CK Udyog – India

C.K. Udyog Food Private Limited is a supplier of raw natural honey and has
successfully established the only honey processing and honey candy making plant in NE region. The enterprise is located at Jorhat, Assam. Truvalu speaks to its founder Leela Charan Dutta on his journey of becoming an entrepreneur, working with Truvalu, future plans and what mechanisms are needed to strengthen honey value chain in North East
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THE STARTING POINT
Leela says “In my village beekeeping was a big thing. My family was deeply involved in this activity. So, I understood the nuances well. This motivated me to pursue this as a career and leave a legacy behind”.

After starting this venture, I got in touch with the Assam Agricultural University as they are at the forefront of providing technology transfer and market linkage to apiculture farmers and entrepreneurs. To brush my skills further, I also underwent trainings in West Bengal and Bihar to gain necessary skills and competence to work in this sector.

We started our journey in 1994. Our first financial investment came from Assam Finance Corporation Bank. Then, State Bank of India helped us to scale up our honey manufacturing process.

Today I am very proud to say we use best of technology and produce range of varieties – from raw to Italian honey in Assam itself.

COLLABORATION WITH TRUVALU
Leela says he got introduced to Truvalu during an entrepreneur meet in Guwahati. With the help of Truvalu, C.K Udyog became a Private Limited Company. Truvalu has invested an amount of INR 50 lakhs in the organization. The investment was made to upscale the business with automatic honey processing machine, automatic honey packaging machine and setting up honey candy machines.

The machinery produces 90,000 kg of candy in a year. The new venture will also generate employment opportunities for the local people. It is expected that nearly 600-1000 farmers will benefit from the new venture. The candies produced will be first marketed in Assam and after establishing a successful market base it will widen the market network to other NE states. Truvalu.enterprises will further help to bring CK Udyog establish its market in India and abroad by specializing in honey and allied products.

All the activities have helped the organization enhance its business by manifolds. The company has not only gained its niche in processing and manufacturing bee boxes but also scaled up its operations within Assam and other NE regions.

THE MARKET
C.K Udyog is the only enterprise in NE region capturing the market of Italian honey. From a mere investment of 10,000 INR and with a set of only 10 bee hives, today the enterprise has a turnover of 1 crore 20 lakhs annually. The practice of bee keeping, manufacturing and processing is involved with extensive farmers’ engagement based in locale of Assam. The farmers also get fair price as per sale of bee boxes distributed to them. The income obtained provides them with livelihood security.

Leela says “We are producing 10-12 tonnes yearly of pure organic honey which no one else in North East is doing. We are very focused and strategic about the quality being produced. We deliberately don’t follow the buy-buy back model of big brands because we feel it will impact the quality of our product. The focus is on product and not profits; market will follow with good product”.

He adds “Currently, we have 50+ retailers under our umbrella who earn an income of INR 2 lakh yearly. Horticulture departments of districts also help us enhance our outreach”.

FUTURE PLANS
The organization wants to scale up its honey candy making business, making farming practices more sustainable with other bee keeping farmers, and provide opportunities to farmers for becoming entrepreneurs (giving bee colonies to them and buying the honey
from them and then sell it in the market).

Leela’s mission in the coming years is to have at-least one entrepreneur each in 28 districts in North East who can produce honey worth INR 2 lakh every year which can be exported outside India as well.

KEEPING THE LEGACY INTACT
Leela says that it is imperative to ensure that beekeeping legacy is restored. This can only happen when all the stakeholders work together closely. We need Government support; policy should be better as well. Migration is important in beekeeping. The system should work hard to make farmer work better. Pollination of bee makes production better. Government should understand the needs and work accordingly.

Green Biotech Ecosolutions| India

Entrepreneurship is semi-urban areas of India is not a male bastion anymore. When it comes to defying norms and catching up with their males counterparts, women are ready to take on the role with a great deal of determination and perseverance. One such example is the sister duo of Manipur Geetashori Yumnam and Dr. Asem Sundari, who are the co-founders of Green Biotech EcoSolutions, the first bio-fertilizer company in Manipur. Green Biotech is one of the investee companies of Truvalu in India.

