Are they even mushrooms? This was the question Rohhaan Gawde frequently encountered from people he introduced to oyster mushrooms in 2014. Rohhaan, a Mumbai-based entrepreneur, had just quit his job in the mushroom growing industry and started his own venture – The Mushroom Company. Six years later, Rohhaan is one of the biggest sellers of oyster and gourmet mushrooms in Mumbai, is expanding to other states, and earns Rs 4 Lakh a month.
“Only the commonly available button variety is popular among customers in the market. But there are so many varieties of that we can consume,” Rohhaan says.
About 15 years ago, Rohhaan started working with a company to grow mushrooms. The entrepreneur feels the market was not prepared then. “People are becoming slowly aware,” he says adding the demand for mushrooms is increasing in supermarkets, restaurants and even at the residential level.
A science graduate, Rohhaan completed a course with Pune University and initially started freelancing, training farmers and taking small scale projects.
Gourmet mushrooms and how to cook them
“The commercial value was less than, and investors were also hesitant. However, some like-minded individuals decided to work together and we grew oyster mushrooms in Lonavala about 150 km from Mumbai,” Rohhaan says.
But now, the entrepreneur has three facilities in Pune, Nagpur and Lonavala growing mushroom varieties like Shiitake, Grey, Pink and Blue Oyster, King Oyster, Ganoderma Foraged, Milky Mushrooms, Lion’s Mane and Reishi.
The mushrooms are grown organically from agri-waste and without any use of pesticides or insecticides. Agriculture waste like sugarcane residue, wheat straws and dried fodder is used as a base to grow the mushrooms.
“We can’t promise the raw material to be organic, but we assure that all the processes followed in growing the fungi are chemical-free without any use of pesticides,” Rohhaan explains.
Other than the ones that are sold fresh, some of the weather-sensitive crop is susceptible to contamination or overhydration. These over-hydrated ones get dehydrated and sold as a powder or in dried forms.
The entrepreneur says that besides restaurants, finding a market for gourmet mushrooms was difficult. “I came to know about Shitake, Oyster and other gourmet varieties being grown in Imphal, but farmers were unable to sell them. Moreover, interested buyers did not know how to cook, leave aside their medicinal value,” Rohhaan tells The Better India.
To combat the issue, Rohhaan started selling mushroom growing kits and also teaching people how to consume them and their medicinal properties.
“The Cordyceps is mainly known to help ailments related to respiratory, lungs and build endurance. They help in increasing sex drive, stamina among athletes and have anti-ageing properties. The Ganoderma is known for usages in cancer treatments, control diabetes among other benefits,” Rohhaan explains.
“The others also have health benefits, but they are better known for their taste,” Rohhaan says.
The entrepreneur claims to be earning profits of Rs 1.5 -2 lakh a month. “The Covid-19 lockdown affected the business a lot as the supermarkets reduced shelving the gourmet mushrooms. However, the direct orders from customers and restaurants have increased,” Rohhaan says.
The customers prefer the product for its freshness. The company claims that mushrooms harvested are delivered the same day.
The company sells about 70 kilos in a day. “Though sold in small volumes, the value is high. The Cordyceps is sold at Rs 2,500 for 200-gram bottle, while Oyster sell for Rs 300 a kg. Hence, in terms of profit margins, selling a small quantity is equivalent to selling six tonnes of Milky Buttons,” he adds.
With his efforts bearing fruits, Rohhaan has expanded sales to Kolkata and Hyderabad.
“We have also introduced mushroom coffee. The coffee includes the benefits of mushrooms extracted through the liquifying process and mixed with a coffee blend. The healthy coffee premix is made available for the customers,” Rohhaan says.
Check how a mushroom growing kit works here.
Follow The Mushroom Company’s Facebook page by clicking here.
(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)