The name JeevAnksh was derived from Hindi words, “JEEVAN Ka ANSH”, which literally mean “Ingredients of Life.” Under this name, the brand new online retail store for organic and eco-friendly products works to provide customers with an outlet for sustainable and healthy living. Launched on December 12, 2012, JeevAnksh.com was initially conceptualized when its founder, Gunajit Brahma, was volunteering with the Indian Youth Climate Network (IYCN) in Banglore. Then, as an MBA student at IIM Indore, he had the chance to interact with one of the pioneers of the organic movement in India, Mr. Mukesh Gupta, CEO of Morarka Organics.After some encouraging words and valuable advice from Mr. Gupta, Gunajit decided to move forward with his idea for an organic online retail store. In a Retail Management course taught by Mr. Bibhas Basumatary, Gunajit wrote a research report on the organic market in India. Mr. Basumatary, now a member of the Advisory Board, was so impressed by the report that he agreed to support Gunajit in pursuing the venture. Gunajit brought childhood friend Dhrubajyoti Doley on board, as well as IIM Indore batch mates Prashant Lakra, Rohit Bajaj, and together they launched JeevAnksh.com.
In our recent correspondence with Gunajit Brahma, Founder and Director of JeevAnksh.com, he agreed not only to discuss his company with us, but also to share his insights on the organic industry in general.
Q: As a company that sells not just a product, but a lifestyle, what has been the biggest challenge in convincing people to live more eco-friendly?
The challenges are multi-fold. I will try to explain it by separating them into two categories, industry centric & customer centric.
Cost of Production – Organic products are about 25% costlier than conventional products. The primary reason for it is cost of production. While conventional farmers, chemical fertiliser & pesticide companies, get subsidies from the Government amounting up to 75% of cost; organic farmers do not get any such subsidy. Also, there are no clear cut policies to promote/support organic farming. This has caused the cost to increase, which made the end customers paying more for the products.
As most customers who purchase organic and eco-products are willing to pay the premium, it is a blessing in disguise. Most of organic producers/packaging companies are practicing fair-trade, meaning they are paying the farmers their true value of produce (in some cases, upto 10% higher than the market price), the benefit of the premium is handed down to the farmer as well.
The cost of product is also high because of govt. taxes. Packaging of organic food is levied a tax same as that levied to tobacco and alcohol, as mentioned by Mr. Mukesh Gupta, in the recent BioFach India 2012.
Supply Chain – One major hindrance for the growth of organic and eco products market in the country is infrastructure related to procurement and supply chain. There aren’t enough cold storages, and also since most of the farmers are small and marginal, working in remote villages, procuring from them is a major bottleneck. These challenges have to be handled at the State/Central Government level.Perception of Low-Yield – Although lot of farmers are switching to organic cultivation, there are many who are not. Critics of organic farming mostly argue about the low-yield of organic farms, which is actually a wrong concept. Organic farms do not produce low yield, if you compare the total bio-mass of products. But critics only compare the yield with mono-crops. Organic farming is about multi-crop system, that’s how Nature has made it.
High Cost – Yes, organic and eco products are right now bit costlier than conventional, since the cost of production is high, as mentioned earlier. This high cost is stopping the middle-class housewife or a household shift to an organic and eco-friendly lifestyle, because if she shifts, her monthly budget will go for a toss. So we have to really look at reducing the cost of production, to make it affordable to a middle-class family.
Availability – Although the episode on Organic in Satyamev Jayate did bring in the much needed awareness of organic and eco-products in the mind of the viewers, the availability of such products, in a neighbourhood grocery store, remained a distant dream. Unless the products are available in a store nearby, a middle class Indian is unlikely to buy it, even if (s)he is conscious of the benefits.
Perception of Elite – As per our findings, most people associate organic and eco-products as something for the higher classes with disposable incomes. We would like to clarify that it is a misconception. People should understand that Organic was the only way of living some 60-100 years ago, before the invention of chemical fertilisers. Our grandparents and their previous generations all had organic food, and had very less life-style diseases. In our present generation, we have more life-style related diseases than healthy foods available in the market.
