Growing up in Poynad, a small agrarian village near Alibaug, Maharashtra, where millets were the staple, Sharmila Jain Oswal was well-acquainted with the importance of the grain and the challenges faced by farmers growing them.

Seeing girls in the village being married off early, hearing stories of harassment and domestic violence and seeing women in her family wearing ‘ghungats’, she chose to become a lawyer to help women and fight for their issues, continuing this fight in Canada where she lived for a few years.

She returned to Pune, Maharashtra, in 2008 and established an NGO called the Green Energy Foundation to help farmers revive water sources and implement smart farming techniques.

Armed with a Rs 10 lakh grant from NABARD, she began her first sustainable water management program in Buchkewadi, Maharashtra, in 2010. The village was facing a water crisis due to which farming was becoming increasingly difficult.

They worked on optimising water usage and increasing water availability in the village. After that, she continued her work across Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and Gujarat.

Sharmila states that they have helped over 1.5 lakh farmers in five states through water management programmes, millet and vegetable cultivation, and capacity-building programmes, all of which has yielded a steady income for them.

She’s been a proponent of millets much before they became the buzzword, urging farmers to grow them in arid regions.

“Millets are climate-resilient, carbon-neutral and eco-friendly. They require bare minimum water, making them sustainable,” she says.

She also co-founded ‘Gud Mom’ with her son Shubham, which sells millet-based products, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘Gud Mom’ sells millet noodles, pasta, cookies, crackers, herb sticks and more through Amazon, other retailers and on their website as well. Most of the grains and ready-to-eat items are priced between Rs 48 and Rs 150.

The startup today has an annual revenue of over Rs 16 crore and works with more than 5,000 millet farmers across the country.