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Happy Munching: One Wholegrain Bite At A Time

By Namita Shibad Hindustan Times, New Delhi

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Reema Sathe is the founder of "Root Bakery." Sathe says she wanted to build a brand and a product which would be made by rural women. Her goal is to help create female entrepreneurs, jobs and increase their incomes.

Hindustan Times, New Delhi

It is easy to complain about the plight of the environment, food, farmers, but doing something to change the situation is a whole new ball game.

Reema Sathe was working with an MNC when she understood the problem with food. "Most working people have very little time to grab something healthy while at work. Due to time constraints and easy availability of unhealthy snacks, people prefer going down that way. I wanted to change that."

After working with BAIF, Chetna Organics and Chaitanya foundation she did a small survey. "After researching the same, I asked people from various categories about their food lifestyle gaps, how they felt about getting snacks made from traditional grains and realized that all young urbanites were looking for healthy food which is ready-to-eat."

Sathe wanted to pick something that's easy to train rural women in and hence, zeroed in on bakery products. She was told about a Facebook group called Home Bakers of Pune and she posted her concept on it. "I wanted to provide, healthy food choices to people but also make sure that our business was inclusive of rural women and the farmers grew traditional grains flourished."

One home chef, Prajkta Markandeya reached out to Sathe. She agreed to try out recipes using jowari, bajra, barley, ragi, amaranth.

They attempted a few trials and they turned out well. Anjali Shelar who was known to run baking classes in Pune was next on Sathe's list. With help from Prajkta, Sathe was ready to hit market.

"I wanted to create greater representation of rural women in manufacturing and I wanted to find a way to involve them in my venture. I met the ladies of Nirmiti rural women's cooperative society in Sangamner during a gram panchayat meeting. I told them I wanted to build a brand and a product which would be made by rural women. That would create women entrepreneurs, jobs and increase their incomes. I told them about my bakery project.

"And though they knew absolutely nothing about baking, they came on board. To such an extent that the cooperative society agreed to take a bank loan to set up the bakery in Sangamner. They had some spare land which they allocated to this venture."

The Nirmiti rural women's cooperative got the loan sanctioned after Sathe stood guarantee for the sales and made the bakery a viable venture. With the Rs 30 lakh, the ladies of Nirmiti and Sathe set up their bakery in Sangamner. Supply side

Since Sathe's idea was to help the farmers with her venture she arranged for raw materials like ragi, buckwheat, bajra, barley and so on."These farmers had preserved these seeds and grew them in small quantities. They would store the seeds from one crop of traditional grains in a mud pot and use it for the next plantation. I ensured that I got my grains from them. In fact, even the sugar comes from a farmer in Satara," Sathe says.

Initially, Sathe made snacks from about 30kg to 40 kg of flour of different grains a month, but now, as her sales increase, she is at at six tonnes a year.

The business of sales When she started out from her Pune bakery, Sathe made contact with some companies and offered her products to their employees. She's looking for larger platforms. "Happy Roots is on Amazon, Big Basket, Place of Origin and Flipkart.

We are also on Qtrove which is a curated platform, as well as we have our own website. I realized that growth has to be continuous. I am in talks with three large packaged food brands (she did not wish to name), to do a co-branded line of products. They will launch their Healthy Alternatives and Happy Roots will be co-branded with their trademark. This way I can piggy back on their brand to reach out to more customers offline as well as online. They will outsource their healthy snacks to our Happy Roots unit."

The way forward Sathe wants that more and more people should revert back to eating the grains our forefathers ate. "Not only is it healthy, it is also sustainable. This will help our marginal farmers as they are more profitable than wheat and some rice varieties. It will also help protect the environment and nourish the soil. This will change the rural economy. And make people healthy."

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