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.