In the increasingly competitive organic food industry in India, a select few seem to grasp the essence of term ‘organic’. While organic food items are relatively more accessible today than five years back, basic problems such as reasonable pricing, proper certification system and efficient food delivery mechanism are still a far cry. 29-year-old Ashmeet Kapoor knew how to plug the gap.
In 2012, Kapoor started his own venture called ‘I Say Organic’, an online vegetable and fruit store, to address the growing demands and challenges in the organic food industry in India. To begin with, he understood the basic fundamentals of the business such as easy accessibility, convenience, affordability, great quality and authenticity. But there was larger, albeit a noble, idea behind this venture: Kapoor wanted to provide a sustainable livelihood to the farmers in rural India and make a proactive effort to improve their situation.This became a pressing need.
“It was not easy to convince farmers to give up what they had been doing for decades. They only knew of the traditional way of farming, and to explain them this new alternative was difficult,” said Kapoor.
Keeping this in mind, he went a step ahead and stayed in a village in UP for four months to understand the ground reality. And the reality was that more than rural electrification and water problems, the farmers wanted a self-sustaining source of livelihood that would pay them well. Once Kapoor was convinced of the challenges, he contacted other organic farmers based in UP, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, and established I Say Organic.
The company claims it eliminates middlemen to keep farmers at the centre by paying premiums directly to farmers, which helps them earn 40 per cent more than what they were earning before switching to organic. To instill a sense of trust in customers and establish a connect with the farmers involved, Kapoor said they mostly post blogs and videos on their website about farmers talking about associations with them. “We would love to organise trips for people to visit farmers’ land and open up about where our food comes from,” said Kapoor.
To address the issue of easy availability and convenience, Kapoor said that for anything to happen the product has to be easily available. “We broke the norm and made organic food available 7 days a week on our website. Obviously with organic, since volumes are smaller, prices are marginally higher but it is definitely not unaffordable. In the next 2-3 years, organic veggies will reach normal veggie prices. Most of what hawkers sell in slightly upmarket colonies is exactly how our products are priced. Our products are primarily available on your website because we believe that picking up the phone is more convenient,” added Kapoor.
As for certification of their organic produce, Kapoor admits there’s certainly a lack of trust among customers as there are numerous other organic brands operating in the market as well. To allay such apprehensions, I Say Organic undertakes a ‘Know Your Farmer’ initiative where they personally visit and select farmers. The company claims they build personal interactions at the farmer level and understand the intent of farmers to grow organic food. “We talk to them, we share their stories. If a customer wishes to visit, we let them go visit the farmers’ land where the produce comes from. We have the NPOP certification and will get United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) certification in 2 years,” adds Kapoor.
Currently, the Government of India recognises the National Programme for Organic Production (NPOP) accreditation programme that was implemented in 2000. It lays down the norms for organic production in India. The United States Department of Agriculture and the European Commission also recognise the NPOP system of accreditation.
The company says their products are available 24×7 through their online shop and they deliver within the same day an order is placed. I Say Organic takes a minimum order of Rs 300 from customers residing in Delhi, while it’s Rs 500 for outside Delhi NCR. Orders can be placed on their website from between 9 am-2 pm and 4 pm-9 pm.