When there’s a plate of food in front of you, do you ask yourself where it has come from or the ways in which it has been grown? Do you give a thought to how it may affect your body in the long run? Do terms like chemical fertilisers, pesticides and organic food come to your mind when you are about to eat?
Jodhpur-based entrepreneur Siddharth Sacheti believes that each one of us must ask these questions to ourselves. There was a time when he too did not bother with these questions. But when he lost someone close to him to cancer, he began to question everything. Change came when he chanced upon the term ‘organic food’ during his time in Australia and how vital it was to a healthier life. And as this was in 2007, he knew from experience that the word “organic” was still an alien concept in India.
It was then that the 35-year-old decided to launch Green Sense, an organic food brand to make organic food available to the people back home.
“Losing someone close to me drove me to work towards making organic food more accessible to people in the country. This was the beginning of Green Sense,” says Siddharth.
Thus, began Siddharth’s entrepreneurial journey where he started sourcing organic produce like spices, grains, and lentils from farmers.
In 10 years of operations, Green Sense has launched 220 different kinds of organic products and are currently working with over 40,000 farmers and have sold their products in 21+ countries!
Learning about Organic Food
Looking back at his years in college, Siddharth says that he never thought he would be setting up a business in organic food, of all things.
After finishing his schooling in Pali, Rajasthan, Siddharth pursued a Bachelor’s in Computer Applications from Jain College in Bengaluru and graduated in 2005. He then joined Cognizant Technology Solutions in the city where he worked for two years. In 2007, he decided to pursue a Master’s degree in Business and IT from the University of Melbourne, Australia.
It was here when he discovered organic food for the first time while working part-time in the aisles of a supermarket.
“Up until then, organic food was so alien to me as the concept hadn’t evolved in India. It was only after working at the supermarket that I got introduced to it, read up on its benefits and learnt how it can deter lifestyle diseases like cancer,” he says.
When he returned to his home-town Jodhpur, it was expected of him to join the family business. “I live in a joint family and we have a granite business. But I knew what I wanted to do with my life. So, I explained to my family the reasons behind my desire to start an organic food company. I was grateful that they understood and supported me so wholeheartedly,” says Siddharth.
Before he officially founded the company, he knew that research and groundwork were two things that were truly going to make a difference in the quality of the products. “When I started, I had zero ideas about agriculture. So, I travelled to farms and villages across Uttarakhand, Odisha, UP and Rajasthan. Every time I went to these places, I never really booked a return ticket,” smiles Siddharth.
This groundwork really helped the young entreprenuer understand different aspects of farming and also in identifying farmers he could source organic produce from. And finally, in April 2009, Siddharth founded, Green Sense.
Operations in Full Boom
When operations at Green Sense began, Siddharth hired a person to assist him with the groundwork while he looked after expanding sales. “I would basically cold call anyone to find if they were interested or willing to buy our products,” he recalls.
Through this exercise, he realised a very important thing. For his products to be well received by masses in India and abroad, he should focus on those food staples that India is known for. “Basmati rice, cashew, turmeric and spices like pepper are popular in our country. So, I first started sourcing these and slowly expanded the product range over time,” he says.
Also, in terms of identifying the farmers, there weren’t many who were actually practising organic farming when Siddharth first started operations. Here, Siddharth saw a window of opportunity too.
“Since a lot of farmers were practising conventional agriculture, we helped a lot of them switch to organic farming,” says Siddharth. Starting from supplying them with the right seeds, to training them and then getting their fields organically certified, Green Sense involved itself in the entire process.
“While buying the produce, we pay the farmers a higher price than what they would otherwise get from selling in the local mandis (markets). Earlier, we were only working with small-time farmers who owned only one or two acres of land. But, with time, we also got in touch with farmers’ collectives and that helped us build our network,” he informs.
