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Adding value to local produce

Ganesh Hegde, Jan 12, 2016: 0:01 IST
Ingredients used in the products of GP enterprises, Sirsi.
Value-addition has caught the imagination of rural youth in recent times. Ganesh Hegde writes about two women entrepreneurs in Uttara Kannada district who prepare nutritious food supplements using locally-available produce

You have a couple of attractively packed, ready-to-use health products in your hand with the list of ingredients displayed on the glittering wrapper. At the first glance, it may look like a product of a multinational company.

However, these are the products of home industries headed by two entrepreneurial women — Poornima Hegde of Bellekeri and Ganga Hegde of Ragihosalli in Sirsi taluk ofUttara Kannada district.

Though distinct in nature, both ventures have two aspects in common. First, the seeds of these ventures were sown while these two women were preparing baby food for their kids. Second, a major share of the ingredients are locally available. As the products were well accepted by their family members and friends, they realised that there is a great scope for such food supplements.

Now, after a decade, the venture has grown considerably, inspiring other women too. Topping it all, both the entrepreneurs have cleared the legalities like getting the approval from Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).

Unique products

Poornima, under the banner of GP enterprises, prepares an array of six health products like Satwik kiddo, ragi diet, and rice with soya, which both kids and adults can enjoy. After extensive study and training, she has developed these products as per the Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI) norms. Most of the ingredients for these millet-based herbal products are homegrown, while some are procured locally.

“The products are liked by young mothers, especially working women, who don’t have time to prepare nutritious food supplements for their children,” says Poornima.

To ensure complete nutrition, Poornima doesn’t add chemical ingredients to the product. Thus, there are no chemical preservatives, flavouring and colouring agents added to any of these products. Due to this very fact, the products are packaged in smaller sizes weighing no more than 400 grams.

“Smaller packet size ensures that it is emptied within a period of 15 days after opening it. The mix starts deteriorating if stored further as there are no added preservatives,” explains Poornima.

The space where Poornima roasts, pulverises, mixes and packs her products looks like the extension of her home kitchen. She employs two lady helpers who don headgears and hand gloves while at work. Utmost care is taken to maintain hygiene while making the product. The pulverising machine is installed inside a closed cabin with glass door. “The feeling that the product is home-made makes a lot of difference,” opines Ganapathi, Poornima’s husband.

Her products have become extremely popular that they sell around 2,500 packages every month. She relies on word of mouth publicity and that has worked out very well for the venture. “Satisfied customers have helped us grow,” says Poornima.

Bharati Gowda of Mangaluru, one of Poornima’s customer who buys one her products known as ‘Kiddo’, is convinced that this particular product not only helps in maintaining good health but also helps improve it. It is also helpful for infants in the event of very less or no breast milk available.

Gaining popularity

Ganga, who runs Sri Ram Home Products, makes a unique product known as Brahmi Malt. The product is available in powder form and can be used after mixing either with milk or water. To develop the product, Ganga has got training from CFTRI. She gained further insight from her father who is a herbal health practitioner. She has used this acquired knowledge while preparing the formula of her product.

Like Poornima’s products, Ganga’s product is also chemical-free. It is prepared under the concept of Navadhanya (nine grains). The main ingredients used include sprouted wheat, finger millet, green gram, barley, pearl millet and sprouted moth, and herbs such as thulasi (Ocimum sanctum), ondelaga (Centella asiatica), and shatavari (Withania somnifera).The products are also tested and nutritionally balanced by consulting the CFTRI.

“Though my product is advised for use for a longer period, one can see remarkable results if used for about one and a half months,” explains Ganga.

The firm sells around 300 packets every month. The fact that the consumers have given positive feedback and are ordering for more has enormously encouraged her to expand. Sudarshana Suttamane, one of Ganga’s customer who buys the product known as Brahmi Malt is happy about the results it has been giving.

Currently, Ganga is working alongside with her co-sisters, Shaila and Medha. She aims to expand the effort in terms of variety and reach. To achieve this goal, Ganga has established a self help group, the Kalleshwara Svasahaaya Sangha, with 15 like-minded women farmers. She plans to add vegetables like carrot, beetroot, papaya and banana to the newly proposed products to augment health benefits.

Method of preparation

All the ingredients are dried, mixed and roasted initially. Some of them are sprouted, dried in shade and some other using sunlight. Later the mixture is finely powdered in a pulveriser and sieved. A small household mixer grinder is also used for ingredients of smaller quantity.

The powder is then filled into the food grade aluminium wrapper after weighing and sealed. Later it is packed using printed paper packet. The wrapper has all the instructions printed. Both the entrepreneurs have not taken any incentives or loan from the government.

People who have realised the benefits of these products, which include medical and ayurvedic practitioners, paediatricians, cooperatives like Totagars’ Cooperative Sale Society and Kadamba at Sirsi, are helping them reach a wider range of customers. These products, priced between Rs 85 and Rs 190, have already reached many parts of the State. Products of GP Enterprises are also available online and through courier service as well.

There is much to discover and learn from the variety of products that Ganga and Poornima make. For more details, one can contact GP Enterprises at satwikfood@gmail.com and Shri Ram Home Products on 08283-244837.

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