From India to the US: Making Jackfruit International

By Jubin Mehta|2nd Jul 2012
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This is a very interesting story of a Harvard student, Annie Ryu who came to India to start a healthcare venture. She spent time in rural India and her venture still continues to help villagers but something else clung on to her mind... 

Founded by Annie Ryu, Global Village Fruits is a venture that aims to bring the world's best fruits to the customers across the globe, starting with U.S. The first fruit that caught Annie's attention was the Jackfruit which currently isn't available in the U.S. Through this venture, Annie hopes to bring the delights of this fruit to the customers across the globe and in the process support the farmers and villagers in India who grow these products. Kickstarted with $6500 funding, the first consignment has been made. Annie is being helped in her efforts in India by Sachin Kumar Jain, who is currently a student at the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta. I got in touch with the duo to know more about Global Fruits Village.

"Annie,

Hey Annie, this is something really unique you're doing. What gives you the motivation to do this? And how did it all start?

Annie: My motivation is directly traceable to a course I took in freshman year of college--Case Studies in Global Health--where I learned that poverty is the root cause of innumerable health problems. Growing up in a town built around a healthcare facility (Rochester, MN, around the Mayo Clinic), I had long aspired to be a physician in order to use my skills and intellect to effect positive change in the lives of many. In the college course I became engrossed with the idea of social entrepreneurship as a way to sustainably alleviate poverty. I began to take steps forward with social enterprise ideas we brainstormed in class. (For these ideas and steps Annie was selected as an honorary fellow at the Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship in her sophomore year at college.) During that year, I also developed Remindavax, an mHealth program based on SMS reminders to improve adherence to important healthcare services. Since then, the program has been deployed in 12 primary health centers in southern India with two student teammates and the public-private partnership Karuna Trust. It was my work implementing this program that brought me to India for the first time--leading me to try Jackfruit. During my time here, I attended various jackfruit festivals in Southern India and met with some of the jackfruit farmers, experts and processing groups and that’s how it all started.

Sachin, how did you meet Annie and how did your association with Global Village Fruits start?

Sachin: I contacted Annie after I read about Global Village Fruits, Inc. on a Harvard Business School website. We Skyped to figure out how we could work together... Since then, both of us have been working tirelessly to get contacts and meet with potential partners in India. She has travelled extensively in southern India while I have been busy in Kolkata, North-East and surrounding regions.

How is the business looking currently? How has the response from US been?

Annie: The first shipment has arrived in U.S. and passed through FDA, USDA, and U.S. Customs. The packages contained are being distributed to early funding supporters. We are now making final preparations for the first major shipment by ocean freight, to arrive in the U.S. in August from our partners in south-India. Twenty-eight major supermarkets outlets in the US have agreed to stock dried jackfruit, so this is a very strong start for the company. I spent the last four weeks in India building the supply chain for the company. I continue to correspond with many producer and processing groups across India.

Great to hear! What are you looking for at this stage? Are you looking for funding?

Sachin: Yes, we are looking for funding. Several investors have expressed interest, and we are working to coordinate with them and potentially others. We are looking for publicity, especially in the central and northeastern states of India, where much jackfruit grows but where we have had limited coverage.

Tell me a bit more about JAckfruits. What kind of revenue model are you looking at?

Annie: Jackfruit is over abundant in southern India and hence it is very cheap. A large amount of the produce goes waste for the want of storage and processing facilities. Jackfruit agriculture is at present sporadic and largely unorganised and very few people have recognised its potential. Global Village Fruits purchases fully processed jackfruit products from producer groups or processing groups with direct traceability to, and strong relationships with, producers. We have a very strong relationships with our primary supplier, and he has set the initial pricing for the products. Profits come in at the final selling price in supermarkets, subtracting the percentage that the store takes (usually around 45%), the transportation costs, and the packaging costs.

Profits are used to provide interest free loans and investments in infrastructure, certification etc. for the processing groups that we are working with that enables them to run sustainable businesses.

These social entrepreneurs are looking for support and they can be reached at aeryu@college.harvard.edu and sachinj2013@email.iimcal.ac.in for ideas and feedback. Website: http://globalvillagefruits.com/ Twitter handle - @bestfruitever

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