An idea takes root

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An IIM-B alumnus and an advertising/ marketing veteran, S Madhusudhan quit his job and took to farming. Applying several management techniques to improve current agricultural practices, he founded back2basics for cultivating organic produce for both retail and home consumers. This is his story By Steena Joy

S Madhusudan always harbored a passion for researching on various farming and agricultural practices, even when he was in the corporate realm. Being in the advertising and marketing field for over two decades, one day he stopped to re-evaluate his own fast-paced lifestyle and food habits after a health scare. He soon realised Bangaloreans have access to many different varieties of fruits and vegetables, but very few people are actually buying fresh produce grown using natural, sustainable methods, directly from the farmer. “After personally witnessing my local vegetable vendor washing carrots using sewage water, I decided it was time to make a change. And so back2basics was born. As the chief farmer of this company, I, along with my highly skilled team, aim to provide only the best high-grade farm fresh produce to consumers,” says Madhusudan.

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Interestingly, he calls himself chief farmer, instead of CEO. “The decision to designate myself as chief farmer instead of CEO of back2basics was well thought out. As a marketing and advertising veteran in the corporate industry for almost 30 years, I had already experienced all that this space could offer. I felt that a corporate tag would not be able to justify my dedication towards the company and the organic farming segment. Most importantly, I am a firm believer that a designation should accurately describe one’s exact function in the organisation. Since I handle the production side of our business, it made sense to designate myself as ‘chief farmer’. My daughter Bhairavi handles our corporate wing and is responsible for strategy and business development, hence her official designation is ‘idea cultivator’,” he explains.

20170115eh37back2basics farms, spread across close to 200 acres around Bengaluru, boast of many local and exotic varieties of fruits, vegetables and greens, grown using world-class techniques and chemical-free inputs with high standards of uniformity and consistency in taste, colour, texture and finish.

Commenting on how platforms like back2basics can nurture the stagnant farming market and give it a professional approach, he says, “The biggest challenge faced by this segment is lack of awareness among the general population. Therefore, organic produce platforms like back2basics can play an important role in promoting the stagnant organic farming segment across a wider consumer base. These products are far superior to conventionally grown crops, both in terms of quality and long-term health benefits. We are also expecting more growth in the future as the Indian government is increasingly supporting organic farming in the form of subsidies, and is also planning to roll out a comprehensive policy in this regard.”

But the segment is not without its challenges. He agrees, “Farming organically on an industrial scale is difficult. Also, there are many conflicting ideas of what organic means, and most retailers do not bother to educate the layman consumer. Besides, there are operational and logistics challenges, though we have already put modalities in place to ensure that we are able to meet consumer demand.”

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At the moment, back2basics supplies organic produce to reputed grocery chains, retailers, organic stores and gated communities in Bengaluru. Apart from that, the company also exports its products to organic food chains and retailers in other parts of the world. The USP of back2basics lies in its zero wastage policy. “We only harvest those products for which customers have placed orders, thereby, retaining its freshness by the time it reaches them. After harvesting, the produce is graded by back2basics’ B2B clients, who offer a grading premium. We also have liquidation channels, which have been placed for each grade of produce. Additionally, any product that fails to meet back2basics’ quality control standards is sent to these channels to be developed as compost or mulch, and are utilised in the farming soil to generate more value” Madhusudan informs.

In the B2C business, all the company’s produce is sold through its e-commerce portal (www.back2basics.farm). To ensure the freshness of products, the company makes sure that the morning harvest reaches customers by the same evening. From laying the seeds to harvest to QC and fulfilment, the entire process is managed in-house. “Our entire harvest starts at 1:30 am in each of our farms that are spread across the rural pockets of Bengaluru. As previously mentioned, we only harvest the produce based on confirmed orders to minimise wastage. Once the produce is harvested, it is loaded in our trucks and taken to our hub where all items undergo two stages of quality control. Once it is graded, cleaned, and sorted, it is segregated by order for each of our clients (both B2B and B2C),” he adds. Furthermore, as an environmentally responsible corporate company, back2basics uses only bio-degradable and eco-friendly materials for all packaging requirements. Once the items are packed, the trucks leave for delivery.

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He is confident that organic farming will definitely help boost the local economy. “Organic products are gradually being accepted in the Indian market since people have realised that these produce are much better than chemically grown foodstuff. Nowadays, most individuals have become health conscious. Additionally, the increase in demand for organic products has made way for many new ventures like back2basics to disrupt the market with unique offerings, allowing us to transform the general perception of this segment for the better,” he affirms.

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