Blockmagic: Please share with us your early struggles and what inspired you to start this business.
Akshay: Sure, so me and my partner Hafez Rahman were working in a different organization. We also had prior work experience, and in the core time of corona, a lot of people started losing jobs. I and Hafez have a unique set of skills and knowledge, which inspired both of us to start a new business by launching this product and eventually starting this great company.
We aim to give jobs to the local community in our company. Specially Hafez plays an important role in this, as all the mothers in our community just do their household chores and are dependent on their counterparts for money. So, we want to create a community where people are self-sustained and not dependent on anybody, and so we have onboarded mothers till now in this company.
We started our business on June 09, 2020. We started with an organic plan, but at the initial stage, due to Covid-19, it was very difficult to deliver the product to customers. Also, we wanted to provide the best pickle taste which is produced by the mothers of Kerala and is homemade. This led us to think and analyze which pickle will have a greater shelf life and can deliver the best taste also. So, we advised all our mothers to start coming up with innovative ideas regarding this, which led us to come up with 8 different and exclusive varieties of homemade mothers’ pickles from Kerala.
Currently, our flagship product is pickle and we are also on E-commerce websites such as Amazon and Flipkart. Our product is also available locally in 45 stores. We also export our product to Germany, and also, we get orders from the customer in the US, so we ship them directly.
So, as you started the business during the pandemic, we would like to know the hurdles and difficulties you faced in regards to manufacturing the product, keeping the shelf life, and also delivering it at the same time.
Akshay: So basically to keep our product shelf life more, we had talks with the safety control department, and also the nutritionist to keep our product best to its taste. For example, a Prawn pickle is very healthy, but if taken too much it can create a toll on our digestive system. So we check the concentration and as guided by the nutritionist we add 11 percent Papaya to it which helps the digestive system and keeps your stomach fit and healthy if in case you consume more Prawn pickle. We have a tie-up with a ship rocket aggregator to move our products worldwide at an economical price through various logistics services.
Please share your struggles through the face of the pandemic to come so far with your product with all the Government restrictions and imposition of new transport norms.
Akshay: So, basically, I started working on website enhancement and digital marketization, and I guided the local stores to do the same. As we were doing business with a social cause, we came across 150 influencers and they thought we are doing a great job, which helped us to market our product on social media and various TV channels nationally and internationally.
Also, we provide a product which is very fresh, straight from the fields or the fisher market. For example, in Prawn pickle, the prawn used is fresh and purchased from a local fisherman who fishes them on day to day basis, and they are not frozen or backdated prawns that we see in supermarkets and cold storage. Also, all the ingredients used in our pickle are organic, which helps us to provide the best and most fresh homemade pickles. We are trying to improve our profits more for our business, but we also pay a heavy amount to the E-commerce partner as commission to list our product online. Also, we provide 20 to 30 percent to our retailers.
We are trying to improve the operational cost now, as we cannot cut down the raw price of the material as we want to provide the best homemade pickle.
We started our product to deliver on blockchain and started accepting cryptocurrency in exchange for our product starting from October 28 as a mode of payment. We know that there will be many penalties and charges for doing this, but this was an amazing experience as we got a very positive attitude from the crypto community. We receive appreciation from a lot of people.
We were also interviewed by the national newspaper that we are the first company to sell the product through blockchain. We were the 7th company in India to do so, but I believe there was a report that there are other companies who have adopted crypto but they haven’t received any payments in crypto. So, technically we were the first company to start receiving payments in crypto. We had almost 200 transactions.
Although accepting cryptocurrency cost us more due to hefty gas fees, the crypto community was very supportive of us paying those fees. So, to commemorate that, we have launched are our first NFT on December 18, 2021, to raise funds and investment to make this blockchain a reality.
Right now, if the farmers start selling their produce at Rs 2/kg, the customers would be getting it for Rs 50. The rest of the Rs 48 are lost in the intermediaries. So, what we want to do is to create a trustworthy global platform. The trust factor is dotted by the 3 pointers technology and at the initial stage, we will be onboarding the farmers which are associated with us. So that will be like a pilot project to work it up to a scale. Then we can scale it up to the entire world.
So with this, a farmer in India, maybe from Kochi or Kerala, can directly trade with somebody in, say Russia or the US. Even though we are running with a particular platform, even we aren’t able to manipulate the system because the 3 pointers technology is made in such a way. So that’s our journey so far!
Please tell us more about your NFT.
Akshay: We have launched an NFT [Food Revolution 3.0] which is basically an art that portrays the reality of the existing food business supply chain, where farmers lack the privileges they are entitled to for their hard work to make the world food safe. The art includes dead fishes, protesting laymen, benefiting intermediaries, and traces of rotten plants. To support the noble cause of protecting Mother Nature and promoting our NFT, we are offering many perks for the NFT collectors, like getting a hard copy of the art, shipping the first product to the person for every new launch, and so on.
Tell us more about your website.
Akshay: I think it was around July first week. After just 20 days of starting the company, we launched our website. Because predominantly most of our sales come from online.
What motivates you to get better and don’t you get afraid that so many people are associated with and dependent on you? How do you manage to come up to their expectations?
Akshay: The thing is that the mothers also play a lot of roles like managing and in the sales part as well. We taught them to be self-reliant. Also, we’ve trained them on how to sell a product. The basics of selling something are applicable everywhere. So even if you’re in different form of employment, like suppose you’re an HR, you are selling your company to a new employee. So that basic skill set has been taught to them.
We are also building the blockchain platform so that everything becomes decentralized. Food is very basic. There are a lot of shady things that go into this industry. So, what we want to do is to create a very transparent and decentralized system. That is how blockchain is coming in.
Suppose if COVID wouldn’t have happened, things would have been a lot more different. Right? How would you have managed employees to get into this business then? Also, how did you motivate them to work at the time of the pandemic?
Akshay: We used to have daily talks and calls, and everybody came with up their sequel. That is how we maintained decorum. Everybody was motivating each other, and it was teamwork. From the mothers to the employees, everybody was earning at such bad times also. The mothers between the age of 50 and 60 years used to do the household work, but ever since we started this work, they no more used to depend on their husbands and kids for earnings. Now, these mothers can buy something from their earnings and gift it to their kids, which makes them very proud, and eventually, there was a very positive impact on these people. And their happiness we could see from their happy faces and feedback.
As you said blockchain proved to be a turning point in your business, but considering the fate of cryptocurrency in India, how you guys are going to manage it? Also, how are you managing it right now?
Akshay: So as per the government article that had come up, they are going to freeze the crypto [activities] into regulation and are not going to ban it. And we have also gone through official statements that came through the parliament, and if you check in the whole world, India has the highest number of crypto holders.
Even if crypto gets banned, it is not going to affect us because we are relying on the basic underlying technology called the blockchain.
Crypto is just an application of blockchain. So what we are using it for is just for the logistics part. So you will understand this when you are going to order a particular mango pickle that was harvested from a particular farm in Tamil Nadu and it was harvested by a particular farmer called Ramu. So based on the particular conditions and based on the weather conditions and the distance from where you placed an order, you will precisely know that at what time your order will get delivered. So like on Tuesday at 3:46 pm, this product will get delivered to you. So that accuracy and transparency will come up.
This underlying technology is not going to get banned ever in India. Like many banks in India have taken up this blockchain technology and even crypto, I don’t think it will be banned. Because the basic structure of that blockchain includes that no centralized authority has the power. Our bureaucrats have also told and it is also understood completely. We hope the people will understand the positive side of this.