Chennai-based startup Ganya Agro has grown its sales of cold-pressed groundnut, sesame and coconut oils, and now aims to expand its product categories to organic foods and oils.
“It’s been five months since I switched to using Ganya oils and I am now hooked. The flavours remind me of my childhood and grandma’s cooking. I’ve researched a lot and after using it, I am convinced about the health benefits of cold-pressed oils. I now advocate them to others too. No more refined oils for my family…ever!” says Brinda, a homemaker based in Chennai.
Tharakeshwari Palanisamy, 37, has helped many like Brinda to leverage the health benefits of oils and switch from the chemically extracted oils available in the market to her range of cold-pressed edible oils.
Her Chennai-based startup, Ganya Agro, is on a mission to promote good health and conscious living with cold-pressed edible oils, known to have great benefits for skin and body. With growing demand for healthy lifestyle alternatives, the brand has gained significant traction among consumers in Tamil Nadu.
In the beginning
Ganya Agro was launched in January 2017 after Tharakeshwari, keen to start something of her own, got hooked to the idea of manufacturing cold-pressed oils after she got great feedback from friends.
She realised the untapped potential of readily available cold-pressed oils after many of her friends decided to switch from refined oils after trying Tharakeshwari’s initial samples.
“My husband and I were very clear that irrespective of the business idea we choose, our idea should be ethical and should make a positive impact on society. We are rooted to our tradition and culture, and figured out that we could make a business out of selling cold-pressed oils that are eco-friendly, nutrient-rich and time-proven,” says Tharakeshwari Palanisamy, Founder of Ganya Agro.
The startup is keen to promote health and traditional eco-conscious practices that bring back the goodness of nature in our food. Ganya Agro uses the traditional and chemical-free method of wood pressing to manufacture cold-pressed groundnut, sesame and coconut oils. The brand claims to add only natural products like palm jaggery to remove the bitterness from seeds and nuts during the extraction process.
In a bid to contribute to the environment, the startup uses eco-friendly processes and highlights that there is zero-wastage - the biodegradable by-products are used as cattle feed, compost and manure.
What is cold pressing?
Seeds and nuts are rich in nutrients and flavour, and the process of cold pressing ensures maximum retention of these. When exposed to high temperatures, seeds and nuts lose their natural flavours, colour and nutritive value.
The modern method of oil extraction involves applying heat up to 230 degree centigrade, leading to alteration in properties of the oil molecules and depletion of nutritive values of oil. The seed is first crushed, the pulp is heated under pressure and a solvent (hexane) is added for optimum extraction of oil. Experts highlight that there are many hazards of exposure to hexane, including dermatitis and CNS depression (depending upon the amount of hexane inhaled).
Cold pressing, on the other hand, is a process where temperature is maintained at optimal levels during extraction by using a wooden extractor or wooden press. Cold-pressed oils are known to be free from any preservatives or additives, can last for at least six months and the traditional oil extraction method is free of hexane. Since they are processed without chemical extraction and the use of solvents, the oils tend to be more expensive than chemically extracted oils.
The challenges and road ahead
As a first-generation entrepreneur, the challenges were many for Tharakeshwari. Making connections, leveraging various support groups and schemes being offered for startups and registering her business were some among the many initial challenges, she recalls.
The brand started with sales of 100 litres per month; today, sales have grown to 800 litres per month.
Ganya Agro is run by a small four-member team, including Tharakeshwari, Vijayalakshmi (handles operations) and two part-time employees.
Within two months of launch, the brand started generating revenues of Rs 1 lakh per month through direct sale to consumers. In August this year, the products were placed with retailers. Since then the brand’s revenue has increased to Rs 2.5 lakh per month.
Eyeing a pan-India presence, Ganya Agro is soon launching its products on e-commerce platform Amazon. Going ahead, the startup is targeting revenues of Rs 1 crore per year from exports and Rs 1.2 crore per year from the domestic market.
The smart agro startup is currently bootstrapped and plans to raise angel funding for diversifying the brand.
“I want to set up an integrated production and cold-pressed oil packing unit, which will meet international standards to target the export market. We also want to expand our product categories to organic foods and oils,” Tharakeshwari adds.