Anamcaara’s FarmLove – helping farmers grow chemical-free produce

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Anamcaara is a young startup founded in 2012 and based in New Delhi, India. Their mission is to connect and create synergies between the hospitality and social initiatives and build a socio-eco system which contributes to the prosperity of local communities within India and globally. Anamcaara is in its second year of operations and launched its first venture, FarmLove in December 2013.

The aim of FarmLove is to work with farmers at the grass root level to produce high quality local and chemical-free produce on a scalable level, to educate them, to ensure that they get fair rates which they truly deserve for the produce and to create strong linkages between farmers and the market by eliminating the middle men. The team is seven members strong and Anamcaara is backed by the Chemon Group for its initial startup capital. The three ventures under the Anamcaara umbrella include a Hospitality Hub, FarmLove and Artisanal Gourmet Foods.

In our conversation with Ambika Seth, founder, Anamcaara, she spoke about the why, what and how behind Anamcaara and FarmLove.

Edited excerpts of Anamcaara’s story:

I was born in New Delhi and studied there till I was 13 years old. My mother’s family has lived in Switzerland and my parents decided that it would be nice for me to explore Switzerland for a year. I moved to Geneva but one year became 13 years. I completed my high school and joined college pursuing hospitality management at Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne. As a part of our curriculum we had to do two internships and I did both of those in Hyatt, one in Paris and the other one in Delhi. By the end of college, I was sure that I didn’t want to pursue a career in any of the big hospitality chains. I wanted to work with a smaller firm which had a little more meaning and purpose to what it did.

I had heard the owner of Six Senses, Mr. Sonu Shivdasani, speak multiple times while I was in college and I fell in love with what they were doing. Six Senses is the pioneer of sustainable hospitality. I applied for a job and got in. Even though it was a smaller firm, it made an impression on me. I wanted to learn the A to Z of how to open a hotel. I got an opportunity to do that in Vietnam and I spent two years there. After two years, I got a chance to work with the top management at the parent company owning Six Senses. I was responsible for managing all the hospitality chains at a macro level. I learnt two very different angles of hospitality management in these two roles.

I am a very proud Indian and I have missed India in the last 13 years of my life. I moved back in 2012 and by December I had incubated Anamcaara. The vision was to merge hospitality and social initiatives together and have a sustainable social business model behind it. We have three projects running under the umbrella of Anamcaara and the first one to go into the market is FarmLove.

Farm Love started by chance. While working on the hospitality hub project, which will be based out of a village in Mewat district of Haryana, we interacted with many local farmers. One shocking thing for us was to see that these farmers were using chemicals on their produce because they wanted it to look better and shinier. This is what gets them higher prices in the market. The produce they use at home is grown in a smaller patch of land and they don’t use any chemicals on this part because nobody cares about how it looks.

We are working with the farmers through extension farming. We are working with clusters of farmers and are supporting them with quality seeds, training on different procedures to help in getting a good produce in a chemical free way. We are using our packaging as a means of educating the consumers about the health benefits of chemical-free produce as well as a medium to tell the stories of the farmers to create a connection between the producer and the consumer. We have our own storage and packaging areas where we wash and pack this produce.

I have gone through many challenging phases in rolling out FarmLove. From being questioned about our business motivations to massaging ego’s of government officials and off course bribery, it has been a hard journey which in its own way has taught me some invaluable lessons. The hardest has been to build the trust among farmers and convincing them to partner with us for even a very minor portion of their land.

Our forefathers produced and consumed everything organic – it was chemical free. But today it is difficult to convince farmers to do so because of the prevailing market conditions. We offer a higher price than the market price to farmers. The farmers’ income is not compromised and their soil quality will become much better over the years with the chemical free practice. The term organic has become a fad. People feel that if it is organic, it will be very expensive. Everything labeled ‘organic’ has become a niche product. Our philosophy is that every farmer must get his fair share and every household must have a right to eat chemical-free produce.