What started as an experiment with 100 customers two years ago, is now an established business with over 1,050 regular customers, so says Swami Reddy a Guntur-based business men who participated in the Saras Development of Women and Children in Rural Areas (DWCRA) Bazaar. He is talking about his company that sells millets under the brand name Raaga. This reflects the growing interest in the people for almost-forgotten traditional grains such as bajra, jowar and ragi. The revival is visible as more and more of these have founds their way back into people’s diets.
Raagi to Raaga
It all began when a food processing company asked Swami to prepare ragi powder. While that was not particularly profitable and he declined the project, it did sow the seed of a new business idea. Swami did some serious online research and discovered there was a growing inclination among the fitness enthusiasts for millets, especially ragi which was being projected as a superfood. And so began Raaga Food Products.
The business made sense on many levels. It helped six local farmers from whom Swami bought millets. “Lesser investment, good yield and increasing demand for the millets is prompting farmers to take up millets cultivation. Over 200 farmers practise millet farming in Guntur,” Swami says. The millets he buys goes into his signature product— the Raaga Natural Mix. It is a ready-to-consume powder that can be added to warm water or milk. It is made up of sprouted finger millets, green gram, Bengal gram, black-eyed pea, jowar, pearl millet, wheat, corn, barley, cashew pistachio, cardamom, dry dates, brown rice and kidney beans. Swami supplies his products to supermarkets in Kancharapalem and Seetammadhara in Visakhapatnam apart from supplying to places like Rajamundhry, Annavaram, Vijayawada and Tirupati.
Another champion of natural foods and millets is Devullu Pachari who runs an organic millet outlet at MVP Rythu Bazar. He believes the time is right for millets now. “We opened the outlet in July 2007 and since then have been promoting not just millets but also other pulses and grains that are grown organically. In the last six months, the demand for millets has shot up. Earlier while we struggled to sell 50 kilograms in three months, and now we sell two quintals of millets every month,” he says.
He believes that the awareness about the nutritional benefits of the millets as well as an increased health consciousness amongst people has made millets popular across all age groups. Even doctors are recommending millets for senior citizens and diabetics, he declares.Devullu recently opened a branch of the organic outlet at Tribal Art Museum in Araku.
Even snacking can get healthier as Naresh Bandaru of Sumaja Ecowellness the city-based organic food store outlet believes. It sells millet-based foods in addition to millet grains. The store has cookies made with different millets and sweetened with jaggery, millet rusk, multi-millet dosa, jowar idli mix, ragi malt and vermicelli made with different millets.
Watch what you eat
Says Naresh, “Millets have been a part of Indian diet for a long time. However, the influence of Western food habits and the goverment’s green revolution that pushed for rice and wheat, reduced the production as well as the consumption of millets. But, efforts of some State governments like Karnataka in popularising millets has helped in rekindling the value of these grains.”
The outlet sells over 11 variety of millets and sources its products from several farmers co-operatives across the country which includes Karnataka, Chattissgarh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and parts of Andhra Pradesh.
For those who are still sceptical about the taste factor, may be a meal at Go Bhaarati may help things along. .The restaurant’s menu haskhichri, corn rice, fried rice and biryani all millet based. For desert there is millet paayasam, millet laddu and flaxseed laddu.