We meet the enterprising co-founders of the company on a bright cold morning at their office in Lamsang Laingamkhul in Imphal. Geetashori greets us a bright smile and quickly introduces us with her ‘women army’, as she fondly calls her lively staff who are busy demystifying organic farming.

The office is buzzing with positivity and conviction, much like its co-founders. The duo comes across as a fine blend of head and heart. They have both collectively seen remarkable highs and miserable lows, mobilized capital to enhance their business despite all odds, but always kept social viability and working with farmers as the epi-centre of their work.

Geetashori gets nostalgic and quips “I was working with Reliable Reliance (a Mumbai-based organization) as a Zonal Manager looking at Manipur and other North Eastern states creating awareness about organic products. That is when I decided to quite my regular job and move out of my comfort zone, work independently and take up something that challenges me”.

Sundari says “I am a doctor by profession and was working as medical officer. I was very passionate about healthy living by ontributing ecologically and socially to the society. When Geetashori shared the idea, I said “yes” immediately.

But the journey wasn’t easy. Both Geetashori and Sundari found it difficult to mobilize capital for their idea. They did not have mentorship support who could give them the necessary push. Despite all the hurdles, both of them launched Prakriti – a product which turns waste into bio-fertilizer. The product was a hit among locals selling nearly 5,000 packets within 6 months and gave their idea the necessary boost to take their work on the next level. This motivated them to tie-up with Hyderabad based Agri-life to sell bio inputs – fertilizer, manure, pesticide, bio stimulant in North East. But the transportation cost and the regular bandhs were posing a big threat to their work, financially and logistically both.

In year 2016, they became a part of Green Business Challenge. The initiative helped them collaborate with Assam Agricultural University for technology transfer for making bio-inputs to manufacture and sell the concentrate in the market. Now, Green Biotech EcoSolutions manufactures and distributes their own products. In 2017, Truvalu provided them with funding for setting up state of art infrastructure which tripled their production. Earlier the production capacity was only 1.5 MT and now it is 4 MT. Until now, Green Biotech EcoSolutions has provided employment to 22+ people.

The organization follows a stringent mechanism to make products and selling them in the market. They pay a special emphasis on conducting surveys to understand the gaps and market. In the process, they take guidance from renowned scientists for expertise and guidance. They have a strong pool of 80+ retailers who help them in selling their product and ensuring last mile delivery.

Sundari says “Gaining farmers trust is very important for us. We also do training and capacity building for farmers and households to switch to organic products. Earlier, to buy an input for poultry a farmer was spending INR 4,500 now they are just spending INR 1,500 with our probiotics. So, the environment and economic viability is clearly visible. We are always in the test and learn situation as market is competitive, so the focus is to provide quality products and affordable price”.

Our relationship with Truvalu and ICCo has been enriching and fruitful. We got incubation support on how to handle finances, market linkage and technology transfer. In a nutshell, it took our business to a next level in a very structured way. We have also been able to link to other organizations which are also a part of Truvalu. The organization has also provided us with various management inputs in terms of financial and accounting which has helped us to bring our accounting process to an internationally accepted level. Until now, we are able to reach out to 10,000 farmers, while earlier it was only 3,500 farmers.

Sundari says we are very motivated and driven to diversify our work by using better technology, infrastructure and scaling up human resources support. We want to expand our operations in Thailand, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Bhutan.

Symbiotic Foods | India

Piggery Breeding

Tribal farmers in the northeast of India have increased their income by 3 to 4 times, thanks to Symbiotic Foods Pvt. Ltd. (SFPL) which set up a social business in the pig rearing value chain. Pig rearing is a traditional source of income for the farmers. However, usually they do not earn a fair price due to low quality and an unfair system. SFPL tries to positively influence this by introducing improved piglets and by providing feeds and veterinary services to farmers. It also provides a buy back arrangement.

The market

Pig keeping is an integral way of life for many tribal people in the northeast of India; over a quarter of all Indian pigs are found in this region. Pig production in this region is invariably a small-scale, backyard but marketed-oriented business. It is practiced mainly by farmers to generate income and to fulfil socio-cultural and traditional obligations. Despite being small-scale, the production contributes significantly to the livelihood of the majority of pig rearing households. The income from pig sales meets essential household and farming expenses, and provides some financial independence for women. Traders and retailers reported that the demand for pigs and fresh pork increased significantly over the last five years causing a 20% increase in the price of pork. In addition, traders and retailers are confident that sales of fresh pork will continue to grow as a result of the rising demand.

