Millet-ifying the food game

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Mamatha NL

With an experience of 20 years in the food industry and a boom in millet production in 2018, it was a compelling idea for Mamatha NL to set up Urban Millets, a Bengaluru-based manufacturer of millet products.

Urban Millets was incorporated in 2018 with the idea of making the grain more appetising and simultaneously help farmers get a better price for their produce. 

“We started the company to offer some value addition to millets and for farmers to get the best price for their produce. In 2018, there was a boom in interest with millet melas (Exhibitions) and so on. People knew about millets, but did not know how to use them. We wanted to make millet cooking easier and make the end product tastier. We thought if we give some value addition to millets like make ready-to-eat products, then more people will buy it.” 

The company has made an investment of Rs 1 crore and is run and managed by women entrepreneurs. Urban Millets currently has 50 employees.

“People usually consider millets to be a healthy food option, but not a very appetising one. We want to change this perception. We have also introduced the TruMillets experience truck, where we give free samples to people,” says Mamatha.

Millet, says Mamatha, can be grown in any condition and it takes only 300 litres of waters to grow 1 kg, whereas wheat and rice take 6,000-8,000 litres of water per kg. Currently, the start-up is directly buying from the farmers and the Farmer Producer Organisatons (FPOs). The start-up further plans to give seeds to farmers and grow its own millets. 

Urban Millets has recently launched its new facility “TruMillets” and a range of ready-to-eat products of various millet premixes. The company has launched 35 new products and plans to add 20 more to the portfolio by the end of March this year, Mamatha says. 

The facility, located at Hegganahalli, will provide a better yield than the existing small centres in Karnataka. “It will also help cut down transportation costs that we used to incur in the absence of an advanced facility centre in the State,” she says.

The range of products includes Dosa and Idli mix, Upma, Pongal, Kesaribath, Kheer, Murukku, Chiwda, Smoothies and Porridges, which can all be prepared and served within 3 to 8 minutes. Each of these products is free from added preservatives and is 100% natural.

The start-up has tied-up with various companies for branding like Big Basket and Nilgiris in India and Kapka Foods in the USA.  

Talking about the company’s newly launched facility centre, Mamatha says, “We realised that there is no major millet processing unit in Karnataka. Farmers used to sell their products to people in Tamil Nadu, so we wanted a millet processing unit in the state so that we can also sell the unpolished millet. We have installed one machine which has a capacity of 1 tonne per hour. There are smaller millet processing units in the state but the yield is very low. They get a yield of about 40-45% while we can get a yield of around 85%. The cost of the millet depends on the yield, so we plan to cut down the cost through the installation of these advanced machines.”

Mamatha describes GST as a major challenge, mentioning that for raw millets, there’s no GST, while there’s 18% GST on processed millets.

“Over the last few months, we have received good orders from North India. The penetration of millets is happening fast, we want to be the leaders in the sector,” she adds.

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