Vouching for organically grown products is Meghna Raj, an MSc graduate in Sustainable Development and Environmental Policy. It was her endeavor, to give small farmers a platform to sell organic products and connect to like-minded individuals and consumers, which laid the foundation of The Farm. The concept may seem to be new, but this young entrepreneur already has plans for 5 more branches of the café across Mumbai. People are growing more aware about a healthy lifestyle and Raj is banking just on that to make her business a successful venture.
Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur and not pursue a regular job?
I realized that my passion for organic agriculture and products could actually be a viable business option, which could be planned in a way to bring profits. Given the fact that there is more awareness about healthy eating, rise in the demand for organic food and lack of proper avenues for the consumers to find them, I knew it would be a successful venture and I really wanted to capitalize on the opportunity.
Can you tell us what kind of challenges you faced during the initial years?
The process of setting up the business was a Herculean task. It was a challenge managing my time as an entrepreneur. I had to strike a balance between improving operation efficiency and, simultaneously, getting involved with business development activities aimed at long-term growth. The two inter-dependent roles demanded a lot of time and both were obligatory. Acquiring license and managing the staff were equally challenging jobs.
What was the turning point in your career?
It was when I realized the importance of human resource and staff management. When you start a business, you usually conceive of business strategies and practices that suit you personal standards and goals. But it is only later when you realize that other people are indispensable and instrumental in achieving your targets for you. I re-oriented all my workings to empower and include my team into decision-making instead of focusing merely on how I wanted them to work.
Did you, at any point, feel like giving up on your venture?
Yes once. Losing one’s financial independence by blocking a lot of money in the venture without knowing how it will fare in the long run can make you feel insecure at times.
What drives you?
When I am passionate about something, nothing else interests me. Even in the most trying and difficult moments I think about alternatives realising there is nothing else I will concentrate on. The organic agriculture and the environment are very close to my heart. Even the possibility of failing is not threatening enough.
Could you please elaborate on your business model?
The Farm is a café supporting organically produced products and healthy cooking. The main focus of my business is not to simply sell organic food; it is to focus on making organic food available to the masses. We offer fresh and healthy organic meals and also provide home delivery service. Organic products, procured from small and medium organic farm after quality assurance, will also be retailed at the café. We are developing the business in a replicable way with the aim of approaching potential partners with the proposal of opening more branches with a centralised kitchen operation by 2009.
What are the growth drivers / vision for your enterprise?
Making organic food available to the people is a major growth driver. The aim is to have a chain of organic food restaurants under the name of The Farm, where farmer can directly come and sell their produce.
Can you give some tips to budding entrepreneurs?
One should take more time to plan before starting a business because it requires a lot of money in form of investment. It is always better to plan and research before than while you are actually running operation. Besides, the organisation has to be flexible in its approach to the consumers and the operation. One should not compromise on core values but must not also be afraid of tuning the business model, so as to bring it in sync with the changing times. Spending time on building a good team, being realistic, gaining more knowledge of the industry and staying healthy and in the company of progressive people will undoubtedly help aspiring entrepreneurs go a long way.