The business opportunity

The business opportunity in the market is that there is no availability of disease free, well vaccinated and scientifically produced quality piglets. Although there are few scientific governments breeding farms in the region, they cannot fulfil the (increasing) demand. Hence there is a waiting list to get quality piglets from these farms. Also, the traders and middlemen often purchase the fattener pigs from the farmers paying a lump sum amount without any proper weighing system. Because of this, most of the farmers do not get a fair price for their pigs.

Social impact

SFPL started its own breeding farm in April 2014 with 25 pigs. At this farm quality disease-free piglets are scientifically produced. The company managed to produce 720 piglets in 2015. The piglets are raised at the farm until 2 months of age, after which they are sold for €33 to the farmers, mainly in the tribal Boro community. In this raising time, the farmers can buy feed and medicine from SFPL. It also provides veterinary services and trainings. Farmers will raise the pigs for 7-8 months in which they gain an average live weight of 80-100 kilograms, which otherwise take 12-13 months to attain similar weight using low quality piglets. Also, there is less mortality amongst the pigs. By providing a buy-back arrangement, farmers are secured of income which provides them a sustainable livelihood. SFPL buys the pigs back at a fair price based on a live weight basis. On an average, a farmer makes €65 profit per pig more, compared to other farmers. A farmer can earn € 520 annually through this activity, which means a huge social impact for tribal farmers. The animals are reared in natural conditions. They are given enough space for moving around and they are kept in groups in a clean environment. Also, they are provided with hygienic feed and drinking water.

Co-entrepreneurship

With the co-entrepreneurship of Truvalu.enterprises, an enterprise of ICCO Cooperation, the projected number of piglets is targeted at 6,000 over a period of 5 years compared to 720 in 2015. This will increase the revenues of SFPL and raise the income level of farmers. Approximately 3,000 farmers of the Boro (Tribal) Community will benefit from this. Truvalu.enterprises can also help with introducing new breeding techniques and technological advancements.

Blending for a better value chain

The purpose of the Truvalu.enterprises is to have a meaningful impact on the whole pig rearing value chain. ICCO has already an investment in a pork processing company that is active in North East India. SFPL will strengthen our impact in this value chain as we see huge synergies for both companies to cooperate and ensure that the final consumer receives safer pig meat products with a clear traceability through the whole food chain.

The owners

Manoj Kumar Basumatary is a Mathematics graduate from Stephen’s college in Delhi. He worked in a senior position in the largest public sector bank, State Bank of India (SBI), for 15 years. He has received many awards, certificates and recognition during his tenure in the bank. In 2013 he resigned his job to start his own social business. Through his company SFPL, his dream is to provide a sustainable income to thousands of tribal women farmers and create a world class rural enterprise. Khanindra Kalita is an Engineering graduate from Assam Engineering College, Guwahati. After completing his studies, he has shifted to the development sector. Kalita worked with various non-governmental organisations such as Pradan and Saral Services. In one of his previous jobs at the company SeSTA, he designed a low cost pig shed for small and marginal farmers. The model was adopted by the College of Veterinary Sciences, Assam Agricultural University. Kalita is nowadays also working as a consultant with VisionSpring in a project in Bangladesh.

 

Goshen Farm Exporters | Kenya

The Kenyan exporter

Goshen Farm Exporters Ltd was established in March 2010. The company packages and exports Kenyan fruits and vegetables, especially French beans, mangoes and avocadoes. The fruits and vegetables are directly sourced from smallholder farmers and Goshen Farm also grows fruits and vegetables themselves. The produce is then processed in the company’s production unit where it is sorted and packaged after which it is exported to the European Union and the Middle East. The company is well positioned between the farmers who produce the products and the consumers of the products.

