Nagendra A.G., a 35-year-old engineer employed at a multinational company wakes up very early in the morning as he has to start work at the office at 7.30 am. Sometimes he skips his breakfast. But long working hours and eating unhealthy fast food to reduce hunger pangs took a toll on his health.
It was then that Mr. Nagendra decided to find an alternative source of food that is not only nutritious but also takes less time to consume. Now, every day Mr. Nagendra carries packets of ‘Kiru’ cookies made entirely out of millets.
He eats the cookies which come in flavours like almond, cocoa and ginger, when he feels hungry, especially during evenings. “They have more fibre and they give me energy,” said Mr. Nagendra.
These millet cookies which are gluten-free and packed with vitamins, minerals and proteins are made by a Bengaluru-based start-up OrgTree.
The firm is on a mission to revive millets as a part of everyday diet through cookies, snacks and health bars. The company said that it is finding a strong demand for their product among the busy technology community as well as health conscious consumers.
“We have got the biggest response from the IT people,” said Mahesh Basavanna, 43-year-old co-founder of OrgTree in an interview. The start-up has also set up a kiosk at Infosys, India’s second-largest technology services company.
Experts such as Vishnu Bhat, founder of Gsvb Probiz, a technology company focused on food processing said, millet is a balancing food due to its high fibre content which doesn’t allow a person to become hungry fast.
“Two millet cookies will keep you full for a few hours,” said Mr. Bhat.
He said that millets allow more nutrients to get absorbed by the body and they “prevent overeating.”
Mr. Basavanna, a mechanical engineer who has worked on climate change and global warming projects for the World Bank, co-founded OrgTree along with technology entrepreneur Chandrashekhar B. last year. The duo has set up a small factory in Thenkahalli village in Karnataka, about 100 km away from Bengaluru.
“I hail from the village and wanted to do something for it,” said Mr. Basavanna. He works with around 50 farmer families who grow millets in the region and later bake them in the factory.
The company even inscribes the names of the farmers and the villages where the millets have been grown, on the brown paper boxes containing ‘Kiru’ cookies.
Each month the factory produces two tonnes of Kiru — Kannada root for millets.
The company then sells the products to the customers through its website and online retailers like Amazon and BigBasket.Despite being a drought prone area, Mr. Basavanna was successful in his endeavour in Thenkahalli, because millet grows in less than one-fifth of the water required to grow rice or wheat.
They also grow in less fertile soil without the need for fertilisers or pesticides.
However, it was not easy to tap the food market that is governed by multinational giants like Unilever and ITC.