This has helped Green Sense in sourcing a wide variety of organic products which include white chickpeas, speckled kidney beans, black gram, moong dal, and basmati rice, among others. They also have a range of spices like whole coriander, green cardamom, whole fennel among others. Though Green Sense started out with one unit in Jodhpur where products were packaged for sale, they’ve added two more units in Jodhpur now along with another opening in Gujarat shortly.
Moreover, all of Green Sense’s products have been organically certified by India Organic, along with having International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) and International Organisation for Standardisation (HACCP) certifications.
Building a Unique Brand
Wanting to explore other range of food products, Green Sense has also started experimenting with a range of ‘latte blends’ and spice blends which have been prepared in consultation with a chef from Mumbai.
“The latte blends are healthy and consist ingredients like turmeric and cinnamon. These can be added to smoothies or to milk and we provide a recipe booklet with each of these packages,” he shares.
Fortunately, Siddharth’s research has not gone in vain if you hear what Prabha Goyal has to say. The 45-year-old entrepreneur from Kolkata first discovered Green Sense’s products at a supermarket in Mumbai in 2017 when she was specifically looking for organic products.
“I was detected with breast cancer in 2017, and I would often go to Mumbai for my chemotherapy. Naturally, I was motivated to find healthier day to day food items that I could incorporate in my diet and that is when I discovered Green Sense,” she says.
She started out by buying their organic jaggery and followed it up by trying Green Sense’s spices and lentils. She loved the products so much that she decided to approach them directly and buy in bulk.
“If you try your products yourself, you will see a difference. The products taste so pure and I have tried several organic brands but nothing comes close to their quality,” she says.
Now, Prabha herself runs an organic store in Kolkata called ‘Holistic Basket’ and sells Green Sense’s products. She feels everyone must get the opportunity to try their products.
Overcoming Hurdles and Moving Forward
Siddharth starts his day on a healthy note with a morning run followed with a breakfast with his entire family. He then leaves for work, attends meetings, discusses business opportunities and future projects with the team. The eco-entreprenuer tells us of the initial hurdles that he faced.
“The first three years were full of struggles because back then, organic was a novel concept. Not many people had an idea of what it was exactly about. There were difficulties in sourcing, certification, and transportation and figuring out one’s way in this sector was challenging. It took me six months to crack the first deal and deliver efficiently,” explains Siddharth.
Survival too has been very challenging, states the founder. However, with true grit and belief in their work, Green Sense has been able to overcome these roadblocks. “Continuously learning and accepting challenges one at a time has helped us since the beginning. We want to follow this mantra even in the future,” he says.
With over 10 years of experience running a business, Siddharth has a few tips for small business owners that he would like to share.
“Always approach decisions with a long-term approach. Keep an eye for changing trends and adapt to meet the requirements of the market. Work with a strong will and an approach to never give up. Whatever you do, continuously strive for excellence,” he says.
So, what is in store for Green Sense?
Siddharth says that they are currently working on products using ingredients that are traditionally known to be immunity boosters. They are working on making these in the form of laddoos that consist of turmeric, ginger powder, ghee, and jaggery among other spices.
“We began with wanting to improve people’s quality of life and until now, I feel like we have done a good job. With Green Sense, we want to continue making pure products that can help our consumer’s health. Creating opportunities for sustainable farming and ensuring a better future for farmers is also what we strive for. The idea is to keep innovating and use traditional recipes with a modern twist to provide a healthy alternative,” says Siddharth.
*An entrepreneur you admire.
Ans: Elon Musk
*New tech that can transform the future of small businesses
Ans: Internet and its constant evolution
*One value that can help small businesses thrive
*Your favourite book
Ans: Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike
*In my free time I ____…
Ans: Spend time with family, read and watch Netflix
* Before this interview I was ____…
Ans: Playing cricket with my family
*Something they don’t teach in college but is important to run a business is
*One question I always ask people while hiring is ____…
Ans: Their reason for joining
*Best advice you ever got is to ____…
Ans: Never to give up, constantly learning and to keep trying
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)