For any Mumbaikar, it is a task to travel to the outskirts of the city in Kalyan. But we were keen on meeting Kedia Organics, one of the key organic food producers for Mumbai. The seeds for Kedia Organics were sown by Dinesh Kedia and is currently being taken forward by his son, Nitin Kedia. It was back in the 90s when the Kedia family bought a piece of land in Kalyan, near Mumbai. It was in the middle of nowhere at that time and not much thought had gone in to what would be done on the land. “We started going there, once in a while, just to prune a few things my father had planted,” recollects Nitin over a cup of green tea in his office.
It was during this time that one of Nitin’s cousins was detected with cancer and it came as a shock to the entire family. At this point, Dinesh (Nitin’s father) started researching and found some studies indicating that wheat grass could be helpful in containing the spread of cancer through the body. This is when he started growing wheat grass back in the year 2000. “We found that wheat grass was actually helping him, so we started growing more of it. We evened out the land to grow wheat grass,” says Nitin.
After this, they started getting requests from family and friends, or through acquaintances, asking for the same. They would simply give it away or ask them to visit the farm and collect it. “As the word spread, we started getting more enquiries, some of them from people getting treated at the Tata Memorial Cancer Hospital. We were reaching a stage where we had to take a decision about how to take this forward,” says Nitin. He had just finished his studies in the UK, the family had started growing wheat grass commercially and there still remained plenty of land unused- all these factors led to the setting up of Kedia Organics with the aim of taking organic and naturally grown produce to more people.
Taking into account the requests coming in, Kedia Organics started growing food in bigger patches and began delivery only in Kalyan. With time, their operations also expanded. The range of medicinal herbs grew to include Giloy and Aloe Vera. It has been slow growth, but that’s how it is in nature. One probably can’t expect inorganic growth in the field of organic produce.
“Most of the wheat grass sold in and around Mumbai is from our farms. A lot of dealers buy from us, some do their own branding and sell it further and hence a lot of customers may not know the source. We finally launched our e-com website as recently as 2016,” says Nitin. This is also the year when Kedia Organics got its organic certification. Early on, the website didn’t get them any orders. Neither did the app. But over time, with Facebook promotions and other online channels, persistence has reaped rewards and most of their orders are now through the website.
Over time, Kedia Organics has also experimented with various models. They have their own farm and have also taken close to hundred acres of land under lease agreement, where they have their own work force plus train the local farmers into growing organic. Apart from this, they have partner farms in places like Himachal and Assam. “We make sure the farmers are following the same norms as the ones we follow on our farms, in line with the certifications,” shares Nitin. Kedia Organics also started dairy farming in 2017-18 with only Gir Cow (the desi breed of cows) and following ethical practices like not using machines for milking and taking care of the cows even after they stop giving milk. “A lot of our practises and implementation we’ve learnt from other people and farms. Our basic education is not in farming, neither do we have the background, but we travel, meet people and learn what can be learned,” says Nitin.
Kedia Organics has both perishables and non-perishables for sale on their website. Perishables (fresh vegetables, fruits, etc. that have a short shelf like) are delivered only in Mumbai and the other items like organic pulses, cereals, masalas, etc. are shipped throughout India. They get about about 40 retail orders in a day of which around 50% are through the app and the rest through the website. A team size of 42 runs the Kedia Organics engine of which there are more than 20 people on the farm and the rest for deliveries and operation management. There is a central unit close to the farm where all the orders are packed and sent out for deliveries.
“The reactions which we get are amazing, especially for medicinal herbs like brahmi, aldusa, costus igneus. Lot of people have benefited from papaya leaf and wheatgrass shots. These are not miraculous cures but things that help. Also, lots of customers are approaching us directly which is validation for what we do,” says Nitin.
Kedia Organics has been around for more than a decade and it’s not a very big business in Nitin’s word but it has surely created social impact. Every week, the farm hosts a meal for the needy to walk in and have a good healthy meal apart from distribution of fruits. There are also blanket distribution campaigns in the winters. Schools and corporates also many a times send groups to the farm. These are little steps to help people connect back to the soil and appreciate the efforts that a farmer puts in to get food on our tables. The plan for Kedia Organics is to grow steadily and deliver to organic produce to more and more people.
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