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Exclusive Interview: Chakri Originals

The trend for organic food and natural ways of life has been on a rise in Ahmedabad. This trend also brings in a new range of opportunities for entrepreneurs who are keen on setting up startups with social impact.One such Ahmedabad based startup is Chakri Originals.

Chakri Originals supports salt farmers in Gujarat with increasing their income by producing and distributing a fair-trade salt brand. Infact, it is India’s first exclusive fair-trade and organic brand that offers India’s finest products. The idea behind Chakri is to create a farmer centric brand to give farmers an opportunity to grow. By doing this they are increasing the demand for natural and fair trade products. Chakri Originals initiative also supports sustainable farming methods and is working towards sustainable entrepreneurship.

The Ahmedabad Blog connected with Chakri Originals to understand their brand and their organic product offering. 

Give us a brief about Chakri Originals and your product line

Chakri Originals is an initiative to help Indian farmers improve the quality of their lives and obtain a fair price for their products. It started in 2011 when the founder Nick van der Velde came to Ahmedabad to help an Ngo called Gian install windmills for the salt farmers of Amreli. On visiting the farmers and seeing their plight Nick was sure that something could be done to stop them from being exploited. They needed to sell directly to the customer. Chakri Originals is currently selling natural sea salt that contains sea minerals considered good for health and no added preservatives. It is packaged in a sleek looking grinder that allows you to freshly grind salt over your food enhancing its taste. Refill for this salt are available in zip lock bags that are user friendly. We also have a variant of this sea salt which contains permitted levels of iodine and is commonly referred to as kitchen salt. We have recently managed to replicate the same model to black pepper that is grown in Kerala and is organic. So now we have both natural sea salt from Amreli and whole black pepper from Wayanad in Kerala. And we are also in the process of adding more spices to our product line.

*all our products are fair-trade and organic

Chakri Originals cooperates with Indian farmers to  serve you premium quality products straight  from the origin.
Chakri Originals cooperates with Indian farmers to serve you premium quality products straight from the origin.

What is the thought process behind the brand name

The word Chakri in Hindi means a cycle. And Originals comes from origin meaning from the source. Chakri would also refer to the circular motion of the windmill that is used for the process of pumping sea water to extract salt. Chakri Originals stands for a quality product that sustains itself using fair value chains and caring about the environment.

You are incubated at Venture Studio (Ahmedabad University). How has the incubation helped your brand?

Every startup needs support and we were extremely happy to receive it from venture studio. Right from offering work space to giving inputs and feedback regarding products, branding and all other road bumps we had initially they supported us throughout. We are also very thankful for the support we received from Enviu in Netherlands which is an incubator for social enterprises. We would not have been able to reach where we are today had it not been for our supporters and well wishers.

What is the USP of your brand?

We are a modern yet traditionally rooted brand that connects with young, aware or want to be aware individuals who are looking for a change. We understand agricultural issues faced in India and work with farmers to create a solution driven process to eradicate problems and build a sustainable brand. We don’t think of farmers as mere producers meant to mechanically grow what we eat. Communicating the importance of working together rather than producers and consumers is the key to change.

Our modern packaging and design that uses zip locks and glass grinders is the best example to illustrate our forward thinking and attitude.

Chakri’s salt and pepper is  currently available in grinders and  resealable pouches (800g).
Chakri’s salt and pepper is currently available in grinders and resealable pouches (800g).

What do you think about the scope of organic salt and pepper in India?

Organic in general is a category of food that is gaining popularity in big cities. We now even see the transition in small cities and towns. Organic pepper is more known to people where as salt has a long way to go because it is still considered a common commodity which makes it price sensitive.

However for both condiments the market is growing and we hope to spread awareness about Chakri Originals to as many as possible. All you have to do is try our salt to taste the difference!

Chakri's products are organic and do not  contain any additives
Chakri’s products are organic and do not contain any additives

What is the biggest hurdle you have faced or are still facing?

Initially it was coming up with the right packaging and brand name. Our name used to be Chakardi which means windmills in rural areas of Gujarat. This did not connect with too many outside Gujarat and hence we decided to change it to Chakri Originals. One of the challenges we face is our price. We are higher priced than our immediate competition and it’s difficult to convince people who have been using older brands than ours. We are currently priced at Rs 19/- for 900gms of kitchen salt and Rs 49/- for 800gms of natural sea salt. Since salt is a common commodity we want to be able to sell to all. Our packaging is loved by most of the people and they soon see the worth of the price.

What are your future plans? Are you planning to expand your product category?

Yes! We would like to expand our portfolio to other products like coffee and tea. But for now we want to focus on salt & pepper and be the no. 1 fair trade and organic brand in India. We are also looking at exporting Chakri Originals to parts of Europe.

How can Amdavadis buy your products?

We are working on our sales and distribution channels currently and will be in select provisional stores shortly. However if anyone wishes to purchase Chakri Originals products they may get in touch with us via our Facebook page or website. We are also available in ICYPIK, a provisional store at Vijay char rasta.

One piece of advice for Amdavadi entrepreneurs

If you believe in the idea you have- Make it happen! We believe everyone should know what they are eating and where their food comes from. We strive to bring about a change in the way our food is produced and consumed so that we have a sustainable model.

 

Chakri Originals is the beginning of a movement to turn organic and be environment friendly. We wish Nick van der Velde and the entire team of Chakri Originals good luck for their venture and we are looking forward to more organic products from them. 

To know more about Chakri Originals and their product line, click here.

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Hemal Mehta

Hemal is the Editor and Blogger-in-Chief of TheAhmedabadBlog.com. She handles the content strategy and development side of the blog and coordinates with contributors and interns.

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