Farm to mkt, Moily Jr. builds direct route
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In a first-of-its-kind organised retail endeavour connecting vegetable, fruit and milk farmers from the remotest Karnataka villages directly to the food plate of affluent Bangalore residents, two brands—a retail chain called The Good Chain and a milk brand called Milk Route—will debut in the city in the coming weeks.
Behind these modern-sounding labels is Harsha Moily, the US-educated son of Union Corporate Affairs Minister Veerappa Moily whose MokshaYug Access (MYA) aims to make the rural poor actively participate in India's economic growth story. Among MYA's backers are the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Khosla Ventures of Vinod Khosla and the multinational Unitus Capital that supports bottom-of-the-pyramid social enterprises.
The first Good Chain store will launch in JP Nagar in south Bangalore in about a month, followed by three more in other neighborhoods. "Every produce in the store will come with a story. where it was sourced from and what is that farmer's tale," said Moily.
The chain is loosely modelled after Whole Foods, the world's largest retailer of organic and natural foods, though its produce will only be part-organic. Prices will be higher than at regular supermarket chains. For the first time in India, produce will be tagged with the 'food miles' it has travelled from the farmer to the city. Fruits, vegetables and eggs will be time-stamped to record freshness.
The chain will follow principles of Fair Trade, an organised social movement that honors producers, consumers, the community and the environment. "By ensuring traceability of every produce, we will create awareness about the rural farmer at urban India's dinner table," says Moily.
In-store displays next to the produce will detail each supplier's story. By eliminating middlemen, Moily aims to deliver maximum returns to the farmer. Milk Route will retail at various supermarket chains while The Good Chain will augment its retailing effort by supplying to restaurants and caterers. As a pilot, ten electric pushcarts operated by women will hawk its branded produce around the city in the next few months.
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