As Sri Lanka positions itself in the heart of the global e-commerce landscape, new ventures play a major role in setting the tone. Among the few successful businesses that have grown up very fast to claim majority market share is Grasshoppers Ltd - a highly successful homegrown enterprise that managed to evolve into a leader in the local logistics services sector through the clever use of digital and cyber technologies. Taking a decisive step to speed up the company’s growth to reach its full potential, Grasshoppers founders Dulith Herath, the innovator behind Sri Lanka’s leading e-commerce player Kapruka.com, and Dr. Harsha Liyanage, founder of Sarvodaya Fusion which promotes IT education at the grassroots level across Sri Lanka, recently joined forces with the renowned Aavishkaar Frontier Fund. The move is expected to facilitate the exponential business growth of Grasshoppers combined with generating great social impact by enabling business aspirations of local SMEs and youth in grassroots communities all across Sri Lanka
Q: What is the story and vision behind Grasshoppers?
A: Our story is fascinating. It all started just a year ago with a conversation on a drive where both founders met while heading to an ecommerce conference held at the University of Cambridge, UK. Grasshoppers Ltd. set out to deliver Sri Lanka’s most innovative logistics solutions by using technology (i.e. web tools and mobile apps) to its true potential. At a time when technology defines the lifestyle of every consumer regardless of where they live, in rural Sri Lanka or in urban cities, the unavailability of logistic solutions to the last mile is the key barrier. The co-founders Dulith Herath and Dr. Harsha Liyanage both share the vision and passion to combine technology and social empowerment to ‘connect the disconnected’, thereby facilitating aspiring youth to run businesses in a novel way. This is the premise of Grasshoppers.
Q: What does this new partnership with Aavishkaar Frontier Fund mean?
A: The market opportunity in front of Grasshoppers is very large. It needs rapid response, hence it demands resources for growth that include capital as well as experience. The partnership with Aavishkaar means that Grasshoppers has the right kind of support to make the strategic, operational and financial decisions to ensure this kind of growth right now.
It’s a partnership that allows the business to take risks and leaps at the right time.
Further, the impact focus of the fund is closely aligned to the long-term goal of the unique business model of Grasshoppers, creating synergy between them.
Q: Why Aavishkaar Frontier Fund?
A: Aavishkaar is exactly the kind of partner that Grasshoppers needed. They are well-known as a global pioneer in an entrepreneurship-based approach to development through venture capital investments in businesses working with the low-income population in underserved markets.
Aavishkaar began with a focus on early stage enterprises operating in India, and with the Frontier Fund it is now working with enterprises in South and Southeast Asia. They have a serious interest in Sri Lanka. The Grasshoppers investment is the fifth investment from its Frontier Fund and its second investment in Sri Lanka. Last year the fund invested in Ma’s Tropical Foods, a well-known food solutions brand from Sri Lanka. Aavishkaar Frontier Fund invests in enterprises in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Indonesia. So far Aavishkaar has made more than 58 investments in India and these geographies and currently manages assets of over $ 200 million.
Q: In addition to the obvious benefits such as business growth, what other benefits can we expect to see out of this partnership, especially in relation to Sri Lanka?
A: The business model of Grasshoppers is very unique. That allows local communities to be part of it and reap the benefits of the company’s growth. While this investment will enable Grasshoppers to meet its goal of creating an island-wide distribution hub network, it will also present extremely valuable income opportunities for local communities participating in the business model. It’s certainly a move that has benefits beyond the circle of company shareholders.
Q: Why did Aavishkaar chose to work with Grasshoppers amidst many new and promising logistics operations coming up throughout Asia?
A: This is because Grasshoppers is different and genuinely sets out to deliver something that makes lives easier in this era of internet and e-commerce. Aavishkaar’s team, with extensive regional experience in the sector, found what Grasshoppers has presented in terms of technology and service offering to be revolutionary, with even more room to grow and innovate. Grasshoppers has developed a proprietary technology stack that facilitates interactions within its logistics supply chain and provides features like traceability of goods through its network, to their clients.
This has gained traction with different segments of customers including leading e-commerce players, corporates and SME customers. Through the customised product offerings, the model has the potential to meet a gamut of logistics service requirements in the country. Aavishkaar understands this potential and is keen to be part of it.