Satyajit Hange, Co-founder, Two Brothers Organic Farm tells us the ethos on which they are building the brand
- Increasingly, consumers are gravitating towards brands that are working towards a greater good. More and more people are choosing brands that are helping people and communities in whichever way they can.
- Two Brothers Organic Farm, an organic foods brand based out of a village in Maharashtra manufactures products like peanut butter, groundnut oil, traditional wheat flour, ghee jaggery, jowar among other things and has consumers spread over 45 countries. The business has also turned its employees into stakeholders by distributing stocks worth close to a million dollars to them, to make them 'owners' of the business.
- We speak to
Satyajit Hange, Co-founder, TBOF, who talks to us about the brand’s story so far, the ethos on which they are building the brand and what made them, a new business, distribute stocks worth a million dollars to its employees.
While big corporations have been trying to do their bit to assist society in whichever way they can, it is heartening to see many made-in-India brands coming up today that are going above and beyond their call of duty, and trying to give back to the society, to their employees.
After working for corporates for almost a decade, Satyajit and Ajinkya Hange, two brothers, wanted to do something more fulfilling. They wanted to get back to their roots, their village, and create a meaningful business. That was the inception of the brand. Over the past 7 years, the brand has expanded its product portfolio to 24 products including peanut butter, groundnut oil, traditional wheat flour, ghee jaggery, jowar varieties, and nutritionally rich rice that are delivered to customers in around 45 countries.
What makes the brand really different, however, is the fact that everybody involved in the chain starting from the cow herder to the driver is a stakeholder in the company. The Hange brothers have distributed stocks worth almost half a million dollars to their employees.
In a recent chat with Satyajit Hange, Co-founder, TBOF, we tried to understand the brand’s story so far, the ethos on which they are building the brand and why they distributed stocks worth a million dollars to its employees.
Q) Take us to the start, how did TBOF come about?
Our story has its beginning in the soil; back in 2011 when the 'Two Brothers' returned home to their village to take up farming full-time. With small, purposeful steps in pursuit of soil-health, today the Two Brothers Organic Farms is a biodiverse, self-sustaining natural food system, certified by ECOCERT, located in the beautiful village of Bhodani in Maharashtra, India. Our work is inspired by the simplicity and stillness of the village life and guided by the principles of Regenerative Natural farming. While securing rural livelihoods and creating more jobs for women in our villages, we harness the power of Community to offer real solutions to Public Health and Climate Change problems.
At TBOF, our brand's mission is to protect all that nature has to offer and to empower farmer folk and rural communities in our villages. Everything that we do upholds this sentiment. We launched with the help of Shopify which made it possible for to step into the world of ecommerce. Besides this, we have been able to garner support across social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Whatsapp, Youtube and Twitter. Over the years, we have built strong communities across these channels and they do not just support but drive business by giving us access to new markets and communities across geographies.
Our biggest USP is that our products are organically and locally made. For consumers who want to support local businesses making a positive impact on the environment, our brand is a perfect fit. Also, we work with over 1000 school students and three mainstream schools in Mumbai and Pune to develop community-led Organic farming training modules for them. Along with our success in organic farming, we want to spread the word, and have trained more than 9,000 farmers on practices in organic farming and will be working consciously towards betterment of people and farmers.
Q) Today, your brand reaches customers in over 45 countries, through e-commerce which is a big feat for a brand only 7 years old. What kind of reception have you seen globally?
More and more people are concerned about the impact these choices make on the planet and local ecological systems. They want to be informed of the source of ingredients, the packaging used, the people and processes involved in its making - how big is a product's ecological footprint and how sustainable is the entire lifecycle of the product – right from sourcing to designing to packaging and shipping. Our audience are consumers who understand the unmatched benefits of organic foods and are leaning towards organic farming as a natural shot to heal the planet. We have observed a change in lifestyle of people who are getting increasingly conscious about the food they eat, the source and nature of food and its health benefits. This rising consumer awareness and them wanting to make more informed choices that'll be good for not just them but also for the planet as well as make room for social good, the rapid advancements in technologies and it augmenting ecommerce and online social media platforms have made it possible for small businesses like us to access new markets and reach out to a global audience.
