Millet startups push hard to reap rich harvest through building healthy society – The New Indian Express

September 24, 2022

Entrepreneurs and State government departments from across the country showcased their millets and millet-based products at the “National Nutri-Cereal Convention 4.0 (NNCC).
Published: 24th September 2022 03:17 AM  |   Last Updated: 24th September 2022 03:17 AM   |  A+A-
Millets (File Photo |EPS)
HYDERABAD: The world will be observing 2023 as the ‘International Year of Millets,’ and startups in the millet ecosystem are leaving no stone unturned to seize the opportunity to reap rich harvest. Innovative and tasty millet-based products, multiple business models evolving in that space, and encouragement given to farmers by a few State governments, have been driving the transformation towards sustainable agriculture and a healthy society.

Entrepreneurs and State government departments from across the country showcased their millets and millet-based products at the “National Nutri-Cereal Convention 4.0 (NNCC)”, organised by the Indian Institute of Millets Research- ICAR, at HICC in Kondapur on Friday. Their products certainly offer hope for a bright future for millet consumption in the coming years.
KV Rama Subba Reddy, a resident of Nandyal district in AP, spent most of his life in Delhi’s corporate sector. He returned to his roots and started growing millets in his native village, and setup a factory to process millets and make food products.
“I wanted to bridge the gap between the farmer and the consumer by eliminating the middlemen. I procure millets from farmers by getting into agreement with them assuring them a fixed minimum price. As a result, the area under millet cultivation is increasing,” said Reddy, who has founded Sattva Millets and Food Products.
He is selling millet-based laddus, browntop biscuit, jowar biscuit, jowar laddu and ragi laddu in a Diwali gift box at Rs  700, apart from his regular products like laddus, chivda, muruku, biscuits, upma rava, flour, idli rava and whole grains. Acceptance of millets among the people has been slow due to various reasons.
“There are three types of people who have moved towards millets. A sick person who has been advised to go on a millet diet, family members of such a person, or those from rural backgrounds and have now moved towards millets,” observes Priyanka, founder of Millet Bank. “If I tell my son to drink a soup made of some millet mix, that bowl may come flying towards my face. Unlike very few who have time and knowledge to cook millet recipes, a majority of them are looking for ready-made millet stuff, which is tastier and healthier than the regular food, which appeals to their taste-buds,” Raj Ivaturi, head of sales and distribution of Millet Bank, tells Express.
Millet Bank sells different variants of millet-based cookies, noodles and cold pressed oils.  Millet Bank has been delivering gift packs with millet products in baskets with Cheriyal masks and Kondapally wooden dolls, to make it more appealing to their corporate customers, hence providing livelihood to the highly-skilled artisans of the vanishing arts.

Srikanth, a representative of Millet Chef, has an elaborate menu of millet-based food products which cater to the needs of people from all age groups, and different economic levels. Millet-based diet cakes, bread, buns, pizza, burger, hot dog, pav bun, pies, tarts, breakfast, mini meals and sweet meats are just to name a few.
The millet business is now working at different levels. While there are those who source the grains from farmers and sell them through a brand, there are farm-to-fork products, franchise, white-labelling and other methods, through which entrepreneurs have been trying to enter the millet industry.
Name any dish, from traditional local recipes to Italian, Chinese, continental, or bakery, startups have found a millet-based version to most of them. Market linkage, branding and aggressive marketing methods are paramount to success, notes Priyanka.
Govt role crucial
The role of State governments is crucial for this effort, and through timely intervention, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh, are supporting millet farmers through various means. Since 2021, Chhattisgarh State Minor Forest Produce Co-operative Federation Ltd has been procuring kodo millet, little millet and finger millet directly from farmers through women’s self-help groups by assuring them a support price. The produce is processed in Van Dhan Vikas Kendras by the women and then sent to warehouses.
“The farmers had got accustomed to consuming rice and they had forgotten their age-old eating habits. Through this effort, consumption of millets has increased and so has the extent of cultivation,” says Avinash Kumar, pointing out that last year, 54,719 quintals were procured, which are valued at Rs  16.58 crore, and that this year, the State government is targeting to more than double it.
In Karnataka, the government has been procuring millets from 42 FPOs through a co-operative organic farmers’ federation in Tumkur district. The Odisha government has not only taken steps to create massive awareness on millets, but has also made consumption of millets compulsory as snacks during official meetings.

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