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Friends Leave Cushy Jobs to Open Maharashtra’s First Zero Waste Store, Now Empower 8000 Farmers!

Friends Leave Cushy Jobs to Open Maharashtra’s First Zero Waste Store, Now Empower 8000 Farmers!

When Akshay Agarwal and Gajendra Choudhary opened Adrish Store in Pune, they never imagined their small grocery store would impact farmers from Kashmir, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and 11 other states!

8,000 farmers across 14 states in India supply some of the best organic products to two small grocery stores in Pune. The numbers just tumble out when I speak to the entrepreneurs behind Maharashtra’s first zero waste, fully organic grocery store. When Akshay Agarwal and Gajendra Choudhary opened Adrish Store in one of the busiest areas in Pune, their aim was to offer a wholesome organic experience for their customers. What they hadn’t calculated was how greatly their small grocery store will impact farmers from the remote areas of Kashmir, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and 11 other States.

Akshay Agarwal is a chartered accountant from Kolhapur. Always passionate about creating a positive impact on society, he turned to his benchmate from school, Gajendra Choudhary when he conceptualised Satvyk- an organic food store. You can read more about the store here.

Gajendra, in his mid-twenties at the time, was running his family business but when his childhood friend approached him with the idea of Satvyk, he left the comfortable business to dive into the newly-ideated risk.

Courtesy: Sourabh Salunkhe.

It wouldn’t be long before Satvyk branched out to become a zero-waste store that ensures a holistic organic living. Adrish – meaning the Lord of the Mountains, is a store that can ease the life of every eco-conscious person looking for authentic organic staples at affordable prices.

“In 2018, we started reading more and more about the plastic menace that was polluting the oceans. The more we read about it, the more aware we became about how the flimsiest of plastic in our store was choking the marine animals. It was that fear that turned into inspiration for us, and we launched our first store in Pune, a city that had been home to me for over eight years and whose eco-conscious soul I had come to understand,” Akshay tells The Better India (TBI).

Akshay and Gajendra’s first step was to rid plastic from their stores, eco-destroying containers, bottles and carry bags had to be replaced with materials that were sustainable and eco-friendly.

Wooden crates took the place of plastic boxes for fresh fruits and vegetables, steel cans overthrew plastic oil containers and chairs at the cash counter were now cane-woven.

Courtesy: Akshay Agarwal.

“When a new customer steps into our store, we introduce them to our concept first,” says Sourabh Salunkhe, who heads the two Pune stores. “Our glass, metal and wooden containers are evident of the fact that we are a plastic-free store. Our staples are certified organic whereas all other products are handmade. Every product on display is helping a rural family, a self-help group or a poor artisan. If we have to retain the trust of our customers, we cannot go for mass-produced items.”

I was curious as to how a grocery store could provide a holistic healthy lifestyle approach and Akshay clarified it for me.

“We had begun with staples as do most organic stores. We had replaced our plastic containers with eco-friendly materials but something was still amiss. On further thought, we asked ourselves, what is the use of cooking with an organic dosa batter if the non-stick pan you use is infusing it with micro-chemicals? So, we added earthenware and brass and copper utensils in Adrish’s inventory. Thus, the kitchen was set. But a healthy lifestyle isn’t limited to food. Knowingly or otherwise, we consume chemicals and microplastics right from the beginning of the day. To avoid that, we increased our inventory to include bamboo brushes, handmade laundry detergent and personal care products.

Even today, we are in the process of adding more eco-friendly items to the list so Adrish can be a one-stop-shop for all your needs.”

Courtesy: Sourabh Salunkhe.

Saurabh informs me that the next on their list are shampoo bars, handmade soaps and detergents. Each of the products like the brass utensils and earthenwares translates to a better livelihood to those artisans who make them by hand.

The staples too, are procured from the very best sources. There is no compromise in quality. If Rajasthan grows the best bajra in India, the Adrish team goes to organic farmers in the State who sow non-hybrid seeds and buys from them at a fair price without involving a middleman. Women Self-Help Groups then grind them into flour with stone-grinders. Without being packaged into plastic, the grains and atta reach Pune where they are stored in metal or glass containers. Since its opening in September 2018, Adrish has connected with 8,000 farmers in India who supply their organic produce to the shop.

As is the shop responsible to provide only the most authentic of products, the customers too have a few responsibilities.

Courtesy: Sourabh Salunkhe.

For example, you are expected to bring your own containers to get the supply of grains or oil. Sure, sometimes people forget a container, fall short or just don’t know that it is part of the process. In such cases, Adrish offers rented bottles and containers. About 20-25 customers shop in their Koregaon Park store daily while the Aundh store sees a daily crowd of 25-30.

You may also like: Exclusive: These Chennai Friends Give Tamil Nadu Its First Zero-Waste Grocery Store

“A majority of our patrons belong to a middle-class family and are here simply because they wish to reduce their footprint. But there are also some people whose family members have fallen ill and who wish to stay safe from the chemicals in the daily-needs items. I know of a few customers who travel over 10-20 km to come to our store simply because they do not trust the non-organic products anymore,” Sourabh explains.

Adrish was launched in KP, Pune and then extended to Aundh. Currently, they are in planning stages to open another store in Mumbai and the fourth one in Delhi. You could reach out to them at 098229 19771/ 090225 87014 for any enquiries. If you wish to visit the stores, here are the addresses:

Adrish Zero-waste Organic Store- Koregaon Park, Pune.

Adrish Zero Waste Organic Store – Aundh, Pune.

(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)

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