Hubris? 24-Year-Old Entrepreneur Seeks To Reinvent $13 Trillion Grocery Industry
Devin Thorpe, Contributor, Forbes
Apr 12, 2019
When anyone seeks to reinvent the grocery business in light of both the wreckage left by WebVan and the presence of Amazon with Whole Foods in the market, it is hard to conceive success for a well-capitalized upstart. When the entrepreneur is a 24-year-old college dropout, the temptation to dismiss him grows. Chai Mishra is launching a consumer-owned cooperative to provide online groceries with confidence bordering on hubris, but backers including Y Combinator and the San Francisco 49ers are betting on his new platform, simply called Move.
Mishra sees two primary problems with the current food distribution business. First is unequal access to food. Second is the exploitation of food producers, especially smallholder farmers both in the U.S. and around the world.
He argues that the existing supply chain for food makes it unnecessarily expensive to consumers and rewards producers inadequately. He notes that coffee growers are paid as little as 7 cents per pound for raw coffee beans and consumers pay $15 per pound in stores.
“By taking out the middleman and the inefficiency in the supply chain, we're making products more affordable for consumers, all while paying producers dramatically more,” Mishra says.
Tony Francis, CEO for Inokyo, an autonomous retail technology company, invested in Move. He is excited about the benefit to consumers. “For the first time, we have a system where someone in the deepest center of the worst food desert in America has access to the exact same food that’s available to someone in the most plush of food markets.”
“On the producer side, we live in a world where producers are routinely systematically oppressed by supply chains. This is not a light matter. Farmers around the world are one of the occupations with the highest rates of suicide and highest rates of depression truly across the world. Even in America producers are systematically oppressed by the value chain and they're getting paid less than livable wages,” he adds.
He also hopes that by operating online and distributing across the country no one will be left out.
Have you ever wondered where your grocery money goes? “We're building a supply chain that's radically transparent: every member gets to see how much money the producer makes, how much goes to packaging and how much we make,” Mishra says.
The USDA provides data on where your food dollars go. You can see it here.
Perhaps the greatest innovation, however, is the cooperative structure he’s employing...
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