R. Durairaj, Founder and CEO, Mother India Farms, which produces quality organic and natural food products including India’s first certified organic juices and fruit bars under the Organa brand name, speaks to Progressive Grocer about how his company is helping to promote and popularise organic farming and the benefits of organic food products to not only Indian and global consumers but also farmers by providing them with technical and marketing support to shift to organic farming
Tell us about your company and its range of organic products?
I established Mother India Farms (MIF) in 2000 to nurture farms with traditional organic methods and to produce and provide quality organic and natural food products to global consumers. Currently, we have the following product range: organic fruit pulps/purees: mango, pineapple, guava, tomato; organic fruit juices: mango, apple, guava, mixed fruit; organic IQF fruits: mango, pineapple, coconut; organic super foods: chia, quinoa.
Please explain your farm-holding model? Do you own the land, are they farms taken on lease? How is your company helping promote organic farming and organic food in the country?
We own the land. In addition, we also have developed community farming, where farmers own the land and we give them technical know how and buy back their produce.
Through this model – having our own farm and also engaging in community farming – MIF is encouraging farmers to shift to organic farming by providing them with technical and marketing support. The business model of MIF ensures that farmers not only gain from increased productivity but also get a higher remunerative price through value addition. The farms, facilities and products are certified by International Accredited Certifying Agency M/s. Control Union Certifications.
What is the size of your current farm holdings and where are they located?
We have 200 acres of land at Settrapatti near Morpur in Dharmapuri district, Tamil Nadu.
Which are your products for the domestic and export market?
For export market, the products of MIF include fruit purees, IQF fruits, super foods, spices and herbs. The domestic business of MIF is handled by a subsidiary company, MION (Mother India Organics and Naturals Pvt. Ltd). MION has launched India’s first Certified Organic Juices and Fruit Bars, under the brand name ‘Organa’. Other products in the Super Foods Series like Chia Seeds and Quinoa are the result of extensive research and development, which are being launched in the domestic market under the brand name Earthen Delight. Currently, all MION products are available on all leading food portals, organic stores and high-end retail outlets in metro cities across the country.
What is the customer and value proposition of your organic products?
MIF products offer the real taste of organic fruit juices in convenient SKUs at affordable prices, with consistent supplies. Our products are superior as compared to any other fruit juice brand in the Indian market and are priced competitively, despite being organic. In short, our ‘Organa’ is the Number 1 organic juice brand in India.
What is the typical customer profile for your products?
Our customers are educated, working professionals belonging to the upper middle and upper class of the society.
What is your total farm yield produce-wise? What has been the growth rate for your produce over the years and which are the factors responsible for the higher yield?
We have our own certified organic farm of nearly 200 acres in which we started organic farming practices. We grow mangoes, paddy, chia, turmeric, etc. Once our market started expanding, we brought many farmer groups in southern states under our group certification programme for many products. This is a continuous process and the growth rate for our produce is almost 100 per cent every year. All these farms are under the direct supervision of our qualified agri-professionals.
Which are the special techniques that you bring to bear on your farming and agricultural practice?
Organic farming and animal husbandry are highly intertwined. We draw urine and cow dung to prepare lots of ancient recipes like Panchakavya and Jeevamrutha. We also use herbal extracts to control pests, etc. We are continuously innovating and trying new techniques and possibilities.
Which are the markets that you are looking to build for your products?
We have an established B2B business in Europe and North America. In the Indian market, we have a pan-India coverage and are trying to establish our brands in the B2C segment.
What is the market size you are looking to tap for your products and which regions are of interest to you?
Sustained adherence to core value systems and standards has propelled Mother India Farms into one of the most preferred global brands in organic products. With quality products for both export and domestic market, MIF is set to exploit the opportunities in global markets and is experiencing a period of high growth and a radical transformation.
MIF is looking for strategic partnerships to join them in an exciting growth story. We have created a niche in the Indian fruit beverages market, which is worth around Rs. 3000 crore. Right now, we are looking to all parts of the country and all its regions are
of interest and focus for us.
What is your strategy for retail, marketing and distribution of your organic food products?
The focus is on distributing our products to all organic stores and supermarkets across all metros and tier-1 and tier 2 cities. We are also aiming at developing modern trade and online stores too for our organic products so that they reach the consumers according to the channels of their choice. We hope to build awareness of the benefits of organic products and our brands through consumer tasting promotions and with focused advertising.
How large is the organic food market in India in terms of size and value? What scope and opportunity does it offer to players like you?
The market for organic products in India is worth Rs. 600 crore currently. However, our juices are positioned with a focus on the Rs. 3,000 crore fruit juices products category. As all our products are organic, it is an additional USP.
What is the the rate of growth for organic food products in India? Which are the fastest-selling products under this category and which are the new and emerging ones with the potential to grow?
The growth of organic products in India is expected to be around 19 per cent p.a. during the period 2012-17. Traditionally, vegetables, grains and pulses are the most common segments for consumers to shift to organic. Breakfast range, fruit juices, and cosmetics are some of the new and emerging products with a huge potential in the organic category.
What in your opinion should be done to grow and expand the organic food market in India?
The consequences of eating conventionally processed foods containing chemical additives are scary whereas organic products are safe, healthy and have a natural taste. Manufacturers should be encouraged and motivated to shift to using safer and tested ingredients. They should be either exempted or taxed at a very low GST, which is likely to be implemented soon. This will make the products available to a larger section of our population at affordable prices. The government should take the initiative to urge consumers to read the product labels and the ingredients used, before buying them for consumption.
What are the serious challenges and the opportunities facing the organic food category in India?
Sourcing key raw materials and ingredients is a huge challenge as the land under organic cultivation is still low and several ingredients have to be imported paying high duties. Low awareness of the benefits of organic products is another challenge, which can be overcome if all stakeholders work together. At the same time, the future looks very promising as consumers are increasingly getting health-conscious.
In your opinion, who are the major players in India’s organic food market?
There are a few players in the organised sector of organic foods and most of them are export-oriented. High price of organic food products is the primary reason why the category is underserved.
What is your pricing strategy and how does it compare with the products from other organic players?
We are aware of organic products being unaffordable to a larger section of our population. We have a mission to produce and provide quality organic products to consumers at affordable prices. Therefore, our products are priced at par or at marginally higher prices, as compared to similar conventionally produced products. However, pricing of other organic products by other players.