Nutrition too good

Nutrition too good

CE chats up with Hyderabad-based Raju Bhupati who is a pioneer of the millet movement in India. He founded Troo Good, which is India’s largest millet snack company

HYDERABAD: A market leader in millet snacks industry, Troo Good snacks manufactured by MforMillets Pvt. Ltd bring affordability, nutrition and taste together in one packet. Their flagship product millet chikki is the most selling millet based product in the market, with half a billion already sold since the inception of the brand. Here is a conversation with the founder Raju Bhupati. 

Could you tell us a little about your journey? 
I started by establishing Hello Curry, a company based in Hyderabad that operated similarly to Swiggy. Following that, I ventured into a new endeavour called Troo Good, which was established in mid-2018 with the objective of offering affordable, nutritious products in India. In India, the concept of affordable snacks, those within the price range of `5 to `10, has often been associated with low-quality items. Recognising this gap, we became pioneers in the industry by introducing nutritious products priced at `5. Initially, we offered a variety of products within this price point. However, during the initial six months, we focused solely on millet-based chikkis. We started distribution in schools and kirana stores and from just 25 schools, we have now expanded our presence to approximately 25,000 schools, where our snacks are widely enjoyed. 

We have established four factories, two in Chhattisgarh, one in Rajahmundry, and another in Hyderabad. These facilities collectively employ around 250 to 300 individuals dedicated to the production of our flagship product, the millet chikki. Our current daily output ranges from 15 to 20 lakh millet chikkis.

What inspired you to start with millets?
We aptly chose the name “M for Millet.” Anticipating the paradigm shift that would transpire in 2023, when the United Nations proclaimed it the year of millets, we foresaw this transformative trend as early as 2018. The brand name “M for Millet” was thoughtfully selected, and we took the necessary steps to secure its trademark protection. The rationale behind our focus on millets emerged from our entry into the highly competitive FMCG market. In this landscape, it was imperative for us to carve a distinct niche for ourselves. Our intention was to promote nutrition, deviating from the mainstream notion that cheaper products could be created using wheat, maida, or rice, which are inadequate sources of essential nutrients. We deliberately chose millets, recognising their exceptional nutritional value. We procured jowar, ragi, and other millet which are equivalent in comparison to wheat and rice, making millet 
a feasible option in terms of affordability.

What were the challenges? 
We encountered a significant challenge in ensuring the palatability of our products. Collaborating with nutritionists and scientists, we meticulously worked to develop our flagship product, millet chikki. The choice to emphasise millet as the key ingredient was driven by two fundamental factors: its superior nutritional composition and its affordability. This confluence of nutrition and affordability has been the cornerstone of our approach. 

During the initial phase of our journey, one of the foremost challenges we faced was the inherently limited shelf life of millets. Due to their low fibre content, millets possess a considerably short shelf life. For instance, if one were to store ragi powder or ragi in a container, its viability would not exceed to one and a half months at most. Hence, we diligently worked for several years to enhance the shelf life of our millet-based products while simultaneously optimising their taste profile.

Can you share some specific examples where you have made a breakthrough in terms of reaching out to people? 
Firstly, we organised targeted nutrition workshops in select schools as a means of promoting awareness about the benefits of millet. These workshops serve as valuable platforms for educating students on the nutritional advantages offered by millet. Secondly, at the store level, we have executed numerous branding exercises to ensure the widespread propagation of millets.

Through visually captivating campaigns, we aim to capture the attention of consumers and convey the value of incorporating millets into their dietary choices. Thirdly, in the state of Chhattisgarh, we have deployed dedicated personnel to Anganwadi centres and certain schools, specifically those catering to pregnant women and children. These efforts aim to raise awareness about millets and their nutritional benefits. We personally engage with individuals, providing them with detailed explanations about ragi and its rich calcium content, among other aspects. These physical outreach activities require a substantial effort but are essential for disseminating knowledge and fostering an understanding of millets. Our product was honoured with the ‘Product of the Year Award’ by Outlook Business. We were also named the ‘Best Millet Startup’ by Niti Aayog and the Agriculture Department, overseen by the Central Government. 

Did you always want to become a businessman? 
No, that was not the case. Prior to venturing into the food industry, I had extensive experience working in a computer conglomerate for approximately 15 years. I developed a strong interest in the food tech sector, seeing the emergence of companies like Zomato and Swiggy. In 2013, I decided to leave the IT industry and embark on a new journey in the food industry.

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