This agripreneur is using organic food and education to fight Punjab’s drug menace
Jalandhar-based Anurag Arora’s MINK India offers organic produce and garden consultancy services, and aims to educate students of all ages about farming.
Punjab’s drug problem is an open secret. Growing up in Jalandhar, Anurag Arora knew that he wanted to help children and youth in his state escape the drug vice. His aim was one: to tap agriculture and academics – two seemingly unrelated sectors – and contribute to nation building. Founded in 2017, MINK India has two verticals: one focuses on clean food and good health and; the other helps create employment opportunities.
Anurag, 28, an alumnus of Delhi School of Economics, was working at Trident India as the HR Head when he decided to quit his job and start up. Having witnessed the drug menace first-hand, he knew education and agriculture could together help tackle it.
“MINK India was founded in June 2017 with a vision to make a difference in the two sectors that are the backbone of a country’s development. Agriculture and education are doing well, but there are certain grey areas that can create problems in future if not addressed now. I feel young, educated people should step in to bring about small positive change,” he says.
Not long after, he and his Co-founder, his wife Jayati Arora, started two verticals under MINK India — MINK Organics and MINK Academics — to empower India through healthy food and education. He pumped all his savings into the startup, which now has a 6-member team.
Food for thought
Anurag, who is certified in protected cultivation of vegetables from Centre of Excellence for Vegetables Indo-Israel Project, Kartarpur, underwent training sessions on organic farming at Punjab Agriculture University, and Centre of Excellence for Vegetables, Kartarpur.
“We all know about the effect pesticides and fertilisers have on the human body. I wanted to bring a change so I am working on finding cheaper organic substitutes. I want children to learn and have an interest in farming so we build awareness in the new generation,” Anurag says.
MINK Organics, which was started in September last year, focuses on rooftop organic vegetable farming; it also provides consultancy services for this along with internships to school students. MINK Organics engages in cultivation and sale of organic products grown in vermi-compost and soil-less medium, including micro-greens, oyster mushrooms, organic sprouts, organic vegetables, and whole wheat flour. The team also engages in food-processing, offering products like wheatgrass juice, and sun-dried mushrooms and tomatoes.
“I wanted to come up with food that is fresh, nutritious, pocket-friendly and quick to grow so I began working with sprouts and microgreens. The strategy was to introduce ourselves with a small product and find a place in the market,” he says.
The team engages in B2B sales and also offers products on Amazon India. MINK Organics is also available at almost 25 counters across Jalandhar.
The organic life
MINK Organics started by growing 50 kg mushroom; it was growing 200 kg after two months and is now targeting 4,000 kg. In eight months, MINK has started offering 12 products, including radish, pak choi, onion, beetroot, alfafa, broccoli, kohl rabi, cabbage and cauliflower micro-greens.
The startup grows micro-greens and wheatgrass without soil, using c medium comprising various natural components. Sprouts are grown with filtered water from USDA-certified organic pulses in clean and hygienic conditions. The wheat flour is processed from 100 percent certified organic wheat.
“We encourage people to grow organic vegetables at their home so they know what they are eating. We offer organic vegetables to those unable to do so,” Anurag says.
His consultancy helps set up terrace and other gardens, letting people grow tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, peppers, gourds, carrots, brinjal, broccoli, chillies, and micro-greens.
Opening up new avenues
Alongside, Anurag worked on MINK Academics to help ready children for a brighter future. The vertical offers in-depth coaching for the National Talent Search Examination, covering mental aptitude, scholastic aptitude, and language comprehension. It has associated with government and private schools, including Cambridge International School for Girls, in Jalandhar, and also offers training for National Financial Literacy Assessment Test and classes on handwriting improvement.
Mink Academics offers 8 courses as of now and trains over 60 students at their coaching centre.
“MINK India aims to educate school students of all ages about farming; we want them to know the background, importance, and practical application of farming. This will ensure that farming crops up as a career option for them. Japan inculcates discipline by making children clean their schools themselves. Children learn by doing; this is how I want children to learn farming,” he says.
Anurag has tied up with schools; he charges a fee uses his sessions with children to teach them about the practicalities of farming. Regular field emphasise the importance of going organic, he says.
When it comes it his agri startup, Anurag’s biggest challenge is uncertain weather conditions, which makes it “almost impossible to dry tomatoes and mushrooms in humid or cold atmosphere as they get fungus very quickly”. While solar driers are a solution to this problem, funding is a challenge and he’s looking at raising funds.
In the near future, Anurag hopes to raise revenue through increase in sales of organic exotic produce by creating awareness about the nutritious value of superfoods and the importance of consuming organic, pesticide-free food. He’s also hoping to grow revenue by focusing on school tie-ups and garden consultancy services.
“I’m hoping to grow my business across major cities in Punjab, and take things one step at a time,” Anurag says.
(This story is part of the #KindnessMatters series, a partnership between YourStory and UNESCO MGIEP)