Never underestimate the power of engineers in today’s world. They can go any extreme and achieve something big in life. Mayank Gupta and Lalit Jhawar have set an example in Kolhapur, Maharashtra by growing exotic vegetables.
Lalit and Mayank with no background in agriculture are surprisingly earning Rs 80 lakh a month by growing organic food. In early 2018, Mayank quit his job and returned home for good. An innovative idea came to his mind and he then discussed the idea of launching an e-commerce platform for organic and fresh vegetables with Lalit.
However, after some research, Lalit and Mayank soon realised their venture would not materialise. “We had planned to become a channel to access fresh, organic and exotic vegetables from growers and provide them to customers. But to our disappointment, there were very few who grew good quality organic produce in the exotic vegetable space,” he says. The two then decided to consider growing the produce themselves and selling it.
“Nashik is the vegetable capital of Maharashtra and it seemed difficult to comprehend that we could not have a good range of exotic vegetables growing here. There is always inhibition in such varieties growing well in Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and other Northern states with cooler weather conditions,” Mayank says.
After a lot of research, the two shortlisted Kolhapur as the ideal place to set up the farm. “Kolhapur is best for agriculture due to its soil, water availability and farmer presence. The geographic location also makes it possible to send the produce to potential markets. Places like Pune, Goa, Mumbai and Bangalore are within a 12-hour drive, making it possible for the vegetables to reach customers within hours of harvest. This will ensure freshness,” Mayank says.
In April 2019, Mayank and Lalit set up LandCraft Agro in Ichalkaranji, Kolhapur city. LandCraft grows 40 types of vegetables on 20-acre hydroponics and 3-acre aquaponics farms. Lalit and Mayank trained about 150 farmers to convert 100 acres of land into poly houses for vegetable cultivation. The produce is sold under the brand name Trueganic.
In addition to cities in Maharashtra, the vegetables are sent to Hyderabad and Chennai, Delhi. The one-year-old start-up is making a turnover of Rs 80 lakh a month.
“Neither of us had any experience in farming. I had never grown a plant in my life before. So we made many mistakes in the beginning, but quickly learned from them,” says Mayank.
Lalit, the co-founder, says the duo accessed a lot of research work and contacted technical experts and advisers to get things straightened out. “After we learned how to grow organic food, marketing and convincing customers became a bigger challenge,” he tells The Better India.
Lalit says that the average consumer saw the same vegetables available at cheaper costs, but convincing them to try the product for its superior quality and freshness became a task. “Repeat orders faced lesser friction. It’s more of a psychological challenge to change mindsets for buying better. However, the COVID-19 pandemic helped customers make healthier choices,” he adds.
The agri-entrepreneurs say the next plan is to get farmers to sign up for contract farming and extend the supply chain to multiple cities.
“We wish to reach out to more cities and increase our customer base,” Lalit says, adding that more farmers are being trained to grow exotic crops—in addition to conventional ones grown in the area—which will help them earn better.