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Former Silicon Valley engineer brings innovation to Organic Farming in India

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Madhucharan Chikkadebaiah at his Organic Fam

SAN JOSE, Calif. (Diya TV): Madhucharan Chikkadevaiah, a 37 year old software engineer gives up his luxuries life in the USA and decides to help the framers from his hometown Mandya, a small town that is situated on the Bengaluru-Mysuru highway.

Madhucharan was a software engineer working in the Bay Area. He travelled the world, worked with various companies and became the co-founder of a company in San Jose, California. When he was at his highest point of his success with the new product that he had designed- “I felt I had already done all that I wanted to in the software field. What more was left? Be chief executive of yet another company? That was not fun, anymore”, he added. Finally, in 2014 August Madhucharan decided to go back to India.

Until recently, Mandya was branded the suicide capital of farmers due to their huge debts. Although farmers from Mandya had over 200 acres of land to produce crops, they did not see much profits and today the farmers are able to sell their products with no delays, middlemen and negotiations. The positive change in these farmers lives has brought some hope for betterment and all thanks to this ex-software engineer Madhucharan who initiated the “Mandya Organic Farmers Cooperative Society”.

Madhucharan Chikkadebaiah, at one of his organic farms in Mandya Karnataka

Madhucharan Chikkadevaiah, at one of his organic farms in Mandya Karnataka

 

After Madhucharan moved back to Mandya, he observed even though the farmers were following the modern techniques of farming they were unable to yield profits due to lack of marketing skills, improper information exchange and inability to bargain effectively with middlemen.

[quote style=’1′ cite=” title=”]“In the entire world, the farmer is the only person who sells at wholesale, but buys at a retail price”[/quote] – Madhucharan Chikkadevaiah

Madhucharan believes this fundamental fiscal truth is driving the farmers into poverty and he wants to change that.

“Over the years the farmers have been misguided to use all sorts of fertilizers and chemicals, which in the long run have destroyed the soil and affected crop yields. They made the mistake of following agriculture experts who had no practical expertise. As a result, farmers failed miserably. Only 5-6 per cent of farmers succeeded as they followed natural and organic methods of farming,” says Madhu.

Once Madhucharan understood that these were the reasons, he and his other friends pooled in about 150 thousand dollars to form the “Organic Mandya Co-operative Society” – a place where the farmers could sell what they produce under reasonable prices. Under this banner- Madhucharan also started a restaurant which promoted organic food.

The 'Organic Mandya' store along 'Mysuru-Bengaluru' highway

The ‘Organic Mandya’ store along ‘Mysuru-Bengaluru’ highway

Madhucharan believed that folks would stop by for a bite at the restaurant and may be encouraged to buy their weekly groceries at the store. However, the opposite happened.

Since the location is on the Mysuru-Bengaluru highway, it is ideal to get a large number of customers. With an oil extraction mill, customers can buy fresh oil as well. Among the 50-55 products sold, the most sought after products are Joni Bella (a liquid form of jaggery), jaggery powder and jaggery blocks.

Seeing the huge demand for products has boosted the confidence of farmers, who are now working with great vigor to meet the rising demand.

Madhucharan has not only incorporated the organic techniques of farming, but is also assimilating the right practices which would benefit the farmer.

  • Sweat Donation Campaign “More than 20 percent of farmers’ yield is lost because of lack of timely labour”, says Madhu. This thought of his brought up an initiative where people could sign up for volunteering at the farms who could help out. The initiative was also started for people who enjoy farming and who want to experience a farmer’s life. “We put out a request on our Facebook page and had around 24 volunteers who completed   the work in half a day.” In the last few months, the Sweat Donation Campaign has attracted over 1,000 volunteers from Bengaluru– right from college students to IT professionals and retired couples” added Madhu.
  • Farm Share Another program, where this would allow people to rent out the farms for about three months paying a certain amount and the renters can produce their own crops. The package allows the renter to spend about 8-9 nights in the farm and learn the techniques of farming and on the other days an Organic Mandya Farmer would look after. Once the final crop is ready, the renter could either use their produce for consumption or they could sell it to Organic Mandya.
Volunteers helping farmers at 'Organic Mandya' farm

Volunteers helping farmers at ‘Organic Mandya’ farm

  • ‘Team @ Farm’ This is a very interesting initiative with a nominal expense of about 25$, where the employers could bring their staff for spending a whole day out in the farm. There would be rural activities such as Kabadi, Gilli and Lagori (Outdoor Sports in Rural India) along with Jaggery plant Tour- a tour that gives the people to understand the entire process of Jaggery making.  

