In a viral LinkedIn post, Prateek Sharma shares his journey from humble beginnings to winning national recognition for his startup Green and Grains, a farm-to-fork initiative that helps thousands of organic farmers.
Prateek Sharma’s life thus far is perhaps what dreams are made of.
In a Madhya Pradesh village named Dhaba Khurd, Prateek was born in a cowshed. His hometown, located in the Narmadapuram district, has just about 65 households.
He studied in the village school until Class 8, and recalls that he and his classmates would sit and learn on the floor, and would have to clean their classrooms by themselves every day.
Prateek’s ambition as a child was to become a doctor, but life had other plans for him.
He ventured into the field of marketing and joined a private bank after completing his MBA in 2006. In a post on LinkedIn, he writes, “Within a span of 10 years, I got exposure to frontline sales, CRM (customer relationship management), product management and leadership.”
It was a leap of faith that made him change the course of his career in 2016.
“I dared to jump into my old shoes of farming with a poly-house but immediately realised that the approach needed a huge course correction. We made a small group of farmers and started production and home delivery of organic vegetables.”
That was how his journey began.
In the post, Prateek also shared the impact that a story by The Better India, written by Manabi Katoch in 2017, had on his entrepreneurial journey. “It was through an article in The Better India…that IIM Calcutta Innovation Park (IIMCIP) came to know about the work I was involved in. That led to me being a part of an incubation programme at IIMCIP.”
This incubation programme gave Prateek the much-needed impetus to get funding for his startup and start his entrepreneurial journey. He established an organisation called Green and Grains, a ‘farm-to-fork’ business model in which partner farmers are trained to manage production on their land, and their organic produce is delivered to customers’ doorstep.
Along with the seed funding, he also received mentorship, training, and was provided help with capacity building and exposure visits. Thus, Green and Grains became a registered start-up under the Startup India programme and Startup Programme for the state of Madhya Pradesh.
Prateek recalls that the first year was a complete washout.
Since most farmers associated with the organisation were grain cultivators, their knowledge with respect to vegetables and fruit cultivation was limited or nil. He said, “However, the largest reason for the venture’s failure was the switch to organic from chemical.”
He continues, “When you switch from chemical to organic farming, it is like getting someone out of the ICU, you have to feed them and wait till they get back up on their own.”
Prateek adopted a low-cost model early on. He would personally visit the farms and collect the vegetables and fruits. These would then be cleaned and packed ready for the consumer. The order started to come in slow and steady and most of their work happened through WhatsApp early on.
Today, Green and Grains serves organic grocery to 2,500 families in Bhopal and is working on expanding into several other states as well.
“It’s been a journey,” Prateek says in his LinkedIn post. “Upwards and onwards!”
Read Prateek’s full post here.
(Edited by Divya Sethu)