Our fast-paced lifestyles are dotted with high levels of stress, pollution and unhealthy food choices. Processed and preservative laden foods top our shopping lists. Do you know many of these foods come bundled with harmful chemicals, colours, taste enhancers and are highly processed with harmful oils and fat, flours and sugars? Even growth harmones are pumped into these food items to increase their longevity and viability, further leading to numerous effects on our mental and physical health. On a mission revive ancient superfoods, Anay Tripathi, Founder, Pali Farms believes urban folk needs to closely observe what Mother Nature has been offering us and reintroduce the same goodness into our diets. An exclusive interview:
Enlighten us about your entrepreneurial journey?
My entrepreneurial journey began with an aim to save a rare, and aromatic variety of rice called Kalanamak from extinction. The very variety of rice was once the most prestigious rice found in the Eastern Uttar Pradesh belt and was a family favourite. Once, while sharing anecdotes, my grandfather shared how aromatic and palatable this variety of rice was and how its popularity declined over a period of time. This aroused my interest and I began my research on Kalanamak. To my surprise, I discovered that this wasn’t just any ordinary rice, but a rice blessed by Lord Buddha. Even today, it is grown in erstwhile ancient Kapilavastu. I forged ahead with my decion to revive the rice variety, though seemingly impossible task it was, I treading ahead. From arranging the seeds to doing tie-ups with farmers in Siddharthnagar (where it is grown), and with an aim to revive the ancient superfoods, I founded ‘Pali Farms’ and branded the Kalanamak rice as Buddha Rice.
What do you mean by ancient superfoods? How are these different from the current stack of organic ones available on the shelves?
Ancient foods refer to the indigenous traditional foods that were grown and consumed by our ancestors, whereas organic food is derived from organic farming – without using chemical fertilizers and pesticides. If we speak of rice varieties, there are only a handful varieties available as you call the long grain basmati rice. But, do you will be amazed to know that there were more than thousand varieties of traditional rice before the Green Revolution in 1960’s. These included Kalanamak Rice from Uttar Pradesh, Govindhobhog Rice from Bengal, Ambemohar rice from Maharashtra and many more. Today, almost all the traditional varieties are struggling to find place in your kitchens. Foods such as Jaggery, Ghee, Jowar, Bajra, Ragi, Flaxseeds are also fine examples of ancient superfoods, which are now getting popular, thanks to the fitness revolution. Ayurvedic herbs and spices like turmeric, ashwagandha, amla and tulsi are also gaining popularity they deserve.
How do you think Indian population is reacting to this niche segment of foods?
The ancient system of beliefs and practices such as eating habits, yoga and meditation are on a revival mode for they potentially improve overall health and wellbeing. Unhealthy food habits lead to drastic ailments like heart diseases, strokes, diabetes and obesity. Thankfully, there is enough awareness about the harmful effects of the processed foods, people automatically are fascinated about the ancient superfoods. A large section of the urban population is willing to switch to natural and traditional foods. In fact, the recent outbreak of the Covid 19 pandemic has instilled people’s faith in traditional and Ayurvedic herbs and remedies. ‘Haldi doodh’ that we have been drinking for ages has been recently rediscovered as ‘Turmeric Latte’ and is the new rage not only in India, but in western counties as well. I feel, this, perhaps is the best time to be working with Ancient Superfoods.
What are the challenges you are facing as a startup?
Every startup comes with its fair share of challenges and struggles. One of our biggest challenge we face is that we are trying to sell an expensive short grain rice to populace who simply love long grain rice. Also, creating product awareness and educating customers about the benefits these products bring in is a herculean task. Other challenges are common to most of the startups such as building a brand from scratch, hiring the right people, innovating constantly and setting up a distribution network. We make sure we connect our audience through various exhibitions to get their real time feedback, which helps us spread our wings as a brand.
How well are you connected with farmers and stock providers?
All our raw materials are grown in and sourced from within the country. Collaborations benefit not just one but everyone associated with it. There are a few items we grow ourselves, but majority items are procured through a network of marginal farmers. Buying directly from farmers ensures that we get the highest quality products. This way, farmers also get the fair share as there is no middle man involved. We also provide training and support to farmers, and have also employed family members of the certain farmers for tasks like quality checks and packaging to help them with extra income.
Buddha Rice, very interesting! Tell some qualities of this rice..
Buddha Rice is a rare, ancient and aromatic rice variety from the land of Land Buddha: Kapilavastu, currently Siddharthnagar district in Uttar Pradesh. The aroma of this rice is said to be a gift of Lord Buddha. Popularly known as Kalanamak Rice, it is one of the rarest scented rices of India with its distinctive short grain and unique black husk, which derives its name.
What are your key products and highlight a bit about their qualities?
We have a line of signature Superfood Lattes that come in three flavours: Turmeric, Beetroot and Spinach. These blends are a mix of superfoods and vitality enhancing spices, which are completely caffeine free and improve immunity. We have recently launched Jaggery in three different flavours- Ginger-Ashwagandha, Cardamom-Ashwagandha and Cocoa-Cinnamon.
How do you think we can head towards a sustainable future?
The one thing that we need to quit is our unsustainable lifestyle. We most definitely need a plastic free world. We also have to be water wise, eat sustainably, turn energy efficient, switch to renewable, choose to have a smaller family, plant a tree, use our voice and our vote responsibly.
How do you deal with the competition?
You cannot avoid competition, but work on discovering your strength. We aren’t pioneers in the segment, but when we started there were hardly any brands selling traditional healthy foods. Then the Covid 19 pandemic came and everyone plunged into this segment and started offering immunity boosters and similar products. What differentiates us from the other brands is that all our products are handmade with love in tiny batches with ethically sourced ingredients. All our products are made and packed with the utmost care and is a reflection of our small team that created it.
What made you name your firm ‘Pali’?
Yes, I chose the name ‘Pali’ because it was the ancient language innate to the Buddhist era. I did some basic branding before launching the rice on Amazon. As the product went live on Amazon, I wondered if I will ever receive an order. And to my surprise, I got my first order within 15 minutes of it going live. That was an extremely overwhelming moment. Since then, I have been receiving orders from across the country. You can also buy our exquisite range of ancient superfoods from our website: http://www.palifarms.com
Your advice to our readers who are trying to build their businesses from scratch?
The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. So, if you have an idea or a dream you strongly believe in, just go for it. But before diving right in, it is always sensible to validate your idea and test your market first. Investing in a good team and valuing your customers are the foundations of any startup/business. Persistence, patience and hard work is the key. If you stick in there for a while, you’ll eventually make it happen.