A beginner’s guide to making it in the organic food business

In conversation with Mr Seshu Maringanti, co-founder of The Eco Store, Bangalore


Why organic?

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For the simple reason that you are passionate about organic food. That you want to improve health and awareness among people and at the same time help the environment. It is important to incorporate the concept of sustainability into our lives starting with eating healthy food that is cultivated sustainably. Only when you are passionate about this cause can you drive others to strive for the same. This line is also for those people who are not necessarily expecting immediate returns.

Choosing your location

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Choosing a semi-commercial location is often effective. Most of the interested customers find out the location of such a store on hearing about it. Launching your store in a fully commercial area for more people to see may not be the best option because statistically the number of “walk-ins” are relatively lesser. Products like organic groceries, cosmetics and handicrafts are often for a select group of customers who have a high disposable income. Therefore choosing an area with such a population is imperative.

Choosing your vendors

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Your first option is to choose from established organic food vendors. Here the price is dictated by them and you have the advantage of returning unsold or expired products because the market is still establishing. The retailer happens to be on the upper hand.

Your second option is to buy directly from the farmer. Here the price is dictated by you but no goods will be taken back. Finding organic farmers to buy from is often through contacts or more recently through an Internet database of organic farmers. Such products would have your label on them, naturally sold cheaper than the branded ones mentioned above.

You could also buy from cooperatives, some active ones being Timbaktu and Navadarshanam. Receptivity for branded ones seems to be better with more refined packaging and visual appeal. Packaging your products in the same manner often requires a different license. Therefore, having a mix of your own and the branded is ideal.

Online marketing

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Online marketing has additional costs of logistics and delivery systems. At the beginning offline may give you more profits than online as your popularity is often well grown in the region of establishment; there may be less chance that too many people from other regions would frequent your website for orders. However, you could get more online orders via shopping websites like bigbasket.com. When partnering with such websites you update your stock in their website and they will accordingly forward orders to you based on the location.

Common challenges

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Instilling confidence in the customers

Customers often ask whether the product is truly organic or not. Being transparent about where you are obtaining the produce from or location of the farm could help. The certifications may also be shown. All branded products and most farmer groups have certifications. Alongside it is important to have knowledgeable people in the store who can convince the customers of its authenticity.

Employees’ salary is always in proportion to their intelligence and communication skills. Employing people with a good skill set is often expensive. Recruiting those without a great skill set can cause them to depend on you heavily. They may also leave easily for a small raise in salary elsewhere.

Supply

A supermarket assures the availability of a certain commodity as they buy from the big farmers who have a large area of land. Generally it is the small farmers who try organic farming. Therefore, continuous availability of a certain commodity is an issue. One needs to have multiple sources. Variety will also be less as many vegetables like cauliflower and cabbage can not be grown organically easily.

Shelf life

Going organic definitely comes with reduced storage capacities. For example, the shelf of life of unpolished rice is only one third the normal variety.

Advertising and public perception

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An organic business requires a lot of convincing and a “feel good” factor. Remember that you’re not selling a mere product, you are selling a service, more a lifestyle itself. You are selling the idea of incorporating environment and health consciousness into people’s lives. One of the best ways is to be interactive through exhibitions in regular intervals. Understand that organic awareness in the public is still not too common.


  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shravani is a literature and journalism student, a nature fanatic and a lover of books, coffee and passing epiphanies. more

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  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shravani is a literature and journalism student, a nature fanatic and a lover of books, coffee and passing epiphanies. more

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