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Dial 'M' for Health

MAKING A DIFFERENCE: At the Millet mart in Madurai. Photo: S. James   | Photo Credit: S_James

For the past few months I have been noticing the sign board of Madurai Millet Mart glowing in the dark on the busy North Veli Street. But given the parking problem on the traffic-heavy stretch I never stopped by till a friend treated me to millet peanut laddus and a kanji mix consisting of major and minor millets. The taste, the easy preparation of the porridge and of course the stated health benefits drove me to the store and what a nutritional store house it turned out to be.

Just measuring 13 by 9 feet, it is packed with the power nutrient and even more heart -warming was the sight of customers walking in. There is hardly enough space inside for people to hang out and yet they keep trickling in and the three friends-turned- partners take turns to be at the store and help each customer in knowing more about the products and making the best selection.

IT Consultant Selva Ganesh, Vijay Prakash, who works with HelpAge India and businessman Vivekan call themselves the three M's. Their store is called Madurai Millet Mart and Madurai Meenakshi Millets is their parent company that manufactures and supplies millet products. It was in June last year that they launched the store with 20 self-manufactured products and an initial investment of Rs.1,50,000.

Before putting out anything on the shelf, we first eat it several times to judge the taste, benefits, accuracy of portions. "We are essentially the guinea pigs," laughs Selva Ganesh, who got into the business of millets to help his diabetic mother eat the right kind of food. "I started researching and read a lot about millets and that is how I evolved my own Conjee Mix!"

It contains all the four major millets besides hand produced rice, green gram, moong dal, dry ginger, garlic, pepper and herbs. A 500 gm packet priced at Rs.145 serves for 10 meals if you follow the instruction for preparation. Vouches Vijay Prakash, who regularly consumes the conjee mix for dinner, "I have lost weight and feel much fitter now."

The friends say they are not selling millet value added products merely for business but purely out of passion to keep health hazards at bay. "Our aim is to create awareness and educate people about healthy food," they echo.

Vijayprakash feels though the craze for organic food is growing, millet is a far more utilitarian and beneficial crop. "Given our air and water pollution, nothing can be 100 per cent organically grown," he says and adds, "the advantage with millet is that it requires less irrigation. Also the farmers -- from whom we procure the yield to manufacture our own health products -- use bio-fertilisers."

It didn't even take three months for the three friends to break even. Now, they do a minimum business of over a lakh every month and the conjee mix -- which is their most expensive item -- flies off the shelf in no time. "We sell at least 400 packets each month and are very happy that people are liking it and returning to us for more," says Selva Ganesh.

In the last 13 months, 10,000 customers have visited the store. Of them 500 keep making repeated visits and 2,500 now order online. Each of them was given information pamphlets about various kinds of major and minor millets and their impact on the body and also the recipes, where required.

While their company has introduced millet biscuits, cookies, laddus and chikkis, snacks and savory items besides the most popular conjee mix, the Madurai Millet Mart is now stocking 180 different products procured from other companies. "We want the Retail Sales Partnership to grow," says Selva Ganesh. While their MMM products have found way to stores across Chennai, Nagercoil, Rajapalayam and Coimbatore, they are also outsourcing items like rice and lentils from other brands across Tamil Nadu.

"We do not want to mix our product line but focus only on health food," asserts Vijay Prakash. The trio plan to open more stores across the city by the year end. The next immediate ones may be at Tallakulam and Kalavasal," says Vijay Prakash. The friends are keener on saving genext from chemical infections and are in talks with few city schools to introduce millet products in the school menu.

"We have interesting snacks like an amla dipped in honey, or peanut millet laddu or millet cookies, priced between Rs.5 and 10 per piece or packet and these can be healthy choices for school kids," says Selva Ganesh. They have also launched a wellness basket containing samples of their major products.

At Rs.500, it makes a nice corporate or return gift, says Selva Ganesh, and we have begun to receive bulk orders.

In recent years the city has seen a spate of stores selling organic products and some even wrapped up due to low or no profit margin. But the millet magic seems to work. From just one or two shelves displaying millet products in different departmental stores, the wonder nutrient now has an exclusive store to itself in the city.

It probably indicates demand is growing with the urban man making Millet his friend. The three M's have created a new blueprint by bringing value to what we eat.

The Millet Manual

The Major Millets are the Little Millet or saamai (with high content of calcium and iron adds to bone strength), Barnyard Millet or kuthirai vaali (is rich in fibre), Kodo Millet or varagu (good source of vitamin and phosphorous) and Foxtail Millet or thinai (is an energy booster)

The Minor Millets are sorghum, jowar raagi, pearl millet, corn maize are all full of fibre, proteins and minerals.

The conjee mix is prepared by adding one measure of the rice with six measures of water and pressure cooking it for six whistles. Ghee, salt and chopped vegetables can be added as per taste.


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Printable version | Dec 9, 2021 12:24:03 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/Dial-M-for-Health/article14477794.ece

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