In an exclusive interview with Mukesh Gupta, Director Operations, Morarka Organic Foods Ltd speaks about ‘Down To Earth's ' inception and growth via the franchise route.
Please tell us about your journey from inception till now?
Morarka Foundation was set up in 1995. We began with the agenda for sustainable livelihood in agriculture. We have identified organic farming as a new emerging opportunity first in India and to take this initiative even before the government or research workers took this up. In first five years, we have developed the technology and in next five years, we have developed third party certification management system that is on IT platform. We have achieved over 100,000 organic farmer status by 2005. Subsequently, we spent time and resource to develop the value chain management that is form to fork processes for value addition. Morarka is now recognised as resource agency in many other countries.
What is your franchise model?
In 2009-10, we faced problem such as lack of marketing support for organic farmers. It was therefore felt to set up a pilot- cum- demonstration enterprise for organic foods in India. As retail model, 'Down To Earth' first outlet was set up in Tardeo Mumbai- the first organic food store in Mumbai. Based on the success of this store, the franchise model was evolved. In the 'Down To Earth' franchise model, Morarka Organic offers products either directly or through distributors. The franchisee is provided 2-3 weeks orientation- cum- exposure to organic farms- cum- training in quality management of organic foods.
What are the challenges in selling organic food?
The biggest challenge in selling organic food is the very high margin expected by the retailers. The high margin in organic vis-à- vis lower margin in conventional kirana - grocery goods, makes organic food expensive. Secondly, the lack of media support on educating consumers about the organic food benefits. Organic food is sold because of its promise to provide prevention from ill effects of pesticides-poisons used in agriculture.
How do you select a franchise?
Initially, we used to welcome everyone approaching us for franchise. Now we scrutinise their selling skills, their social background and their linkages in the place of store. For selection, we have a set of pre determined appraisal system in place. This is a very rigorous procedure and now we have achieved near to 100 per cent success.
What benefits do you offer to your franchise partners?
As compared to others, we provide a rigorous exposure- cum- orientation- cum- training to the franchisees. In addition, we encourage and participate in all organic food promotion activities along with the franchisees.
How do you differentiate your brand from others? And, how do you take the competition as a threat to your business?
The 'Down To Earth' brand stands for its quality. Morarka has invested over Rs 10 crore to develop the value chain processes through in house R&D. Morarka has tie up with over 100,00 farmers all over India. From Saffron in Kashmir to Coconut in Andaman, we source over 100 crop outputs from farmers.
To stay ahead of growing competition, what strategy does your brand follows?
All 'Down To Earth' products are sold after passing through rigorous quality management system. In addition to normal quality, the 'Down To Earth' also undertakes behavioural quality checks, introduced for the first time in the world. This is our biggest competitive strength.