The company

Goshen Farm exports products in fresh form and it adds value by sorting and packaging the products according to different preferences of each client. The company’s market size is highly seasonal and varies with global trends. Average demand during peak season goes to 14 tons weekly while during off peak it reduces to 3 tons. The company expands or reduces its size depending on the season.

The entrepreneur

The founder and owner is Mary Muli who is 48 years old. She has a degree in Business Administration. Previously she worked as an Administration Manager of an NGO that provided water to communities in Western Kenya. Before that she was a mango and orange farmer. At that time she faced that during high season a lot of the produce goes to waste because there is too much supply for the market. That is why she started Goshen Farm Exporters, to help link farmers from her local community in Lower Eastern Kenya to the markets. The successor is Alex Muli (28 years old), which is the son of Mary, who is a Global Executive Master of Business Administration Student at United States International University in Kenya. He is currently the company’s operations director.

Social impact

At the moment, Goshen Farm sources from 2 groups of cooperatives (for the avocados and mangoes) and from 91 individual farmers (for the French beans). The cooperatives were formed on initiative of the company through bringing the farmers together. Of the total 473 farmers involved, 17.5% are women. Besides, approximately 100 seasonal workers are hired by the company in harvest seasons. The farmers have signed contractual agreements with Goshen Farm which allow farmers to be paid the market price and offered a minimum price when the market is low. Advance loans are given to farmers who want to upscale their production. Having overcome challenges of seasonality and perishability, the organization wants to bring on board more small scale farmers. This will create more sustainable sources of income for the rural poor. Besides an income, the farmers are provided with inputs, such as seeds and pesticides, and technical support.

Scaling opportunities

There is still a big opportunity in extra value addition for Goshen Farm. The company would like to venture into the processing of fruits and vegetables to not only elongate product shelf life but also to ensure that losses are minimized when there is overproduction. Therefore Goshen Farms wants to can French beans and dry and pulp mangoes during peak season (when there is an oversupply). There is especially a market opportunity for processed foods for the growing middle class in eastern Africa. They increasingly undertake their shopping in big malls. The company also sees opportunities for the markets in Europe (mainly France and the UK) and the Middle East (mainly Dublin).

Certifications

Goshen Farm has several crucial certifications. It has a valid trading export license issued by Horticultural Crops Directorate. Besides, the company’s French beans production sites are Global Gap certified. The company also has various country licenses: a food handling certificate, an employee medical certificate and a business permit. Goshen Farm is working on certifying the production units to ensure that they meet international market needs. In the future, the organization wants to obtain a fair trade certification.

Co-entrepreneurship

Together with Truvalu.enterprises, Goshen Farm will improve its management structures, policies, procedures, sales and marketing and record keeping and documentation. Goshen Farm needs an investment to upscale operations and markets. The investment is needed for better processing equipment (such as packaging machinery and a quality control laboratory.

Natur SRL | Bolivia

A fruitful company

The company Natur SRL is specialized in freeze-drying of fruits, especially the super fruit açaí but also camu-camu and other fruits. The company started in October 2013 and the freeze-dried food production began in August 2014. Natur works with a high-tech process food dehydrator. Because of this the fruits get a minimal change in color, taste and texture and they maintain their nutritional value. In February 2015 the company started its first export. The company now wants to enter the national market of Bolivia, so that the Bolivian people themselves can benefit from the fruits.

The super fruit açaí

The choice to exploit the fruit açaí from the açaí palm tree was made for various reasons. First of all, some rural communities do not adequately reap the benefits of this palm. They mainly focus on the heart of the palm for sales, for which they have to destroy the palm trees. This does not provide communities a solution to generate a sustainable income, while exploiting the fruit açaí does. Secondly, the açaí palms in Bolivia contain the highest concentration of antioxidants and a lower concentration of fats compared to the palms in Brazil. Lastly, açaí has a high demand abroad, mainly in the USA but with a growing demand in Europe due to its high antioxidants.

The owner

André Luiz Napravnik is a Civil and Chemical Engineer, graduated from the Catholic University of Salvador in Brazil. He has an extensive career in the industrial sector. His last work consisted out of the optimization of a freeze-drying plant and the development of free-drying products and markets. This experience led him to start his own venture.

