In 2013, when Amrish Malik and Kiran Rattan Malik approached the doctors for a diagnosis of their son’s condition who had been unwell for a long time, they found out that their then 8-year-old had Celiac disease. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder where consumption of products containing gluten causes indigestion which may damage the lining of the small intestine and can lead to severe medical complications.
“We were completely heartbroken and my wife was inconsolable at that point,” says Amrish.
While searching for gluten-free food products in the market, they were disappointed at the lack of the same. When they talked it over with their friends about it, the couple heard the same problems echoing their own.
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Thus, in January 2015, the Jaipur-based couple founded Natur Pro which is dedicated to manufacturing gluten-free products.
“Most of the products available in the market are highly processed and full of preservatives. Also, the grains are grounded in a fine manner which makes the flour lose all its nutrition. These highly processed products are extremely harmful to the small intestine,” says Amrish.
Natur Pro: The Story
Almost 90 percent of Indians are unaware about what Celiac disease is, said experts at a Conference hosted by the Celiac Society of India (CSI) on 12 January 2019. Additionally, experts at the International Symposium on Wheat Related Disorders (ISWD) say that the Celiac diseases has become four times more prevalent in India since the 1960s.
Meena Agarwal, 50, a homemaker based in Pilibhit in Uttar Pradesh who regularly buys Natur Pro products did not know for years that she had Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS). “Everytime after my meals, I would have to go to the bathroom. This made me feel really weak and I was always low on energy,” she says.
NCGS means that she could not digest products made of wheat, rye or barley. Wheat is a staple in the Indian diet and the Indian bread, roti, is something that one probably eats in every meal.
This is when the hunt for gluten free products began for the Agarwal family when they chanced upon Natur Pro’s products. “Now, we buy all our atta and besan from Natur Pro. I am happy that my condition has now improved and I don’t feel weak anymore,” says Meena.
Thanks to Kiran and Amrish, who initially made gluten-free flour for their son, decided to launch their products commercially when they came across more people allergic to gluten. It took them almost seven months to come up with their gluten-free chapatti flour, making things easier for not only themselves but for several other people.
Amrish is a mechanical engineer and has more than 20 years of experience in the food industry. He started his consultancy firm in 2009 providing advice related to compliance and good manufacturing practice (GMP) to food manufacturing companies. Kiran, on the other hand, has a degree in Bioengineering. She has 20 years experience as senior management keeping a check on quality in relation to GMP.
With this experience, the couple decided to come up with their gluten-free flour. “The challenge was to develop a flour which not only tasted good but should also be nutritionally well-balanced to feed our son,” says Kiran.
Kiran and Amrish also realised that apart from those who have been diagnosed with Celiac disease, there are several other people who are sensitive to gluten and for them, a gluten-free diet can improve digestive functions.
Gautam Gattani, 51, teacher and owner of a coaching centre in Jaipur, speaks about the time his wife fell sick. “My wife started having issues with digestion and her haemoglobin was not picking up. After an endoscopy, we found that my wife was gluten intolerant,” he says. Then about four years back, a friend of his told him about Natur Pro products.
“My wife is feeling much better now. We get most of flour from there to make missi roti, chapattis, bhature etc.,” says Gattani.
With their customer base expanding, the couple scaled up their operations and now offer flour for diabetics, multi grain flour, and gram flour, all gluten-free. In fact, they have also begun selling gluten-free premixes for Indian breads like bhature and naan and for pizza bases. For those with a sweet tooth, you don’t need to give up on your cakes anymore. Natur Pro also offers eggless cake flour and eggless chocolate brownie premix.
Development over the years
Amrish assures that Natur Pro’s products undergo minimal processing and contain dietary fibres and nutrients. The company has an FSSAI license and all their products have been labelled gluten-free.
Scaled up operations meant that there was a need to hire more employees. The duo made a conscious decision to hire women to work in their manufacturing units. Take Lakshmi Rawat for example who has been working at Natur Pro’s unit for a year now.
The 42-year-old is educated upto the 8th standard and was working at a small handicraft unit before joining Natur Pro. “I really like working here. Sir and Ma’am are so patient with every employee and teach us everything we need to do,” she says.
Lakshmi is glad that she has learnt how to operate the machines involved in the manufacturing process. “I even train the new people who join our workforce,” she says happily. There are six women in the processing units. While, website and promotion is also being handled by the women, says Kiran.
So, what do they hope to achieve now?
“Now, we want to not only produce flour but also manufacture ready to eat products. These will not only taste great but will also be packed with nutrition,” assures Amrish as he signs off.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)