In India, where people devour rice as the staple food, diabetic patients and their families are on the constant lookout for healthier alternatives like quinoa, barley, and millets.
Entrepreneur Swosti Mishra is on a mission to help diabetic people enjoy their rice by offering them a healthier and organically grown variety.
It all started four years ago when her mother-in-law was diagnosed with diabetes and advised to stay off rice. Swosti noted she was not enjoying her food.
A little research led her to realise that two kinds of rice are available in India: rice grown organically without fertilisers and rice grown purely for commercial purposes.
She says the rice they bought from the shops wasn’t of good quality.
“The grains were completely polished, full of starch and sugar with little nutritional value. I started getting organic rice directly from a set of farmers. My mother-in-law has been consuming a set quantity for years and her glucose level is well maintained,” she tells HerStory.
After a few years of working with the farmers and understanding the paddy cultivation, in April 2021 she launched, an Odisha-based agritech startup that connects urban consumers directly with rice farmers.
The idea, she says, is not only to help the diabetic population but all households looking for a healthy diet.
MyeFarm may be Swosti’s first entrepreneurial venture, but she is not new to India’s startup ecosystem.
An MBA graduate from Regional College of Management in Bhubaneswar, Swosti worked at the US consulate in Hyderabad where she was leading the small and medium women entrepreneurship programme in addition to over a decade-long stint in corporate companies like ICICI Bank and HDFC Bank.
She has also served as the executive director of The IndUS Entrepreneurs (TiE) Bhubaneshwar, formulating the organisation’s strategies and developmental plans.
Swosti stepped on to the entrepreneurial path after she set out on a quest to get quality organic rice for her mother-in-law. During the process, she reached out to local farmers in Odisha, staying at some of their homes and seeing the difference in their work and processes on the field first hand.
With MyeFarm, she wanted to connect farmers with the health-conscious urban population who otherwise do not have the means to avail organic rice straight from the farmers.
She launched the business on a subscription model — farmers grow rice on request on a monthly, quarterly, or yearly basis, and customers are assured of traceability and quality.
“Customers feel they are growing the rice on their own because the farmers are growing it specifically for them,” she says.
The startup has also arranged field visits to farms, which helps boost customer trust and loyalty as well as the farmers’ morale.
“As farmers usually sell to the mandi and don’t meet customers directly, they appreciate this aspect. They feel important and recognised as food growers,” she says.
The process also ensures an assured demand and revenue for farmers; they no longer have to worry about sale and market pricing.
MyeFarm earns revenue from subscription charges while farmers earn the total price charged on the produce sold.
Entrepreneurship never comes without challenges.
In the first few years of working when she was working with farmers before officially launching MyeFarm, Swosti introduced and urged them to experiment with different methods of organic farming. However, many farmers, set in their ways, wanted to give up.
But things improved as they continued to work together.
Today, the bootstrapped D2C startup has developed a network of more than 100 farmers across Odisha, West Bengal, and Andhra Pradesh, providing eight varieties of rice to more than 1,000 customers across India.
Priced between Rs 89 to Rs 300 per kg, it has delivered more than 1,000 kgs of rice so far.
Swosti has invested about Rs 15 lakh in the venture and also obtained monetary support for farmers through crowdfunding platforms.
While the startup has not broken even yet, the woman entrepreneur is confident that the opportunity is promising as India has witnessed per capita rice consumption as high as 103 kg in 2017.
For now, Swosti is working to increase monthly subscriptions and is exploring B2B partnership opportunities. The startup is also developing an app and in the long term hopes to expand pan-India as the go-to platform with rice as a subscription model.