Madhucharan’s innovative ideas have helped the farmers to have a better life, one they deserve but have been unable to live so far. The co-operative has 500 registered farmers who collectively own about 200 acres of land, producing over 70 varieties of crop.

Today, along with a healthy lifestyle, Mandya is seeing people migrating back from the cities into sustainable villages.

“My biggest success is when someone returns from the city to start farming again. And so far, around 57 have returned to their land. This is only the beginning of a rural organic revolution”, concludes Madhucharan.

Food

Mc Donalds to launch Masala Dosa burgers and Anda Bhurji

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Masala Dosa Burger

MUMBAI (Diya TV) — ‘Dosas’ are a breakfast staple in South Indian and most recently, fast food giant McDonald’s announced the launch of Masala Dosa burgers in an attempt capture the breakfast market in India. Of Course, making dosas at home every morning can be one tiresome job, and the option of grabbing a ‘McDonald’s Masala Dosa burger’ could be just want the people want!

McDonald's Masala Dosa Burger, Picture Courtesy: Mc Donalds

McDonald’s Masala Dosa Burger

McDonald’s, is the largest fast food chain in India and the breakfast items include more than just the Masala Dosa Burger with a side of Molagai podi (chili powder) sauce, there are options such as ‘Anda Bhurji’ aka as scrambled eggs with a bun and hash browns and waffles.

McDonalds has been in the Indian market for two decades successfully adapting the brand’s taste profiles to the Indian palette with options such as Aloo Tikki Burger & Masala Fries. This latest attempt however is not just about adapting to the regions taste buds but really going after breakfast marketshare.

  “Breakfast convenience on the go will increase as more people enter the segment. As a western pick service restaurant, we are going to grow the Indian breakfast market dramatically,” says the Vice-Chairman of Westlife Development who runs over 240 McDonald’s restaurants.

Scrambled eggs with Bun

Scrambled eggs with Bun

 

While McDonalds seems confident with their brand new addition, Twittersphere has its own thoughts…

All kidding aside, Banana chips sound delicious! However, for Devaiah Bopanna, this globalization of Indian food may require looking foreign policy measures.. ?

“We continue to look at inspiration from Indian cuisine and bring it as a McDonald’s format which will give you flavors from the west but the familiarity of Indian,” said Amit Jatia, vice-chairman of Westlife Development, which runs McDonald’s outlets in west and south India.

There are more than 400 McDonald’s restaurants in over 65 Indian cities, and the company may well be looking to grow further in the enormous market after selling most of its China business earlier this week.

The Economic Times contributed to parts of this report. 

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Whole Foods invests in Instacart at 2014 valuation

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Whole Foods
Whole Foods

Whole Foods are investing in the grocery delivery company Instacart.

SAN FRANCISCO (Diya TV) — As more Whole Foods customers began to avoid the store and get their deliveries to their front door, the high-end supermarket chain is taking a stake in the four-year-old startup.

The company authorized the sale of new equity earlier this year, letting Whole Foods Market Inc. buy shares in the startup in conjunction with an expanded partnership, said people familiar with the transaction, who asked not to be identified because the details are private. Analysis by private stock market operator Equidate, based on a regulatory filing, pegged the total equity authorization at about $36 million.

The shares added to Instacart’s previous funding round at the same share price from late 2014, which valued the company at about $2 billion, according to the filing.

Before the Whole Foods investment, the San Francisco-based startup had raised more than $270 million. Instacart and its peers have benefited from a shift in an overcrowded food delivery market this year. Grocery delivery startups have received more investor dollars than companies that deliver prepared meals, a reversal from previous years, according to research firm CB Insights.