Q) You distributed stocks worth half a million dollars to your employees, which is almost unheard of in a small business…
One of the milestones we really wanted to tick off since we started TBOF was making our farm co-workers share holders of the company. Many of our farm co-workers are school dropouts, they have had to take to the life of hard work and toiling, working on the farm due to their circumstances, who never in their life thought beyond their monthly paycheck. But they are now 'owners' of TBOF.
They were the ones who were ready to bet their life's hard work on us and they are the ones who have pulled the cart until this point. So we decided to make each one of those villagers, illiterate, economically poor but humanely rich people millionaires. So, we handed each one of them stocks worth a million Rupees, free of cost. We have just started our journey which is scaling up to help 1000's of other farmers across the country very soon. This is a milestone we have reached but a start for many other interesting things to come.
Q) How have you been communicating about your products to your consumers?
This rising consumer awareness and them wanting to make more informed choices that'll be good for not just them but also for the planet as well as make room for social good, the rapid advancements in technologies and it augmenting ecommerce and online social media platforms have made it possible for small businesses like us to access new markets and reach out to a global audience. Our journey began with us selling at Farmer markets, we invested a lot of our personal time to engage meaningfully with our early customers and made sure they got to know us well. Overtime, we opened up more and more channels to engage with each other. We have a team that works full time on our online presence and manages all our initiatives across social media platforms as well as our website, blogs, email newsletters. We also advertise online to reach out to new markets.
Q) With the pandemic, there has been a shift wherein consumers now want more natural, safer food products. Have you witnessed visible increase in demand for your products post the pandemic?
Yes, we definitely have witnessed an increase in demand for quality and authentic food. Like never before, we are seeing young consumers being conscious of their buying decisions. Shoppers all over the world have strong spending power and are willing to spend more to be involved with businesses that follow sustainable, environment friendly approaches. They are also always on the lookout for brands that connect with their beliefs and values. These trends have been only reinforced by the pandemic.
Q) Looking ahead, what are a few things you will focus on, to grow the brand further?
Firstly, technology - to tie gaps in the value chain and secondly, product range which will expand considerably in the coming months across all verticals - daily consumables, Health and fitness, wellness, gardening inputs for customer experience and community initiatives.
Q) What is your vision for the brand?
It was a surreal feeling to realize that we cater to more than 45+ countries as on date - and have shipped to 650+ cities across the world from our small village in a corner of Maharashtra. The vision is to be able to make a global impact - to be able to create a world-class business out of a farmer-led, made-in-India venture. We strongly believe that India is poised to become the Organic Food capital of the world, with the soil and biodiversity that is native to our land, the rivers that give generously and our indigenous cattle that provide for farmer livelihoods to this day. A UN report had stated how 70% of the food we eat comes from small farms, this is exactly what we have in this country, small land holdings and farmers who really are tired working with non cooperative machinery. We are farmers ourselves and we will always speak on their behalf - where should we begin? First things - reject the chemicals, rejuvenate the soil, bring back our biodiversity, conserve water. No, 2-5% of the consumer buck won't do, put back 50% of the consumer buck in the farmer's hand.
Q) Once things open up and are relatively better, will you also focus on retail presence or is e-commerce where you will be present?
We were always powered by e-commerce. Our online website runs on the Shopify platform and this remains our main revenue stream. Besides our online shop, we also sell on other online platforms like Amazon, Flipkart and a few other curated online ecommerce websites. We retail across Mumbai, Pune, Ahmedabad, Kolkata, Goa and a few other locations through retail partners like Swasthyam, U-TURN Organics, The Farmers Store, Saukhyam, Holistic Basket, Gauri Organics, Zama, Seawoods Organic Store, Foodhall etc. We also sell at Farmer Markets in Mumbai and Pune. When things open up further, we have been planning on getting an experiential store working in Delhi-NCR which we envision as a collaborative space for conscious brands, events and get-togethers that help strengthen community initiatives for our brand.