Ekta Jaju, educated as a film-maker, heads ONganic.in. ONganic is a provider of organic foods. The goal of ONganic is to change the life of farmers living in ‘Nadia‘, a village about 3 hours from kolkata, by getting these farmers closer to the end consumer by providing people authentic organic produce. Ekta says, “What is produced by farmers for Rs 2 is sold to the end consumer for Rs. 20 and still the farmer is in financial jeopardy. Farmers don’t know the price of their produce. They wait for the market and sometimes the government’s Minimum Support Price to determine their prices. Moreover, farmers usually head to the nearest mandi (a distributor’s marketplace) to sell and sell even for a loss as they lack price information of other mandis.”
“Few farmers in Nadia, traditionally produced a good quality of red rice but they were not aware of its value. They took it to the mills and got it polished to make it saleable as white rice.” says Ekta.
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ONganic has brought together many farmers in Nadia. It sources the produce to sell under the ONganic brand and hence, provides the much needed reach to the market. For this purpose, it has through many initiatives provided the farmers training on organic farming and organised them into a farmer producer company. This company takes care of all the food processing and packaging. It is here that the product gets market ready.
One of the biggest challenges that ONganic faced was in persuading the farmers to grow organically. The output of the soil decreases during the first 3 years of organic farming; Moreover, organically grown food grains are more prone to pest attack as no pesticides/pest poisons are used in them. “It was a lot a hardwork, perseverance and the support of our farmers” that got us where we are.
Currently ONganic has its own physical and online stores and also sells through online market places. Its product line includes red rice, brown rice, black rice, flattened rice, different pulses, honey, sesame and mustard oil, all organically produced. The kind of chemicals used in food that is chemically produced is not only unhealthy but also harmful. This is the reason why Ekta feels that there’s a need for organically produced food. ONganic plans to expand across metropolitans and enter the ready-to-eat market segment besides selling organic foods, all sourced from nadia.
Ekta graduated from Christ College, Bengaluru in Communications. She later studied direction at FTII, Pune. She finished FTII in 2007. After following her passion in film-making for a while, she, along with her friends, started ‘Switch ON’, which was aimed at generating awareness about shifting usage to renewable sources of energy from non-renewable ones. The Switch ON team had more initiatives like helping farmers with micro-finance and access to solar energy devices and in particular solar irrigation. She currently runs ONganic out of her office in Jaju Bhawan, Kolkata.