However, as the fundraising market becomes more competitive overall, startups are making cuts and emphasizing how close they are to supporting themselves with their own earnings. Instacart is no exception: Apoorva Mehta, the startup’s chief executive officer, said on stage this month at a TechCrunch conference that his company will be cash-flow positive in the next 12 months. He also dismissed questions about whether Instacart would sell to Whole Foods. “It just doesn’t make sense for us to even think about selling to a grocery store,” Mehta said.

Whole Foods and Instacart first partnered services on a delivery program in 2014 and has since expanded to more than 25 markets across the U.S. It allows customers to order food and other products directly from the Whole Foods website and have them delivered.

Grocery delivery is a key initiative as Whole Foods tries to claw its way out of its biggest sales slump since 2009. As conventional grocers have expanded their organic offerings and pushed prices down, Whole Foods has suffered under the weight of its reputation for being overpriced. That’s added pressure on the grocer to make its shopping experience more convenient.

“With more outlets for natural and organic foods, they don’t drive as far, and they don’t come as frequently,” John Mackey, the co-CEO and co-founder of Whole Foods, said during a presentation in June. “They just want convenience as the overriding value. I think that Whole Foods wants to compete for those customers to be sure, and we have a lot of things in the works.”

Walter Robb, the other CEO, said on a recent earnings call: “We feel really good about the partnership with Instacart and the results we’re seeing.”

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Indian-American youngsters attend fifth annual Kids’ State Dinner

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First Lady Michelle Obama addressing the 56 winners of the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge at the 2016 Kids’ State Dinner held in the East Room of the White House.

First Lady Michelle Obama addressing the 56 winners of the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge at the 2016 Kids’ State Dinner held in the East Room of the White House.

WASHINGTON (Diya TV) — One of the most exciting and endearing events at the White House, the Kids’ State Dinner was hosted this year by First Lady Michelle Obama in an effort to recognize winners of the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge, a nationwide recipe contest for children to promote cooking and healthy eating.

This year, three young members or the Diaspora took their talents to Pennsylvania Avenue to be recognized for their winning recipes in 2016. Shakthi Ramachandran, 8, for her chicken tikka pita with cucumber raita; Priya Patel, 10, for cooking a healthy and delicious Tex-Mex veg-head lasagna; and Abhijith Jenkins, 11, for his tropical vacation with catfish and quinoa delicacy.

All 56 contest winners were welcomed to the White House by the First Lady, the young aspiring chefs were treated to a meal with Mrs. Obama. “You guys blew us away with your creativity and your skills in the kitchen,” she said to the assembled youngsters.

The White House recipe contest is part of her “Let’s Move” initiative to keep kids healthy. Since 2012, the initiative has hosted five such dinners, welcoming more than 270 young people and their families to the White House. More than 6,000 recipes have been reviewed as a direct result of the program.

“And, of course, we ate a whole lot of good food,” the First Lady added.

About her recipe, Shakthi said “My dad is from India and I like Indian food, especially chicken tikka masala.” She’s also a fan of eating a lot of vegetables. “This recipe combines all these things and is very tasty and delicious. In the summer, most of the vegetables we eat are from our garden. The cucumber raita dressing makes it delicious.”

Young Priya revealed a secret at the dinner: She was the first to concoct her recipe back home. But she had a little inspiration.

“I was first inspired to make this recipe by my Mom. She always tells us to add vegetables to everything we make and to experiment,” she said, adding, “you can substitute any veggies and fruits you like. The possibilities are endless. My Mom says not having or liking one ingredient is not an excuse to not try a recipe or to buy fast food.”

Mrs. Obama implored the children to continue with their cooking habits, and to get their friends involved as well.

“I know you guys can do this”, she said. “I see this every year. I see the work of kids, the magic you all do. People change because of kids. They change how they eat. They change the way they think. They change the way they see one another. You guys are so powerful and you don’t even know it.”

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