Read full article By Divya Sethu @The Better India Photo Credit: Himalaya2Home
Babita Bhatt, a former software professional, quit her job to move to Dehradun and start Himalaya2Home, a direct partnership channel that works with organic farmers in the area to help them sell their produce.
Growing up amid the hills of Garhwal, Uttarakhand, Babita Bhatt’s childhood had made her privy to the rich crop diversity of the Himalayas. Eating delicious and organic food was a daily affair she had known all her life.
After marriage, the 43-year-old moved to an urban landscape to work as a software professional in a big media house. For years, she worked in the shelter and safety of her comfortable job, but things changed when her baby girl was born.
“I was looking for millets and maize that would have been good for my baby, and found that whatever I could get my hands on was far from pure, and completely polished. My childhood in Garhwal had equipped me with the understanding of what real organic produce is, and my search for the same in big cities came up short. From the look to the taste of the produce I found, everything seemed artificial and laden with chemicals,” Babita tells The Better India.
‘We can grow, but where do we sell?’
Babita was also acutely aware of the remarkable variety of crops that were found in the Himalayas. “If you consume 50 per cent organic products, but the rest is laden with chemicals, then the entire purpose of eating organic is defeated,” she notes. “I wanted to bring the lesser-known and indigenous produce of the hills to people’s doorsteps.”
Alongside she harboured a desire to provide Himalayan farmers a better market to sell the vast range of produce that they were growing. “I also had relatives back home who grew their own produce, and everyone’s complaint and fears were centred around the fact that even if they grew crops, where would they sell it?” she says.
In 2016, Babita quit her high-paying job to move to Dehradun, and began Himalaya2Home, an online platform that sells a vast range of produce grown by a network of over 2,000 farmers in the region. From flour to pulses, millets, spices, rock salt, ghee, oil, pickles, sugar, herbs and tea, the venture’s portfolio includes over 140 products that aim to cover as much of the hill’s rich crop diversity as possible.
Each crop is grown, processed and packaged in an ethical and sustainable manner, without the use of any chemical fertilisers or pesticides. While promoting organic eating and preserving Himalaya’s diversity, the company also aims to establish direct partnerships and empower farmers by providing them a channel to sell their produce.
“Giving up a stable job to enter the risky world of entrepreneurship was definitely a challenge,” Babita says, adding, “I moved there with an idea in mind, and spent over a year finding and trying to connect with different farmers in the area to get them on board. I met villagers to understand what crops they grow, how they grow them, and what challenges they were facing in selling them. I got myself registered with Uttarakhand’s Organic Board. To collect the information of thousands of organic farmers single-handedly was also a challenge.”
Speaking about Himalaya2Home, Babita says the name is a reflection of the company’s aim. “Our idea is to show that everything you need in your kitchen can be organic. We started with pulses and spices and eventually expanded,” she says. The platform currently ships to all over India, receives at least 3,000 orders a month and has a customer base of around 4,000 buyers.
Additionally, Babita also collects heirloom seeds from all over Uttarakhand to sell to farmers. She also introduced a native variety of black rice—indigenous to Imphal—to farmers in Dehradun. “I studied both Dehradun’s as well as Imphal’s environment to understand that the climatic conditions are similar. I procured the seeds from Imphal and gave them to my network of farmers. The rice took to Dehradun very well, and now many farmers grow it,” she says. “Many of these organic seeds are not available in other parts of Uttarakhand, so I want to popularise them and propagate organic farming,” she says.