Monks Bouffe is a Social enterprise working on highlighting the importance of Food, Farming (Ecological) & Nutrition by creating products like Peanut butter. Here’s the interview of IMoT Agri Forum with its cofounder and CEO Gaurang H. Motta. He takes on questions ranging from right nutrition to entrepreneurship hurdles in Food Processing industry.
Social entrepreneurship in agriculture sector is pretty much unexplored. What provoked you to enter this domain ?
While entrepreneurship had been something I was exploring since I was in junior college, farming came into my life much later. It was a combination of trying to understand why plants at home weren’t surviving even though my mom took proper care, reading about the agricultural distress in the state of Maharashtra which was everlasting getting worse and the love for food that shifted something in me and made me curious enough to explore more.
Post that a few weekend trekking plans which enabled conversations with farmers and the citizens of rural India who had migrated from farming triggered the thought of doing something that needed as much support as possible while also letting me live life doing things that I was passionate about – “travel & food”. Little did I know I would become as passionate about farming or agriculture.
Social entrepreneurship as a word entered much later, but the fact that if you want to engage in agriculture related work or for that matter any other kid of entrepreneurial journey – “social enterprise” as a model or idea is something which is the only way forward, as I feel.
We as humans need to start thinking holistically, as the crux of most of our issues is a single-tracked mindset to doing things.
What do you mean by Right nutrition ? What’s your ideas to to achieve that?
We as an organisation state that we work on “Safe Food, Ecological Farming & Right Nutrition”. From what we state and wish to do – our focus when it comes to Right nutrition is growing, creating and providing produce it’s most natural or unprocessed form while using the most nutritious & indigenous variety possible.
For example – our peanut butters are made using indigenous varieties of peanuts grown in natural conditions using ecological methods of farming and so is the jaggery that we use.
Using these ingredients we make peanut butters – where we use peanuts “with the skin” as that’s where most of the nutrition lies. Also, we use manufacturing practices that are as simple and with the least amount of machinery that we can use.
As per the data by UN, 1 in every 3 people on our planet are malnourished – but the scary part is that most of us do not even know or realise that we are malnourished.
The reason behind this is that we feel we consume enough food, but the food that we consume might not necessarily be nutritious. We wish to change this through Monks Bouffe – one ingredient and one product at a time. May it be a processed niche product like a peanut butter or a basic staple as rice (through the right varieties).
The major Hurdle in Agriculture based entrepreneurship is reaching out to farmers without middle men, how do you break that ?
Talking specifically of the hurdle that you’ve mentioned – reaching out farmers is a challenge, the bigger challenge is to build that trust in them, for them to work with us. It’s a slow process and the most important thing is patience.
Apart from that we engage with local organisations on the field in regions we wish to work in or with a few progressive farmers who understand your thought process.
Once we start engaging, we try and be as transparent as is possible in terms of every factor that goes into building a strong long term relationship and supply chain.
As a consumer, I feel packed quality food is always costly. Why so ?
I would like to urge every consumer to be conscious about whatever he/she consumes, but more importantly from whom do they buy what they consume.
From a packaged food perspective, there are various reasons that make it more expensive – but the two major reasons are – Taxes and the margins demanded by distributors. We need to work with everyone in a supply chain system, but as a consumer and also as a producer we need to reach out to each other directly to make things reasonably priced and also reduce the chance of any wrongdoing with the product.
As an entrepreneur, How do you welcome youths to generate business in agriculture domain ? How’s the business ecosystem?
We need a larger number of youth engaging in entrepreneurship, especially in Agriculture. I would love to welcome each and every one to explore agriculture and entrepreneurship singularly while then combining the two as a holistic system.
One, understand the subjects and from various people having different perspectives. Give this some time, maybe meet people, work with organisations like ours and many others as interns or stay on farms and engage with the farmers.
Two, Once you’re on this journey and have explored the external, you need to move inside, talk to yourself and try to know yourself, your thoughts, ideas and where you’re placed within this complete ecosystem.
These are the 2 steps that would help a youth really figure out where she/he is placed.Once you know that, once that is clear – the other things can be figured out.
The business ecosystem – I would say, for real bred entrepreneurs who are aligned and connected to the cause and know why they are doing what they are doing – the external factors will not affect much (yes they do affect the numbers, but that’s not all right).
What according to you is more tedious in Agri Food Processing business? Marketing or Sourcing quality produce ?
Honestly, both are really core areas,important and have their own challenges. But with the kind of food we are trying to get to the market, it’s a slightly bigger challenge since there is a lot of awareness and education that goes into the understanding of it’s real essence.
Finally, what’s the reason behind the name ‘Monks Bouffe’ ?
Monks Bouffe – We came up with this name since we were always going to work with safe, pure, pious and clean food and that resonates with the kind of food Monks consume and the thoughts that they possess after years of purification and simplification. That’s what we want to try and do with food.
Bouffe is just a French word for “a spread of food”.
So the name as a combination means – pure, pious, simple and clean spread of food options that we provide.
As interviewed by Ramsundar IFS, founding editor of IMoT Agri Media Group. email@example.com , follow me at Instagram ram_sundar_ifs