Zama Organics is a homegrown food startup that is a one-stop-shop for 100 percent locally sourced organic produce, from grains and spices to seasonal vegetables. Founded by Shriya Naheta, the brand bets big on sustainable farming and brings to its customers the freshest organic produce. Their products enable a healthy lifestyle and also help in uplifting the local farmer from whom they source their produce.
In an exclusive conversation, Shriya Naheta talks about the organic food market in India and the factors propelling its growth in this segment. She further elaborates about Zama Organics’ Direct to Consumer (D2C) business model.
What inspired you to launch an organic food company? How much sales growth and customer base have you seen since the inception?
This dates back to 2016, I used to travel frequently around the country with my sister who has worked in the culinary space, to source foraged products. I was exposed to a large variety of produce across farms in India. This is when I realized that we have an abundant home-grown agricultural diversity of organic produce and it should reach people in the safest way possible so that the consumers have easy access to high-quality produce. I also felt that we were lacking a direct organic food ‘farmer and consumer ecosystem’. The official launch of Zama Organics was in the year of 2017. Since its inception, Zama Organics has worked continuously to create a healthier and sustainable tomorrow in all aspects of social, environmental & economic.
Zama has unlocked a 10x business growth for our 100+ farmer partners from 2018-2020. Currently, we are working with a network of 75000+ farmers and paying 30% higher prices by working directly with them. When the lockdown was announced Zama saw an overnight spike of 5x in customer order volume and sustained growth thereafter.
What is your assessment about the organic food market in India? According to you, what are the factors propelling growth in this segment?
India’s organic food consumption has definitely grown in recent years due to its advanced demographic dividend, improved purchasing power, and increased interest in the perceived health and wellness benefits of certain organic products. A major shift in trends and patterns of food consumption was noticed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, where health and wellness became a priority, and even at Zama, we witnessed an overnight spike in customer orders. However, India still is an emerging market for organic food and beverages.
Another major factor propelling the growth of this market is especially the growing demographic of young, educated individuals that are increasingly concerned about chemicals and pesticide residue in food products will further grow demand and domestic consumption of organic products.
How is Zama empowering Indian farmers?
At Zama Organics, we have successfully fostered a network of 75,000 farmers with who we directly work. Avoiding middle-men and working directly with farmers has enabled us to provide 30% higher returns to our farmer partners. We are also setting up the Zama Impact foundation which will work on farmer upliftment, providing farmers training to be more efficient, helping them reduce their costs, providing guidance on certifications, and assuring sustained volumes.
Please elaborate on your Direct to Consumer (D2C) business model.
We work directly with passionate farmers and avoid middle-men, ensuring we provide fresh & high quality produce to our consumers. Through our D2C model, our customers place their orders through our Zama website, app, or WhatsApp. Fresh produce comes from the farm on a daily basis and goes through thorough quality checks at the warehouse before order baskets are packed and home delivered to consumers. We believe that our D2C model works best for the entire ecosystem of consumers, farmers, and artisans, and the environment at large.
What are the consumer trends you are witnessing in these times?
The consumer in today’s times is getting more focused on healthy and fresh eating. Especially with the pandemic raising alarming health concerns, the focus on healthy and clean eating has increased multifold. Along with that, there has been an uptake in better quality seasonal local produce as they are far fresher in comparison to the healthy food that is produced and sourced from countries abroad.
Consumers are also moving consciously towards a plant-based diet looking to involve more food choices that are known to boost immunity, and are looking to involve home ingredients like turmeric, ginger, etc in their daily diet. Consumers are increasingly conscious of the impact of food on their bodies and environment.
At last, kindly highlight your roadmap for 2021 and beyond.
We are looking forward towards building an ecosystem that provides easy access to high-quality organic products and meets the growing demands of clean food products. We will continue to work at a grassroot level to gain more access to high-quality organic produce for our customers. Our goal is to provide our farmers with opportunities to unlock higher revenue and improve their livelihood. We look forward to building a trustworthy organic food consumer brand focusing on D2C in the metros while building a strong retail/ e-commerce footprint on a nationwide basis.
On the retail front, Zama has seen robust growth in its retail business and we have now partnered up with many retail stores expanding across cities like Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Pune, Goa, Surat, Indore, Bhopal, and more.