri-tech deal under the new Ventures Program, which focusses on fintech, off-grid energy, and agri-tech, said Linda Broekhuizen, chief investment officer at FMO. Broekhuizen said WayCool leverages technology to improve logistics and distribution services and thus reduce food waste, in addition to soucing produce from 35,000 smallholder farmers and providing employment to over 900 people.

“We’re thrilled with the achievement and the focus they have on leveraging technology to solve the massive challenges in the food supply chain. We look forward to working with them and positively impacting the livelihood of farmers and build a long-term sustainable business,” said Prashant Mehta, partner at Lightbox.

In January last year, WayCool had raised USD 16.8 million (INR 120 crore) in equity and debt from impact investors such as UK-based LGT Impact Ventures, Caspian Impact Investment Advisor Pvt. Ltd, and Northern Arc Capital Ltd. Later in November, FMO announced that it would invest USD 5.2 million in the startup.