KHADYAM: MAKING GOOD FOOD AND A SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE ECOSYSTEM
Written By: Indranil Roy
The prominence of agriculture has transcended time and been the backbone of Indian economy. Innovations have augmented industries and revamped many prevailing agricultural practices. If we look closely, technology has completely transformed farming practices intending to cover mundane tasks at ease. But everything easy comes at a price. Where technology has proved to be productive, it has created long-term derogatory as well. Overuse of synthetic fertilizers results in soil infertility, Lack of knowledge and education hampers the use of high-octane machines – and often becomes a burden for farmers.
The malpractices also harm the environment, becoming the root cause of various health ailments; this is where speciality foods come in. Made with high-quality ingredients, this ‘unique’ segment, is a promise to better health. Khadyam is one of the indigenous brands, developing high-quality speciality foods. Its expertise in organic farming isn’t only re-inforcing the backbone of our nation’s economy but creating valuable opportunities for farmers as well. In short, Khadyam is growing as the face of sustainable agriculture, while supporting livelihood, of farmers – especially women.
DRIVEN TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE
The motto of Khadyam– “We believe in purity”
The above motto qualifies the efficiency that Khadyam brings to the table. But behind this growing success, lies a motivation to make a significant difference. Khadyam is the brainchild of a dynamic duo – Sitaram Komagiri and Madhavi Komagiri. Despite having a sustainable corporate career, the couple was moved, by the dearth condition of farmers across the country. Despite being the ‘Real Heroes’ of our country, very less importance are shown towards them. Also, he understood that nutritious food items – can’t be manufactured, only cultivated through sheer hard work on fields.
These intertwined concerns drove the duo to contrive Khadyam under the banner of Gramin Mall Foundation (GMF), in 2015. In the next three years, both worked on creating backward linkages for a sustainable farmer’s community. Finally, in 2018, Khadyam was established as a fully-fledged brand. “Our focus was to create an ecosystem of sustainable agriculture and promote agri-biodiversity”, confirms Sitaram. Social entrepreneurship by nature, Khadyam blends science, knowledge and goodness of nature to improve health while ensuring the well-being of mother earth. In its short history, the brand has mushroomed more than – 9 varieties of millet and imparted a positive impact on 1500 farmers and their families, across 3 villages in Telangana. On top of that, their products have guaranteed a healthy life to lakhs of people across the country.
TRANSCENDING BEYOND CHALLENGES
“Being a social entrepreneur, achieving the crescendo wasn’t a cakewalk”, says Madhavi.
Bringing value to the food chain is an arduous task due to the constant changes in the market, but resolving farmers’ distress alongside takes the challenge to a whole new level. During the initial years, it was a hardcore challenge addressing aspects such as dependency on rain, minimum support price, providing an appropriate value for the yield, parallelly entrusting them with a healthy lifestyle. On top of that, it was difficult being a bootstrapped startup to navigate through an everchanging market.
Nevertheless, Khadyam focused on its ultimate goal – building a sustainable community for farmers. As such, it engaged farmers with modern agricultural practices, enlightening on the best inputs, knowledge-of-the-industry, and their value-for-yield. The challenges and leaders’ experience helped in building their pillars of knowledge and manoeuvring through uncertainties. The end-to-end model attracted a band of farmers and now the brand is working with 2000+ farmers across Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Odisha. The products are focused on the B2B and B2C category – for B2C, Khadyam has its own brand ‘Natturano Foods’, privately labelled – for India and abroad markets.
STRICTLY MONITORED ON QUALITY
Speciality-foods have long-escaped the realm of niche market growing into a force to be reckoned with. As such, ensuring traceability is crucial. To be the torchbearer, Khadyam strictly monitors everything from procuring raw material, manufacturing and packing process – with an International standard. R&D at every level of production and product development further fosters the standards. Each product batch passes stringent testing measures in Internationally accredited labs before reaching the customer. “Our Millet /Oilseed and value-added products are 100% natural, produced and processed in our own process centre, and contain no chemicals at all; hence safe, healthy and rich in nutritious value”, confirms Sitaram. Khadyam proudly stands as one of the forerunning brands ensuring traceability in its operations. Every product passes through more than ten quality parameters. All the assessments are recorded, for study and further references. Khadyam also has a quality control team consisting of microbiologist, food technologist and biochemists.
Along with quality, research also gives them a good picture of a customer’s needs and necessities. In this fast-track generation, Superfoods are more preferred as people aim to spend less time in the kitchen. Ready-To-Cook foods are more preferred, despite being unhealthy. To champion such a situation, Khadyam has extensively worked on product innovation. Every product coming out of their factory, is packed with nutrients and ready-to-make in the nick of time. The traceable quality measures make them providers for big names like BigBasket, Emami and more. Khadyam’s products are certified, with International certifications like ISO: 22000/FSMS based on principles of Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) and USDA.
SUSTAINING THROUGH COVID-19
2020 was a trial by fire for companies across the planet, especially for manufacturing units. Khadyam too had its share of hurdles, especially in production, manpower and distribution channel. However, being a startup – challenges of all kinds are bound to happen. Sitaram comments, “COVID is a novel challenge for everyone, it has slowed us down but didn’t stop us in our path”. Khadyam forged ahead with strong will and an adamantine strength.
Employees were given safety equipment (Mask, PPE kit and sanitiser) and COVID special insurance of 5 lakhs. These steps not only ensured the safety of employees but their families, in-case of an unfortunate occurrence. Production was done on a gradual speed to reduce losses while pertaining to the market challenges. Furthermore, the Company went fully-digital during the Pandemic. The Company partnered, with an IT-solution provider for their online business and leverage on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, etc. for marketing purposes. The migration from farm-to-digital significantly helped in bridging any gap with customers.
A WHOLESOME WORK CULTURE
Khadyam is maintained, by a robust team of, 22 people. Despite being a short team, they have been the steppingstone behind Khadyam’s reverence. In words of Sitaram and Madhvi, their growth lies in integrity. Majority of their teammates have been there since 2018, which ensures trust and transparency on all levels. More than 15 people in the team are women, which is their big step towards woman empowerment.
To maintain the integrity of this team, individual efforts are acknowledged. Every month they ascertain a “Hero of the employees”, a small token of appreciation for the best performer. Employees also enjoy good remuneration, yearly bonus and social securities as required.
AWARDS AND THE ROAD AHEAD
Khadyam’s journey to glory has been bestowed with several accolades. The notable mentions are given below:
- In 2017, ‘Best Entrepreneur Award for Backward Linkages’, by Govt. Of India
- In 2018, ‘The Best Social Exemplary Award’, by Mahindra Group presented by Anand Mahindra himself
- In 2019, ‘India’s Best Social Enterprise Award’, by ISB Hyderabad
Along with these, Khadyam’s success story is published in several renowned magazines and newsletters across the country, giving it a nationwide presence.
With an enormous reverence in a short span, Sitaram and Madhvi aim to augment the Company on automation. This will help in optimizing production, making assessment processes more streamlined. Sitaram says, ”Our endeavour is always on making food more innovative and healthy”. Shortly, Khadyam is also focusing on going Global. By 2021, it aims to enter more than 13 global regulated markets including countries such as USA, Japan, Australia, etc. and grow into a more people-centric Company.