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After 12 years of corporate life in India & abroad, Gautham PB quit his well-paying job and founded Healthy Buddha in early 2014, with Anurag, in Bangalore. Gautham’s Father, Murali PB, is an organic farmer himself, and has been one of the early pioneers of the organic food movement in Tamilnadu. During his college days, Gautham used to help his father run a weekly organic farmers market. Exposure to wholesome organic food, from early on, was the spark that later on led to the creation of Healthy Buddha. Unable to find good quality organic produce for his own Family in Bangalore, Gautham realized that this would be true for others looking to lead a healthy lifestyle as well, and hence decided to bring healthy organic produce not just to his own family but to the doorstep of all those looking for genuine, wholesome organic produce.
Two colleagues who turned flat mates and good friends did more than just shoot the breeze. Anurag and Gautham PB often discussed ideas for businesses that they could start in the distant future. Both were in the Outsourcing Consulting sector and had worked in countries like Singapore, UK and Finland. They first met at the company they worked for in Bangalore and later met again in Gurgaon.
However, shopping for their families gave them the idea that clicked instantly. Gautham was particular about organic vegetables for his kids as he had grown up eating farm fresh organic vegetables, thanks to his father's organic farm on the outskirts of Chennai. "I realized that the tag 'organic' now meant expensive and a fancy trend. Besides, it was hard to source them.
"The duo decided to transform their problem into a business preposition. The conceptualisation of Healthy Buddha began in 2013. But Dalmia says that it has never been a 'business' and is more about a lifestyle. "Organic food is not a recent fad in India," says Dalmia. "It was the way we ate before the Green Revolution when natural fertilisers were used to feed the soil and plants, and crop rotation and natural means were used to manage weeds."
Healthy Buddha supplies "farm fresh" organic vegetables and non-perishables like pulses and lentils to customers' homes. Once the idea gained traction, the duo concentrated on finding customers and debunking myths about organic vegetables. To test the response to organic products, they sourced organic non-perishables and on one Sunday morning, put up a stall in Dalmia's apartment complex on Old Airport Road. The response was "fabulous" and about 70% of the visitors asked them to have organic vegetables the next time. The following Sunday, they had a stall in Gautham's apartment complex where again organic vegetables were requested. It was time to source vegetables.
Very often, people come up to them with the fundamental question: How does one know if the vegetable is organic? In answer to that, Gautham and Dalmia always say: Don't trust anyone but your taste. The taste is different, they stress. Tomatoes are juicier, carrots are tastier and typically, the vegetables and fruits may not be as "good looking" as regular produce. What it Means
The stress is on farm fresh vegetables from organic farms near Bangalore, in and around Karnataka and Tamil Nadu including Chennai. There is a network of farmers that Gautham's father introduced them to which has made procurement less tedious. Sourcing materials from all over India, currently organic tea is sourced from Assam and apples and rajma from Himachal Pradesh. 95% of the products are certified and in select cases (small farmers), they handpick trusted farmers and do random checks on their practices.Currently, Healthy Buddha takes orders once a week only. Friday is the day for delivery and all orders taken until Thursday are delivered. Online presence has been strengthened with a website (healthybuddha.in) where customers can order products or call up the given phone numbers with the order.
"Completely self-funded," says Dalmia, "you could use the fancier label bootstrapped!" Since orders are placed before the sourcing is done, operational costs are covered with some profit. Ever since the company was officially formed in March 2014, they have worked extensively on logistics and infrastructure. "The emphasis has always been to make the delivery from farm to customer on the same day," says Gautham.
To get the infrastructure to cover a large part of the city is a challenge that the two are working on. Currently, only Old Airport Road, Indiranagar and Whitefield are covered. Another challenge is to convince people that organic vegetables are not too expensive. "The additional cost of purchasing organic products from us will be about Rs. 1,500 - 2,000 per month," says Gautham. Not much, say the two, for a conscious health decision.
When a customer calls to thank them for giving them "tasty vegetables", the two feel that leaving their lucrative careers has been totally worth it.