After watching many close friends and loved ones suffer due to unhealthy eating, three software engineers decided to quit their jobs to launch OrganiKrishi, a venture that turns organic produce into value-added products, while helping farmers earn more.
Losing his mother-in-law in 2017 impacted Delhi resident Mritunjay Dixit in more ways than one. He began questioning many life choices, he recalls, and particularly those regarding his nutrition.
“These days, you so often hear about people getting heart attacks, all of a sudden, or digestive problems. My mother-in-law’s death made me think that maybe it was our food choices that were the cause of these health problems,” he says.
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At the time, the 40-year-old software engineer was working with his friends Rajat Saini and Madhur Sharma in the IT sector. The three, he says, were on the same page when it came to understanding how food quality affected health.
“I’d lost my mother-in-law, while Rajat and Madhur had also seen relatives suffer the consequences of unhealthy eating.”
“But here’s the thing. All those whom we’d seen affected by conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, etc, were people who purchased the best quality products from the market. So, there clearly was some sort of a gap,” he notes.
As the trio embarked on a search for what could fill this gap, they found their answer in creating an outlet through which people could access “good quality food”. In 2017, they launched OrganiKrishi, a venture that engages with farmers across India to serve people with nutritious value-added products.
Their first step was to start right at the roots of the produce — in both literal and metaphorical terms. They began engaging directly with the farmlands where the produce was grown.
Clean food and natural produce
“Changing farmer notions and buying land from scratch is an intensive process,” says Mritunjaya. “But we were fortunate to have relatives in the farming space spread across Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.”
Through the months that followed, the trio met farmers across northern India to gain an understanding of the carbon per cent in the soil, how to maintain soil fertility at an optimal level to get good produce, the climate in which different crops grow well, etc.
The crops they decided to focus on were amla and aloe vera, as these were popular in the mainstream markets, while also being easy to grow.
“We slowly convinced these farmers to adopt natural farming methods, such as using cow urine in the fields as a fertiliser. But it was a tough ask,” notes Rajat.
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The work required dedicated hours, so in 2019, the three quit their jobs to shift full-time into the operations of OrganiKrishi.
Rajat explains, “While negotiating with a farmer on how they can change their approach from conventional to organic farming, always focus on a self-motivating factor — the price. For instance, if they sell a particular vegetable at Rs 150/kg in the mainstream mandi, we buy it from them for 20 per cent more. That way regardless of production, the price will be their motivation.”
Thus the trio slowly built the brand with the trust of the farmers.
He also notes, “We started with products with a long shelf life such as amla juice, aloe vera juice, oils, ghee, etc, things that wouldn’t turn bad during long hours on the road. With our focus on quality rather than quantity, we limit ourselves to eight products, but see to it that these are optimal.”
Citing one example, he points to their star product, a buransh squash (a drink made from rhododendron, the state tree of Uttarakhand).
“While previously the drink was only popular in Uttarakhand, now it is sold pan-India through OrganiKrishi,” he notes, adding that a few other hit products of theirs include oils of giloy, mustard, sesame, etc.
While the subject of clean foods and natural produce is sometimes a grey area, OrganiKrishi was clear in its motive.
‘We wanted people to have nutrient-rich products.’
Natural farming is known to not produce quick results. This made it tougher to ask farmers to adopt this technique. “Thankfully, they were all our friends and known ones, so I’d say convincing them was a little easier than what it would have been otherwise. In time we gained their trust,” he adds.
Jagat Ramji, one of the farmers, says he is thankful to OrganiKrishi for their continuous support in his journey of growing natural food. “Now I feel more empowered as I can grow produce that I know will be bought by them in time,” he says.
Mritunjaya adds that what helped were results on the ground.
“While the farmers worked hard to grow produce through natural methods, we started distributing free samples to friends and family. They began seeing reduced gastric discomfort and overall health, which made it simpler for us to market our products,” he adds.
The team also manages their operations in a way that ensures the products reach customers directly from the farmers.
“We have distributed cold press machines among the 150-plus farmers we are associated with. They extract the oils from the seeds and then bottle these and ship them,” says Mritunjaya, adding that products are packaged in their unit in Delhi.
Mritunjaya and Rajat, who are in charge of OrganiKrishi today, feel proud to see their venture reaping the success of its efforts over the years. The team ships across India to states like Maharashtra, Telangana, and Tamil Nadu, and receives around “500 orders a month”.
Mritunjaya adds that last year, they saw a turnover of Rs 10 lakh, a testament to how people are transitioning to naturally farmed products.
You can avail OrganiKrishi products here.
Edited by Divya Sethu
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