Team Tan90 comprised a confident set of Masters/PhD students from IIT Madras. They had won a student’s innovation contest with a cold storage box they had built. The experience encouraged them to think about building a start-up around their innovation. They refined their technology with the guidance of a professor and they also joined the first cohort of the I-NCUBATE program under his guidance.
The team thought they had a killer product, and anyone needing a cold storage solution would be their customer. They started their customer discovery process with enthusiasm by visiting the wholesale vegetable market at 3:00 am to understand how the business works. They saw a lot of wastage in the vegetable market and thought they had found their sweet spot. They were shocked when told that there was no need for a cold storage solution, as the cost of wastage was built into the prices of vegetables.
Besides, discarded vegetables were good fodder for the cattle. Undaunted, they tried other industries, such as, ice creams and on-line groceries, but they drew a blank. The young entrepreneurs realized that the presence of a problem did not necessarily translate to a need for their solution – the customers simply learned to cope with the problem.
Tan90 crossed the 100-interview mark, collecting a ton of data, and scoring out several opportunities as non-viable. At last, the team found their A-ha! moment when they found an unsolved problem in the milk supply chain. In India, bulk of the milk is sourced from individual farmers in small lots, aggregated at collection points, and then brought to bulk chilling centres. The transit time is variable and the quality of milk degenerates due to the informal and disaggregated nature of operations. Tan90 realised that its innovation would benefit several stakeholders, which led to identifying the early adopters.
Post the I-NCUBATE program, Tan90 has expanded their product offering, widened the scope and scale of its operations, and have successfully raised external financing.