About Ekta Jaju
Ekta Jaju is a Social Entrepreneur, Documentary Film Maker, Organic Farmer and an Environmentalist. She is the founder and CEO of ONganic. She is also a Co-Founder at Switch ON – ONergy, a hybrid social enterprise providing clean energy solutions to underprivileged households and institutions. Ekta has specialized in direction from Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune, and completed Goldman Sachs Scholarship Certificate Program on Entrepreneurship Development from Indian School of Business, Hyderabad.
Additionally she was the Asia Team Leader for Project Survival Media at UN Climate Conference COP 15, Copenhagen and COP 17, Durban.
Today, in this session we have Ekta with us to share her inspiring story with our readers.
You have a degree from FTII, Pune and could have easily started a career in film direction. Why did you walk in an entire different direction?
As a film maker, I was always keen to highlight what needs to change in our society – through documentaries, docu-drama, etc. As a social entrepreneur, I find myself becoming the change I want to see in the world. In addition, it gives me the opportunity to constantly learn, grow, and challenge myself each day, meet inspiring people, and work in the agriculture space.
Please introduce ONganic to our readers.
ONganic is a social enterprise that connects small and marginal organic farmers with urban consumers. Small farmers organized as a farmer producer company grow, process and package the produce, which is marketed and sold by ONganic through both e-commerce and offline platforms. ONganic was inaugurated by Minister-in-charge, Department of Agriculture, Govt. West Bengal, Purnendu Basu on 30th may 2015.
ONganic promotes organically grown indigenous variety of non-perishable food products including cereals, pulses, flours, spices, dairy and other agro-allied products. Our unique supply chain enables us to keep our price low and offer affordable organic alternatives to our consumers at their doorsteps while enabling farmers to earn higher incomes.
Our Farmer Producer company is certified by FSSAI for processing and packaging food products. All our farmers are registered with PGS Council of India, a organic certification process for small and marginal farmers. We believe in making organic food easily and conveniently available to all and have home delivery throughout India. Above all, we wish to bring to all the finest gifts of nature, with love from Mother Earth.
What motivated you to start ONganic?
The marginal framers suffer from the lack of direct market linkage. Through our direct involvement with the farmers it was understood that that a marketing outlet for their products was a necessity, or they would continue to suffer from the grip of middlemen, who enjoyed almost 400% profit on the product without any value addition.
Modern chemical forms of farming are not only highly taxing on the environment, but also involves high capital cost. Most of the small and marginal farmers, would fall in a debt trap due to high capital involvement. Extensive use of chemicals also diminishes the food value. Thus organic farming is a sustainable option for the long run in conservation of resources. ONganic looks forward to create an sustainable agricultural ecosystem.
Who are the core persons behind this startup?
The ONganic family works as an unit to ensure the continuous growth. Today we are at a nascent stage and work with a small core team, which has worked extensively since 2015.
Ekta Kothari Jaju, CEO – A Social Entrepreneur, heading a not for profit based out of Kolkata, Ekta Jaju has a plethora of experiences with working with bottom of the pyramid households. She applies her expertise to our initiative by overlooking overall operations and support functions.
Suman Paul, Project Manager – A Masters in Social Work, with over 9 years of work experience in the development sector, Suman Paul has worked closely with grass root level operations for various supply chain projects. His expertise and experience makes him a perfect fit for heading our ground level operations team.
Akhil Roy- Field Coordinator- He is the main resource person on the field who coordinates the whole process from identification of the organic farmers to providing support throughout.
Kaushik Mitra, Communication Coordinator – Armed with a degree in Animation from Arena Multimedia, Kaushik Mitra has had numerous experiences with working on developing marketing and communications material. His experience of over 7 years allows him to be a the perfect choice for heading our Design and Marketing Division.
Meghna De, Project Coordinator – Having worked on similar projects before, Meghna uses her experience to manage the day to day workings of this initiative, in terms of coordination, cooperation and process management.
Bapan Halder, Training and Capacity Building- He is a graduate in Arts from Calcutta University, and has 9 years of experience in Livelihood development. He has worked with many rural communities in Bengal.
Bismita Barman, Project Coordinator- She has done her master degree from TISS, Mumbai, on Climate Change and Sustainability studies and has closely worked with rural communities of Maharashtra. she majorly looks after the documentation and coordinates ongoing projects.
How much success have you achieved so far?
ONganic has achieved notable success in the first year of its operation, and has been recognised in different notable platforms. We have won the Zee Egiye Bangla award in 2016, for our innovative entrepreneurial venture. We have also achieved the Global Green Grants two years in a row. Our association with more than 100 organic farmers, and have helped them in their economic growth. Last year we have also extended our business channels and have reached out to more consumers.
Business Model of ONganic
What are the challenges in this business?
Organic farming is like the lost art today, there has been slow recovery in the recent times, but the expertise is lost. most agricultural communities depend on the modern chemical farming methods which are expensive. The major challenge in the agricultural sector in India is that the small and marginal farmers are fragmented. The resources owned by them is also very low. We engaged with the farmers and realized that integration of the small farmers into a group would help in their economic growth.
The farmers are also plagued by the interference of the middlemen, who with no value addition sell the product to the consumers at a 400% higher price. The direct linkage of the urban consumers to the farmers would ensure that the maximum benefits are enjoyed by them directly. The traditional methods and modes of marketing is expensive, so it is necessary to look for an economically viable option which will fetch the farmers the best returns for their produces.
How do you overcome them?
ONganic strives to provide Quality produce at Affordable prices. All our products are handpicked from non chemically farmed fields that use Native seeds – ensuring Taste & Health. These are processed using traditional and natural processes, which ensure maximum retention of nutrients.
The marketing model used by ONganic has a three pronged approach which enables us to reach out to the maximum number of consumers; direct sales, e-commerce or online sales, and door to door sales. ON-Women group has been formed which is network of women entrepreneurs, who engage in localized selling of the products. This is also known as the Tupperware model.
What are your future plans with ONganic?
ONganic is a new company in the organic market, therefore it has to take huge steps in the future to establish its identity. It is already a recognised brand in Kolkata, and looks forward to mark its footprint in all over India, by the next year. We also look forward to venture into export markets . Therefore the future plans are mostly around expansion of the business and establishing a brand name.
Please share the investment details.
We have received global green grants for consecutive two years which we have invested in the growth of our business and promotional activities. Friends and family have also been a constant financial support in the due course of the establishment of the company. This year we have won the Egiye Bangla show, which has also provided us with a sum one 1 lakh, which we have reinvested in the business.
You took part in a business reality show recently and also received prize money of 1 Lakh INR. What are you doing with the prize money?
The prize money is being used as working capital, and for various other growth and marketing needs of the company.
Your advice to those who want to become entrepreneurs.
Think about Social Entrepreneurship – The under served communities provide an enormous opportunities for those who want to learn, stretch themselves, do something different and satisfying. Don’t fear failure (as entrepreneur I have failed a million times, only to get up and find how to make it work), don’t be rigid, keep looking for solutions, ask as you may not know it all, and never give up!
And, one last question Ekta, if you have had one wish…
Organic means transforming the way we eat, farm and care for our natural world. Quite simply it’s a way of life.
The one wish is to transform the world into an organic and sustainable one.