A couple of years ago, Rashmi Bhansali, who returned to Delhi from Chicago about 15 years ago, decided that her family should start eating organic food. There was just one problem: she found no reliable place to source pesticide-free vegetables from.
So, with the help of her husband Rajeev, Rashmi decided to start Ehsaas Organic Farms on some land in Manesar, a short distance from Gurgaon. Soon, they had more than they could eat.
Since the Bhansalis’ produce was organic and quicker to spoil, they needed to move it quickly. They soon adopted a farm-to-table distribution model, already popular in the United States thanks to the community supported agriculture movement, which pairs local farmers with people in a neighbourhood who want fruit or vegetables that have travelled the shortest distance from field to table.
Ehsaas enlisted over 100 customers during the peak winter season. Just past the entrance to their spacious white farmhouse on the outskirts of Delhi lie bags bulging with tomatoes, cauliflower, green beans and onions, awaiting distribution to various points throughout the National Capital Region.
The Bhansalis are part of a growing movement in Delhi. A 2010 report by the consultancy Research And Markets estimates India’s overall organic market at just over $129 million per year. There are now over five farms or firms in Delhi that have partnered with farms to deliver fresh food to homes in the city. These include French Farm, an organic meat and vegetable farm in Gurgaon that offers pork, chicken and ducks for home delivery.
Ehsaas’ prices vary by the service option picked. The Bhansalis offer a value basket for Rs 450 per week that includes 8 kg of seasonal veggies delivered to the customer’s doorstep. If a customer ponies up Rs 1,000 at the beginning of the year, deliveries are free. Otherwise, it costs Rs 100 per delivery.
Ehsaas, which is headed by Rashmi, isn’t yet profitable. But the business is quickly scaling up, says Rashmi, who has signed contracts with suppliers in both Rajasthan and Uttarakhand to source fruit.
Milk deliveries are next on the Bhansalis’ agenda, also to be sourced directly from a captive farm that uses auto milking technology and organic feed. Just don’t expect Mother Dairy prices: Rajeev projects his costs to be close to Rs 52 per litre wholesale. That’s steep, but then, he is sure there are people out there who will appreciate the product he’s offering. “We are looking for already-engaged people,” he says, with a quick laugh. “We are not in the convincing game.”