Lankan Logistics Groundbreaker ‘Grasshoppers’ Joins Forces with Aavishkaar Frontier Fund for Major Equity Investment


As Sri Lanka positions itself into the heartbeat of the global e-Commerce landscape, the new ventures play a mammoth role in setting the tone. Among the few successful businesses that have grown up very fast to claim the majority market share is Grasshoppers pvt. ltd. – a highly successful home-grown enterprise that managed to evolve into a leader in the local logistics services sector, through 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 promoting IT Education to grassroots across Sri Lanka), recently joined forces with the renowned Aavishkaar Frontier Fund. The move is expected to facilitate exponential business growth of Grasshoppers combined with a great social impact; that is to enable business aspirations of local SMEs and youth in grassroots communities all across Sri Lanka.

 

Q: What is the story & vision behind Grasshoppers?

A: Our story is fascinating; it all started just a year ago, in a conversation in a car drive, where both-founders met while heading to a ecommerce conference held at University of Cambridge, UK. Grasshoppers Pvt 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 life style of every consumer regardless where they live in rural Sri Lanka or in urban cities, the unavailability of logistic solutions to 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 dis-connected’. Thereby facilitating the 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 demands resources for growth that includes 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 & these geographies and currently manages assets of over US$ 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 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: Because Grasshoppers is different, and is genuinely set out to deliver something that makes lives easier in this era of Internet and ecommerce. Aavishkaar’s team with extensive regional experience in the sector, found what Grasshoppers have 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 customized 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.

“Kapruka.com has grown leaps and bounds in the e-commerce boom in Sri Lanka. But I am keen to share the resources and in-depth knowledge of running a full-blown fulfilment hub that we have gained along the way. I see e-commerce as a goldmine and Grasshoppers as the mining tool that we give to all entrepreneurs. We hope this tool enables more people to join the e-commerce revolution as we have taken away a major barrier for startups, that of timely delivery of the product.” – Dulith Herath, founder of Kapruka / co-founder of Grasshoppers

 

“Grasshoppers has tremendous potential for scaling up its business with the combination of excellent management team with a track-record of building successful businesses, approach of developing curated technology offering for the market, lean growth model and focus on promotion of entrepreneurship in the hinterland of Sri Lanka. We have seen disruptive innovations in the logistics sector by tech-enabled players in other markets and are very bullish on the success of Grasshoppers in Sri Lanka.”

Sanchayan Chakraborty, Partner at Aavishkaar Frontier Fund

“We have always been inspired by the ability of technology to make human lives simple and happy. Grasshoppers is a result of that inspiration, and the company has now reached an exciting time in its evolution where the growth needed to be fuelled at the right speed to make Grasshoppers services available to every Sri Lankan living in any corner of the country. This is what we are doing with one of the most influential venture funders of the region- Aavishkaar, and it is great to have them on board with us for this all-important chapter of the business.” – Dr. Harsha Liyanage, co-founder of Grasshoppers

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