A five-year-old startup, Bengaluru-based CityGreens is the brainchild of Gaurav Narang, an alumnus of IIM Kolkata. The company has earned the sobriquet of India’s most awarded hydroponics startup, and has also won grant awards of Rs 4.5 mn from the government.
A specialist in automated hydroponics, aeroponics and indoor farms in which clients can grow exotic and off-season crops, the company also runs the largest online hydroponics store with more than 300 food-grade products on offer.
But what prompted the 40-year-old Narang with a history of steering startups like Medybiz Pharma, a specialty pharmaceutical distributor which was later acquired by home healthcare brand Portea, to venture into agritech? Says the founder CEO of CityGreens, “Our health is inextricably linked to the food we eat. As the father of a small child, I decided to shift my focus to health since the kind of food we consume is not healthy at all. Our food contains over 60 pesticides that are legally permitted for use. Even the so-called organic foods are not free from organic pesticides.”
With this in mind, Narang decided to start CityGreens in 2017 with his wife, Shweta Narang, a Goldman Sachs Fellow from IIM Bangalore. “We put in a seed capital of `60 lakh and set up the company along with two interns,” he says. Though the initial model conceptualized by Narang was a trading one for which research was done on technology for growing healthy food, along the lines of models being followed in the US, Middle East and Singapore, “the idea was aborted in view of the high costs involved.”
It was around this time that Narang sent an entry to iCreate, the Ahmedabad-based government-owned incubator for technology startups for their Startup India Grand Agriculture Challenge. “Though we didn’t win the challenge, our model was appreciated by iCreate CEO Anupam Jalote, who asked me to set up a research farm on their premises. Established in 2017, CityGreens research farm is dedicated solely to advancing research in the domain of CEA.
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