We are working to address these challenges, one person at a time. On one hand, we are promoting and marketing these products to reach a larger set of audience, and helping them to move to an organic and eco-friendly lifestyle. On the other, we are working on the supply chain part of it, to bring down the cost of procurement and distribution. We are building our front-end as well as trying to develop the back-end of the business. Overall, we are trying to bring about a “Green Evolution”.
Being an optimist, I am confident that once someone tries any organic or eco-product, (s)he will get hooked to it, and will become its advocate/voice. A simple reason is that it is good for the body, mind and soul.
Q: Can you tell us a little more about the tie-ups you have with NGOs, farmer communities, and manufacturers to supply local produce?
We have tie-ups with NGOs that are directly working with farmer communities and promoting organic agriculture. One such NGO is Chetana-Vikash, working in the Wardha region of Maharashtra. They have about 150 qtl. of A-grade organic soybean right now, and we are looking for buyers/exporters for them. It is worth noting that Wardha comes under the Vidarbha region, one of the most affected regions with farmer suicides. This particular NGO is working with farmers and supporting their shift from conventional to organic agriculture. We are happy to have associated with them.
We are also in talk with few other NGOs/SHGs who are promoting organic farming, and will be marketing their products in our website soon. The product ranges that are in the pipeline include organic tea, handicrafts and art work, gift items, etc.
Apart from our tie-up with NGOs and other major brands, we are also working in partnership with small/medium manufacturers of local products. As of now, the product range includes clothing and beverages. The best part is we are helping them to ship their products directly from their manufacturing facility, instead of keeping them in our warehouse, thereby reducing carbon footprints and food miles.
Q: What are some of the specific products you sell?
In our store, you can purchase imported and export quality certified products of major brands of the world. We have a wide range of organic and eco-friendly products, mainly in the categories of Food & Beverages, Cosmetics, Apparels, Gardening solutions; and lot more in the pipeline to be added. We plan to keep anything that is organic and eco-friendly, and is beneficial to our customers.
So far we have brands like Aradhana (Perfume Powder), Lass Cosmetics, Maple OrgTech (gardening & farming solutions), Organic India (Food & Beverages), Organic Surge (Cosmetics), WeBe India & Zeme Organics (Apparels). We also have a Farmer Community section, where we are displaying products produced by such communities which are supported by NGOs &/or SHGs.
One can view the product offerings by these brands in our website, under the ‘Brands’ section. We are actively looking for partnership with manufacturers/producers/NGOs to promote and market their products.
Q: What is your vision for the future of JeevAnksh.com?
For JeevAnksh.com, our short term vision is to become the top-of the mind recall website for all organic and eco-friendly needs of anyone. We are passionately crazy, so we launched our website on 12/12/12, with a hope to grow and sustain for a minimum of another 100 years, to see another 12/12/12. With an organic and eco-friendly lifestyle, it “might” be a possibility (winking).
To achieve the next 12/12/12 (our long-term vision), we have to go beyond a dot com company, and we are actively exploring options on sectors that we want to venture. Retailing, Private Label & Export are some of the options we are looking at right now. We will take a decision on it in 2-3 years.
Q: Anything else you would like to add or tell our readers about JeevAnksh?
Three things I would like to tell the readers. First, the sector that we are working on is in a very nascent stage, and there is room for a few more players. And best part is, everyone we came across is helping each other, with an objective to grow the market. Competitiveness, although it exists, is not a cut-throat one. It is healthy for the market and the consumers.
Second, since our company’s main objective is to increase the overall market for organic and eco-products, I would suggest the readers to try out any organic product, from any of the manufactures/retailers or an online retailer. Unless they try out, they will not experience the benefit of a healthy, organic and eco-friendly lifestyle.
Third, if you have a dream, and want to do something, whatever it is, just do it. Life is too short to live without a dream. Dream big, and make it happen. And don’t shy away from hard work. Hard work always pays.
- Social Enterprise
- supply chain
- online retail store
- eco friendly
- Gunajit Brahma