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Why two brothers from Karnataka are sold on the idea of millet-based snacks 

Hema Vaishnavi
18th Nov 2017
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Mahesh and Chandra Basavanna have set up OrgTree, which is enabling farmers to grow millet, adding value to their produce, and promoting a healthy lifestyle. 

Tired of opening a bag of full of air to find a few chips in it? Or looking for a healthy alternative? Here’s some food for thought: try millet, the age-old food grain of India.

Mahesh Basavanna, 43, and Chandrashekhar Basavanna , 40, brothers who hail from Thenkahalli, a village in MalavalliTaluk in Mandya district, Karnataka, decided to introduce millets to the urban populace in the form of snacks.

That’s how OrgTree was founded, with a mission to make healthy food available to everyone.

Bringing back millets

For as long as Mahesh and Chandra can remember, millet, which goes back 3,000 years, was the staple food in Mandya region. Despite the high nutritional value, the grain was under threat from the invasion of rice and wheat in the last three decades.

During the millet harvest, the crops have to be dried properly in the time of rains as they don't stand much moisture in this fragile state.

Other significant benefits of millets include less water consumption, and no need of pesticide or unnatural processes to grow.

The brothers had been in search of ideas for the economic development of the region they belong to. Mahesh and Chandra wanted to find a sustainable means of employment for the locals and prevent migrations to cities. Economic and environmental sustainability were their prime concerns. Millet fit the criteria and the brothers founded OrgTree in 2014.

The idea is to provide healthy food made from locally sourced millet working directly with the farmers. OrgTree follows sustainability to the core in all practices. Sustainability in terms of production and delivery processes, economic and environmental sustainability. Kiru is the product brand that imbibes all these principles, says Mahesh.

He is also the Founder and Managing Director of McD BERL, an energy efficient building design company and consultant to IFC, World Bank on sustainability and energy conservation.

Gluten-free Kiru

“Orgtree manufactures millet snacks under the brand Kiru. We currently have three major product categories with multiple variations and flavours. We offer Kiru Millet cookies (Almond, Ginger, Classic priced at Rs 90 for a box of 150 gm), the Kiru Health Bar (a multi-grain health bar priced at Rs 40), and Kiru Millet Sticks (banana and ajwain variants, priced at Rs 35 for 50 gm).”

The ingredients, recipe and nutritional value are all researched and readied in-house.

We have also setup a lab in the same facility for millet and food research. This has gone through multiple iterations over at least two-three years since we didn’t have anyone to follow in this segment, says Chandra.

He is also the CEO and Founder of SecPod Technologies, a computer security product development company.

All products are made entirely out of millets; no maida or wheat is added. No preservatives or unnatural flavours are used added, and the products are gluten-free, have no trans-fat, have a high fibre content and are alkaline in nature.

Practicing sustainability

OrgTree gets its millets and other core ingredients from the community of farmers around the manufacturing facility. Seed distribution events were conducted to encourage farmers to grow millet in the region and those farmers supply millet to OrgTree.

OrgTree is building a community of millet-growing farmers and building the economy of the region we operate in. OrgTree produces finished products in the place where the millets are grown, working directly with the farmers, and passing on their rightful benefits to them. It is OrgTree’s interest to ensure sustainable employment to the region, Chandra says.

Talking about how people are taking to healthy snacks and how the founders see the trend picking up in terms of people appreciating up such locally grown food, Abhiman, the Marketing and Operations Manager, says,

There has been positive response in terms of how people are responding. We see a lot of returning customers who continue to order with a new set of customers joining the millet league. With people getting more health conscious, people are looking for options like Kiru.

Currently bootstrapped, OrgTree has an online presence and delivers to all metropolitan and Tier-2 cities across the country. The company also has stores in tech parks and IT companies in Bengaluru.

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