After extensive R&D in Peru, Rakesh K and Rakesh C set up Nourish You in Hyderabad. Their homegrown wellness label started with high-quality quinoa and chia, and now offers a range of organic products.
They had more in common than their first names. Rakesh K and Rakesh C shared their profession and passion – biotechnology and agritech. The two classmates graduated with a degree in biotechnology from VIT Vellore and both went on to do a master’s course in technology entrepreneurship from NTU Singapore.
That’s not where the commonality ends. The duo was individually working in the seeds sectors and was among the first few to work on hybrid cotton seeds. At work, they realised that while the seeds market was getting crowded and competitive, a sub-segment for health and wellness foods was taking shape.
Their research showed that the popularity of chia and quinoa was growing in the North American and European markets. It put their attention on the class of foods primarily known as “superfoods, and their findings were validated when the United Nations (UN) declared 2013 the year of quinoa and said the super grain could eradicate malnourishment.
“It wasn’t just for the consumers but was also an eye-opener for distributors and retailers. And since we had already been operating in the market, we became the to-go home brand for this product,” explains Rakesh C.
Setting up Nourish You
In 2013, the duo set up Nourish You in Hyderabad. The bootstrapped company, which offers a range of organic vegan products, began with home-grown quinoa and chia. The product lineup is now being expanded to include watermelon seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, and muesli, bars and snacks made from quinoa and chia.
“Our first hire, Vijendra Kumar, was from National Institute of Agricultural Extension Management (MANAGE). He was working in Africa at that time; when we shared the opportunity with him, he decided to join us,” Rakesh says.
The challenges of starting up
But the process of setting up wasn’t easy. Rakesh says it was tough to find the right foundation seed and machinery that could process the seeds while keeping nutritional values intact.
“In India, there still isn’t an equivalent indigenous machinery to process the quinoa seed. They are only suitable to process seeds like ragi and other Indian pulses,” Rakesh adds.
The team had to travel to Peru to not only conduct ground research but also import the right machinery. Rakesh explains that it took a considerable amount of time to dig deep, find the right contacts, ensure credibility, gain comprehensive knowledge, address the trade-offs and purchase sophisticated machinery and foundation seeds.
After the team got the seeds and the machinery, they found it difficult to find the right distributors to purchase the seeds. They didn’t believe the market had potential and were reluctant to expend any resources into this plan.
Working on the manufacturing
The product was considered niche and it took time to crack into the distributor ecosystem. Initially, it was difficult to educate them about the commercial potential this product promised.
“We then decided to skip the distributors and go straight to the retailers. A breakthrough was achieved when Q-mart agreed to sign the deal. The grocery mart, which is considered exclusive and swanky, was the first to put our products on their shelves. There on, we gained visibility in Heritage Fresh, Ratnadeep, Hypercity, More (ABRL), SPAR and are now present in a majority of retail grocery chains,” Rakesh says.
The in-house R&D plant breeder team does year-round research to identify the best varieties.
Rakesh says that the team has identified and developed more than 35 varieties of quinoa and chia seeds. He adds that Nourish You generates foundation seeds, which they give to the farmers and work with them closely to ensure they are grown sustainably.
“The harvested quinoa and chia are then processed bio-dynamically in our state-of-the-art plant and packaged for consumers’ use. We monitor every step of the process and there is no room for contamination by external agents,” Rakesh says.
The revenue model
Nourish You’s revenue model is divided into two segments – bulk and retail orders. On the bulk front, the team claims to supply to major food players like Kohinoor foods, Bagrry’s and Future group. On the retail front, Nourish You has a presence in all major grocery chains and has also established an online with Amazon and Bigbasket.
When the team started in 2013, they claimed to have clocked revenues of Rs 2 to 3 lakh per month. Currently, the team claims to make Rs 30 lakh in B2C revenues and Rs 20 to 25 lakh on the B2B side.
Nourish You exports chia to Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong and Thailand. The team adds that they export quinoa to some parts of Australia. The reason why exports work for Nourish You is because the costs are cheaper. The team claims that 10 percent of their revenue is from exports.
Agriculture still accounts for 22 percent of India’s GDP. According to an IBEF report, several players have invested in the agricultural sector in India, mainly driven by the government’s initiatives and schemes.
There are several agritech startups like BigHaat, Truce, CropIn and Aavishkar. There is also BigHaat, an agritech e-commerce company, and the Accel-backed Ninjacart. However, Nourish You works on a different model, focusing on superfoods.
“Moving forward, we aim to replicate this strategy in other metro cities of India. And this is expected to quadruple our revenue,” Rakesh adds.