Meet Reema Sathe. With a chemical engineering background and a degree in marketing and finance, she’s on a mission to improve the lives of small-holder farmers in India.
Reema launched Happy Roots in 2016, a snack food company that aims to bring healthy snacks to socially-conscious consumers. Happy Roots produces cookies and crackers that are sourced directly from local farmers and processed by rural women.
Reema started her company in response to a growing desire to work with rural communities and build sustainable livelihoods for marginal farmers. She discovered a high demand for healthy, ready-to-eat snack food while surveying consumers in Pune, and that’s how the idea for Happy Roots was born.
Happy Roots is one of 11 companies selected to participate in Upaya's 2018 Agribusiness Accelerator Program. The Upaya team visited Happy Roots in Pune last week and met with Reema and her team. We also visited several farmers from whom Happy Roots sources grains for their crackers and cookies.
We spoke with Reema to learn a bit more about her motivation for starting Happy Roots, and what she has learned along the way.
Q: How did you become so passionate about helping marginalized farmers?
"I quit my job in the year 2014 and started working with small & tribal farmers across Gujarat and Maharashtra. I had previous experience working in food manufacturing industry as a marketer with companies like Amul, PepsiCo and SAB Miller. I observed that [I was] creating significant difference in the incomes for farmers just by creating direct market linkages and avenues to process produce. [It was] an instant gratification for me to see small smart steps creating changes in lives of people for whom it mattered the most. I also saw during my work in villages that women were always the most enterprising and always came forth in moments of crisis. This made me determined to build a model that includes both small farmers and rural women. The passion about my work I would say just grew as I worked more closely with the communities."
Q: What has been your biggest accomplishment to date?
"Building an all rural women run and owned manufacturing facility in Sangamner. It took me and my team to convince 3,000 women about our vision and the benefits it would bring for the community. We envisioned a first-of-its-kind manufacturing unit which would be state of the art and would serve as a model unit for thousands of rural women across the country. The path wasn't easy. It took us exactly 16 months to make this come true. And we at Happy Roots and our 1,000 women shareholders are truly proud of our accomplishment."
Q: What has been your biggest learning so far?
"Stay true to yourself but always be open to change."
Q: What is your vision for Happy Roots?
"In the next 5 years we want to reach a 100,000 farmers and rural women across India and increase their incomes by 150%. We also want to become a leading brand in the healthy snack food market that represents rural communities and sustainable food in it;s true sense."
Happy Roots is a national award-winning company that creates delicious high-nutrition snacks in partnership with small farmers and rural women. They source high-value indigenous crops from small farmers with a buy back guarantee and fixed fair trade prices. They then process raw material into high-nutrition cookies and crackers in co-operatives run by rural women and, finally, market and distribute the snacks across high potential urban markets.