Helping Custard Apple Farmers Earn More For Their Fruit

Rakesh, Founder & Director of GramShree

Rakesh, Founder & Director of GramShree

Over a decade spent working in the development sector in India led Rakesh Gupta and Namita Pandey to eventually launch their own venture, GramShree. During Rakesh’s career as a development professional, he worked directly with rural communities on interventions to help poor farming families improve their livelihoods.

What he saw during his field visits to villages in the Tonk District of Rajasthan was that those with value chain linkages to market and sell their produce were progressing out of poverty, while villages without linkage to the value chain were lagging behind. Rakesh and Namita decided they would work together to develop a value chain that would benefit the poor communities and break the cycle of poverty for rural families.

Founded by Rakesh and Namita in 2014, GramShree’s mission is to establish an innovative marketing system to market the produce of poor, rural families in India, empowering them by giving them direct access to markets that will enable them to realize the optimum price for their products.

Upaya's Amit Choudhary meeting with GramShree staff in Udaipur, Rajasthan

Upaya's Amit Choudhary meeting with GramShree staff in Udaipur, Rajasthan

GramShree is one of 11 agribusiness companies currently participating in Upaya’s 2018 Agribusiness Accelerator Program. The Upaya team visited GramShree and spoke with Rakesh about his mission and goals for the company. 

Q: What motivated you to launch GramShree?

"I wanted to work on value chains so that we can ensure farmers get better prices for their produce. While working in the development sector, it became evident that this is the most critical sector to intervene and it needs specialized effort and focus. Hence, we decided work on a hybrid model in which companies can ensure the forward linkages and trusts can focus on building the capacity of farmers, which is very critical for sustainable intervention."

Q: How does GramShree help poor farmers? 

"Gramshree is working with tribal families to get better prices for resources and produce. Currently, Gramshree is focusing on two fruits, custard apple pulp & blueberry, which tribal families are forced to sell at throw-away prices. Gramshree is establishing processing units at source points, ensuring tribal families get better prices for their produce and opportunities for employment in the processing units.

Customers receive the best quality pulp made from natural, organic fruit. It’s a great product for ice cream manufacturers and other end-users."

Q: How did you become so passionate about helping poor people improve their livelihoods?

"I have spent more than a decade working directly with farmers in villages in states like Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.  I remember a day when Panaha Devi, [a woman] from Dheeka village in Tonk District of Rajasthan, complained to me that if no arrangement is made for the sale of her milk, she will be forced to sell her buffalo. That was the first time someone asked me what value we are adding while working with them. That was first value chain intervention I implemented during my employment period.

After I left my job in 2014, I came in touch with the Grashiya Tribes, in Udaipur district. They were living in pitiful conditions in spite of having an abundant of natural resources available in the forest. I was keen to explore the opportunity to do something for those tribal people, and at the same time I came to know about browning free technology which helps to process the wild grown custard apple pulp.  This solution combined with our intention, and thus we initiated our intervention."

Q: What is your vision for your company?

"We would like to impact lives of 100,000 tribal families and build brand on the frozen fruit & vegetable industry as suppliers of natural products."

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GramShree is a social enterprise working with custard apple farmers to increase the value of their produce by intervening in developing value chains and marketing. Through technological intervention, GramShree is also reducing the spoilage of the fruit, helping farmers maximize the potential of their available resource.