QUEEN'S ROAD:Preservatives have penetrated every form of food and are slowly, silently causing our bodies to deteriorate. For years, Durairaj Rangaswamy has been part of the fight against this destructive trend. His company Mother India Farms manufactures organic juices and sells them in international and domestic markets, including Bengaluru.
One of its three manufacturing units is on Kanakapura Road. “Nature’s Basket and Total Mall are among the 150 outlets that sell products of Mother India Farms in the city,” Rangaswamy said.
It all started in 1997 when Rangaswamy, who was then working as chief engineer at Ferro Magnets and Allied Products, bought 200 hectares of farmland in Hosur, Tamil Nadu, in an attempt connect with his roots.
Growing up in Salem, he had been exposed to farming through his uncles and grandfather. “I learned how cow dung is converted into manure. With huge pots of jaggery, my grandmother would create soil nutrients with her bare hands,” he said.
At first, he tried to sell Alphonso mangoes at 25 per cent above the market price in Tamil Nadu. Alphonso mangoes grew in abundance on his plot. “But I realised that people are not interested in paying a premium for fruit and will buy what is easily available,” he said. Even back then he wanted to make a contribution to the food industry, but did not know how.
The idea came to him during a business trip abroad. While staying overnight at an inn at the Austria border, he was offered organic mango juice for desert. “The owner explained to me that it was free of pesticides and chemicals.
More than anything, it tasted heavenly. It then struck me that this is what I should do,’ Rangaswamy told City Express.
Subsequently, he spent a long time researching organic fruits and attended several international food fares in Germany, where he observed great demand for mango pulp in the baby food market.
For a long time after establishing Mother India Farms in 2000, Rangaswamy limited himself to manufacture and sale of fruit puree. In 2012, the company started exporting mango, guava, pineapple and mixed fruit juice to Europe and the United States as well. Around 90 per cent of the products are exported to international markets; the rest go to Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
“After Tamil Nadu, I chose to launch my products in Bengaluru because of its cosmopolitan population and awareness level,” Rangaswamy said.
According to him, the bottles come with the food certification logo of the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. Apart from juice and puree, the company also sells organic fruit bars.
As his business grew, Rangaswamy had to make sure the produce rose proportionally. His team educated other farmers about the benefits and techniques of organic farming. “It took some time convincing them, showing them the process. I have to keep buying from them to keep their motivation up,” he said. Today, his company uses fruits grown on 1,200 hectares by 250 farmers in Hosur.
Mother India Farms plans to start converting the nutritious Chia seeds from Mexico into paste and jelly in the near future. “I do not want to grow vertically in this business. I want to mobilise more farmers and keep educating them. At the same time, I wanted to keep the products consistent,” Rangaswamy said.