Producing for the national market

Currently 99% of the products of Natur are exported in bulk packages for resale. The importers produce energy drinks, food supplements, cosmetics and other food products. This poses a risk in case there are situations in which Bolivian exports are restricted. Also, the Bolivian people are not benefiting themselves from the super fruits freeze-dried by Natur. The fruits return to Bolivia with foreign brands with much higher prices than could be obtained if they were purchased directly from Natur. With this background, Natur carried out a research to the Bolivian market for new fruits as mango, pineapple, apple and banana. The company is now planning to develop the local market by investing in equipment for retail packaging. In this way freeze-dried products can be sold to the Bolivian public. Supermarkets, convenience stores and pharmacies already showed interest in retailing these products. After serving the Bolivian market successfully, Natur wants to explore other countries in Latin-America as well. The growth potential is being complemented with implementing a financial management system that will support and improve the management of the company in an integral way. It will offer strategic and actualized reports for the shareholders.

Social impact

At the moment, 62 collectors recollect açaí from trees and 38 employees processes the açaí to puree in small facilities in the communities. Natur buys the puree from the communities, so the communities receive added value as well. In total around 600 smallholder farmers are involved. There are also 6 administrative posts in the communities. The establishment of a second freezedry chamber targeting the local market would benefit new providers. Indigenous communities and local producers can increase and diversify their production. They will be sure that they will sell what they harvest. Currently they have the disadvantage that at peak harvest, a part is lost to rotting. With proper freezedrying and packaging, this will not happen anymore. Also, new jobs will be created in the distribution chain, logistics and the promotion of the products. Around 100 additional smallholders will be involved.

Sumbawang Superior | Indonesia

The shallots of Sumbawang

The company Sumbawang Superior, which started in 2014, farms in shallots in Indonesia. As the demand of shallots surpasses the supply, the owner of the company saw the farming of shallots as a good business opportunity. Sumbawa is a good location to cultivate shallots because of the dry climate. Before, farmers in Sumbawa mostly cultivated corn. The farming of shallot creates new opportunities for the company and the farmers.

The market

The farming of shallots is a good agribusiness opportunity because the demand surpasses the supply. This is also why the Indonesian government supports the fulfilment of the gap by local farmers. Sumbawa is a good location to cultivate shallot, due to the climate which is mostly dry. Currently, there are only a few farmers farming shallot in Sumbawa, Indonesia. The owner of Sumbawang Superior saw this as a chance to start a business in 2014. A location near the river was chosen, providing the company enough water for irrigation. Thanks to the use of quality seeds, the yield of the company is currently 12 tons/ha, which is above the national average of 8tons/ha.

Social impact: employment

Currently there are 17 staff members who work in the farms, nursery and warehouse of Sumbawang Superior. During the planting season, the company needs around 50 casual workers and during the harvest season around 25 casual workers. Sumbawang Superior is planning to introduce contract farming on a profit sharing basis. In that case the farmers will directly work for the company, providing them a sustainable income. All the seeds, inputs and other costs will be covered by the company. If this is realized, there will be around 100 staff members and 200 farmers. Also there will be work for around 1,000 casual workers.

Social impact: using sustainable seeds with high yields

The company source their input (like pesticides and fertilizer) from local suppliers, providing them an income. The seeds however are brought from the Netherlands, because with those seeds the yield is 50% higher than the average shallot yield in Indonesia. This means that the income of the farmers also increase with 50%. The seeds also need less pesticides, less or no fertilizer and they are able to survive during the rainy season. This contributes to lower input costs as well as to a sustainable environment. The owner is innovative in the way to explain the farmers how to farm the shallot in the best way: he reach the farmers through social media.

Warehouse to handle price fluctuations

Price fluctuations are common for shallots in Indonesia. The price can be low, for example due to the influx of shallot import and higher yields from producers in other areas. On the other hand, the price can be high due extreme weather conditions. To handle the price fluctuations, the company has built a new warehouse in Sumbawa. It is owned by the company and has a capacity of around 30 tons. In the warehouse the shallots and bulbs can be stocked up. In this way they remain in good condition so that they can be sold later.

