As children, most of us probably detested the different dishes that our mothers would prepare using green leafy vegetables, and what was worse, were the various tactics they would use to coax us into eating them.
However, as adults, we genuinely appreciate their efforts, as we know that these green veggies are natural powerhouses in small packages, and keep our blood-bone-gastric systems in a healthy condition.
Saag, Cheera, or Keerai—a leaf-based diet has always been popular across various communities in India, unlike the western countries, where the trend is only becoming popular now.
But, here’s one thing to think about. Besides the commonly known Palak (spinach), Methi (fenugreek), and Sarson (mustard), what other green leafy vegetables are you aware of, or have consumed?
Quite at a loss for words, aren’t we?
India is home to many indigenous greens—from Moringa leaves and red spinach to dill and Mexican parsley; each one of these is teaming with nutritional supplements like iron, calcium, vitamins, antioxidants and fibre and are undoubtedly a great addition to a diet.
Bringing these green leafy vegetables back into public consciousness is an IT professional from Coimbatore. He is attempting to not only help the residents of the city gain access to these native greens but also ensure that they are farm-fresh and naturally grown.
Keerai Kadai, which translates to ‘greens store,’ is an e-commerce venture by G Sriram Prasad, which supplies over 40 varieties of keerai to its customers through the click of few buttons.
Sriram Prasad with a farmer. Courtesy: Keerai Kadai.
The man behind the venture hails from a professional IT background, but his ancestral legacy lies deeply rooted in agriculture. Therefore, you shouldn’t be surprised when you find out that Sriram left a lucrative IT sector job to put his tech-based expertise for a better and greater purpose—farming!
“Even before the idea behind Keerai Kadai took form, I used to grow 10-15 varieties of keerais and even grains on my rooftop, which I would distribute among my family members. I have a 5-year-old son, and I wanted him to grow up understanding the importance of farming and what better way than to get involved in the process directly?” says Sriram to The Better India.
However, the career-changing and more significantly, life-changing decision happened three years ago, when Sriram decided to leave his job and get down to the field.
Sriram inspecting his stretch of greens. Courtesy: Keerai Kadai.
“I had particularly been interested in keerais, as these are not just healthy or nutritious but economical as well. So I began my research and consulted organic farmers in Coimbatore,” he explains.
Employing farmers on a contractual basis on leased-out plots, the backend work of Keerai Kadai was cemented between July-August last year. Through this venture, farmers are finding stable incomes, and sustainable livelihoods as the produce is directly bought by Sriram and not through intermediaries. “Through Keerai Kadai, a farmer can easily generate approximately ₹50,000-60,000 per acre by growing about 25,000 bunches,” adds Sriram.
Using organic manure and naturally prepared bug-repellents, the farmers meet their irrigational needs through natural methods like rainwater harvesting.
Every day, the greens are harvested by 5:00 a.m., following which these are safely taken for sale directly— making them farm fresh!
A healthy stretch of greens. Courtesy: Keerai Kadai.
Initially catering to housing apartments across Coimbatore through a delivery system model, Sriram’s venture soon found a great response and the service then expanded to mobile applications. In December, the enterprise took another step by launching its first physical store, which has been a grand success.
“Through word of mouth and social media, Keerai Kadai started finding great traction, and I started getting calls from as many as 20 countries with enquiries of our venture,” recalls Sriram.
One fun aspect about the physical store is that after the keerai sales wrap up, different delicacies prepared from these greens are on offer at the store from 5:00-9:00 p.m. “These delicacies range from soups, vada, kozhukattai and juice—all made from different keerais and people visit our store every evening to savour these healthy snacks,” adds Sriram.
Supporting him in his green venture is his brother G Sriram Subramaniam, who handles the operations.
Sriram Prasad (right) with his brother, Sriram Subramaniam. Courtesy: Keerai Kadai.
They’re also supported by Ramya Gupta, who is their Chennai operations head and currently sells their keerai at Ashoka Pillar twice a week. At present, they are working on a pop-up store model across the city with a ₹2 lakh budget that aims to employ part-time students or retired employees.
“The people undertaking the responsibility would have to man these stores from 5:00-8:30 a.m. and 5:00-8:30 p.m., giving them ample time to live their regular lives. We are working hard on making this model a reality in a few months. At present, we have 15-20 stores in mind for Coimbatore, but we intend to scale up this model to Chennai and then across South India subsequently,” he says.
More than a profit-making business, what Sriram envisions through Keerai Kadai are two objectives—a healthy society through food, and a better lifestyle for the farming community.
About 20 farmers are directly impacted by this tech-meets-agriculture model, and one truly needs to appreciate Sriram’s dedication to the cause.
A farmer with his sprouting produce. Courtesy: Keerai Kadai.
“We are looking for potential investors in Coimbatore as well as across Tamil Nadu. It would help us achieve our long-term goal of promoting an economic and holistic lifestyle throughout South India and if possible even further,” adds Sriram.
First published by The Better India on May 23 2018