The entrepreneur

Jurgen Nagel is a highly motivated social business development specialist with broad experience in increasing food security and reducing poverty in rural areas in Asia. He has a bachelor degree in Psychology from the University of Applied Science in Utrecht, the Netherlands. He is working in the development sector for more than 10 years now, of which 6 years experience in the agribusiness industry. He is well-known for his good relationships with the local communities.

Color Cacao | Colombia

Colorful cacao from Colombia

The company Color Cacao produces handmade chocolates in Colombia. They make chocolate bars, brownies, cookies and other kinds of products from chocolate. This is still an untapped market in Colombia with great opportunities to grow. The ambition of Color Cacao is to buy the cacao directly from small producer farmers, so that a value chain is created which is 100% transparent and fair.

The company

Color Cacao is a company that manufactures chocolate products, including decorated and filled chocolates. It was based on the opportunity to bring the latest chocolate trends in terms of taste and design to Colombia. The manufacturing techniques are handcrafted and based on a careful selection of raw materials in order to achieve an excellent quality final product. This is what makes the company unique in Colombia. At the moment Color Cacao sell their products in souvenir shops and at the airport. They also have corporate customers for which they design specific chocolate products.

The entrepreneur

The owner of the company, Ana Margarita Villegas, went to France 10 years ago to study to be a professional chef. There she gained good knowledge about the cacao market, preparation of cacao, recipes and techniques. She obtained a degree in Culinary Arts at the Institute Paul Bocuse in Lyon, France, one of the world’s most renowned chefs. Ana also studied business administration and she worked for several gastronomic French restaurants. In France, she realized that the Colombian chocolate market wasn’t good enough, because the best quality chocolate is exported in bulk. When she came back to Colombia in 2009, she decided to start her own chocolate company. She felt motivated to start working for a fairer Colombian chocolate market.

The market and business opportunities

The chocolate market in Colombia is ruled by two big companies in terms of prices and quality. Their main aim is to make profit which does not lead to fair prices in general. Overall, they do not value the efforts of producers to increase the quality of the cacao. As most of the Colombian cacao market is thus covered by the big companies, there is a big opportunity for Color Cacao to grow as a medium sized company. Where the big companies focus on massive chocolate production with high contents of transfats and low contents of cacao, Color Cacao focuses on high contents of cacao with good quality. Also the artisanal chocolate market is an untapped market with a potentially high demand in Colombia.

The international market

The company has the ambition to grow in the international market as well. Colombian cacao was declared as ´fine or flavour cacao´ by the International Cocoa Organization, a category that covers only 5% of the beans traded worldwide. Besides, Colombia has a potential of 2 million hectares for cacao crops, an area that would place the country among the world’s top cacao growers. As such, the conditions to explore the international market are very good. Color Cacao exported before so they are well-known with the administrative and legal structure to export. Also Color Cacao went to international business meetings in Canada and the United States. However, the company realizes that they need to strengthen their portfolio to be competitive in the international market. It means that they will need to obtain more certifications (like fair trade, organic production, etc.).

Social impact

Nowadays the company buys its raw materials from the big companies Nacional de Chocolates and Lucker. However, the company is working towards collecting cacao directly from small producer farmers. Therefore the owner started meetings with cacao associations. If Color Cacao will be able to buy the cacao directly from the small producers, farmers will receive a fair price in return. They will be able to improve the quality of their plantations which will lead to improving sales. The quality of the cacao will increase and the fair prices will lead to a sustainable livelihood. For Color Cacao it means that they can directly communicate with the producers of cacao and that they can work on certificates like organic and fair trade. In the end, the company can show the consumer where the cacao comes from: the whole value chain from bean to bar will be transparent.

Co-entrepreneurship

Truvalu.enterprises co-entrepreneurs with Color Cacao to strengthen their commercial and marketing department to target (potential) customers. Truvalu.enterprises also supports to become more prepared for the international market. Furthermore, the company wants to process the cacao themselves for which they need their own machinery. However, at the moment they lack the financial resources. With the investment of Truvalu.enterprises the company will be able to make this happen. Lastly, Truvalu.enterprises and Color Cacao work together on the structure of buying the cacao directly from the small producer farmers. Truvalu.enterprises has a great track record in inclusive business and value chains

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