Millet Startups and Business Opportunities in 2020

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”Millet Startups Ignition – Business Opportunities in Millets”

Looking into the potential of Millets and its business in India, A webinar was organized by a premier agricultural research institute engaged in basic and strategic research on sorghum and other millets under the Indian Council of Agricultural Research(ICAR)-Indian Institute of Millet Research(IIMR), Hyderabad on 23rd, May 2020 at 10 AM.
Millet Starups and Business Opportunities
Millet Startups Webinar- Nutrihub, IIMR
Around 80 participants participated in this Millet Startups webinar and I too got the opportunity to attend this Webinar and could learn a lot of things from the great panelists who are having better experience and knowledge in this sector. So, I thought of sharing with you all.
It started with joining and acceptance of participants and then witnessed the Nutrihub Film focusing not only Lab to Land and Farm to Fork Solution but addressing a major nutritional problem of the nation and Indian Government is putting effort into supporting the commercialization of technologies from public-funded Institute through Start-up.
Nutrihub Incubation program is designed to help Nutri-cereals startups grow in a streamlined fashion by providing them the required technology and business support system which I have mentioned in my previous post on “The Potential of Millets and start-up”. In the future, we intend to create 100 plus entrepreneurs in the next 5 years said by Director of IIMR, Hyderabad.

Dr. Raj Bhandari said on the topic “USP of Millets – Developing markets on Nutrition”. Health and Nutrition will be the main focus of all future development programs. Over the years there are many changes in lifestyle, nutrition, food, and immunity.

The challenges that we are going to face is the Food Nutrition and Immunity. Millets were there around the 3000-5000 years and were eaten as a staple food. There is a lot of value in these wonderful grains. In the next decade will go back to ancient grains. The body recognizes and understands millets due to its immunological memory in our body of our past experience which we carry as a legacy for the future.

USP of Millets:

1. Millets are the next smart food because it is packed with nutrients and energy. They are the powerhouse and the Government of India has named it Nutri-Cereals.
2. Nice source of energy as it releases energy in a constant manner.
3. Millets are gluten-free.
4. Millets contain a good profile of micronutrients which is divided into two categories, Type-1 and Type-2. First, the Type-1 which are the functional nutrients that can be stored in the body like iron, calcium, manganese, copper, iodine, and a certain amount of Vitamin A, D, K which is helpful for cellulose metabolism. The type-2 are the growth nutrients (growth promoters) like Nitrogen, Phosphorous, Zinc, Magnesium, and Potassium.

5. Millets contain a balanced amino profile. The protein digestibility can be increased by proper processing and malting.
6. Millets doest not contain trans fat.
7. Millets contain fiber and resistant starch which work as pre-biotics.
8. Millets are used in the pharmaceutical industry.
9. Millets are alkaline in nature.
10. Millets come under the therapeutic category.
11. Good for the farmers as it is suitable for dryland agriculture and requires fewer inputs that require less water and naturally organic in nature.
12.Good for the planet as it is climate-resilient crops.

              The Unique Selling Proposition (USP) of Millets can be created in the target groups and demographic profile where we can use millet as the main ingredients in the food-based approach. We are committed to reducing malnutrition. The stakeholders of millets are huge and this is a way to move forward.

Dr. Vilas A Tonapi, Director, IIMR

Dr.Vilas Tonapi, Director, ICAR- Indian Institute of Millets Research, Hyderabad presented on ”An Overview of Millets – Production and Utilization”. This institute has taken this task of mainstreaming millets into the food plates of everyone. This can be done by telling people about the millet grains, what are the business opportunity around them, how to cook these millets. The food recipes created in this institute can be used in creating food diversity at home.

Awareness is the key to success. A strong value chain has been created. 15 states have spearheaded in the millet mission. Production and productivity will take place but the backward linkages that we have created with the technologies with the cultivars, with the production practices and the awareness all these have created an ecosystem of awareness around Millets. It is not only the elder to take millets but also for children. For children, the recipes should be attractive, appealing, and tasty. We have experimented, confirmed, and validated that tasty recipes can be made with millets as wheat and rice.
Coming to the Business Opportunities in Millets. You need to look at the area of business, which is good for me and how can I create my own sphere, dimensions, and status around which I am called the Millet entrepreneur.

Important aspects for a Millet Entrepreneur:

1. Production: You can create a Farmer Producer Organisation(FPO) for which you can get Government support.
2. Primary Processing of Millets at the farm gate.
3. Millets Value Addition: Vermicelli, pasta, puffs, flakes
4. Seed Entrepreneurs: You can give good quality seed to the farmers which will enhance the production and productivity of millets.
5. Aggregators: Aggregating millets in the warehouse for supermarkets and food industry.
6. Packaging for supermarkets and food industry
7. Food Entrepreneurs: Biscuits and Cakes
8. Millet based Hotel Industry
9. Millet Export Industry
                   When you link to all the value chain from production, processing, value addition, aggregators, and you as a millet entrepreneur making available to consumers is an important aspect. APEDA and FSSAI  and laboratory for quality checks are there to help you in this business. Opportunities are many if we explore and we can provide you handhold support under NGRAIN Programme and RKVY-RAFTAAR.
Dr. Dayakar Rao, CEO, Nutrihub
Dr. Dayakar Rao, CEO, Nutrihub presented on ”Millet Startups and Business Opportunities in Millets”. 24 Mantra is doing good business in the United States. I was a little bit skeptical about one aspect is the Shelf life. The holistic aspect and clear understanding of the products are required. Nutrition Security is a stake and we are unable to tackle the problem of malnutrition.
There is a shift in government policies and how to address nutrition security. There are many programs where the government is looking for millets to supplement with other products. We are at the forefront taking millet movement in the country and took with millets working with people from NGOs, Public, Private like ITC, 24 Mantra.
We succeeded in creating a brand under the name of Eatrite. Now we focus on other brands by Nutrihub. This will cater to all business needs of Millet Startups and there is Centre of Excellency for Nutri-Cereals at IIMR supported by the Government where the R&D takes place.
Government Industry policies to encourage the micro food enterprise. Today the value chain be relied upon which was not before. Backward integration is to be done to do the business proposition.
Availability of processing machines where the efficiency is about 70-80% and we are working hard to take it to 90% efficiency.
There is a move by APEDA to take millets into the international market as proposed by our honorable prime minister and create a brand in the global market.
Recently, I heard about the importance of millets from our honorable Prime Minister and you can surely have a look at it.
So, there will be a lot of support from the government side in this millet business.
The shelf life of millets is to considered as Bajra contains 5% fats whereas the rest millets contain less than that. We have achieved the shelf from 6 months to one year except for some flours. In flour, you can go with adding and packing in a different way. An integrated approach is required for packing these products. We have developed around 70 product technology and we will be glad to handhold support by licensing of the technology. We are looking for express food technology as we find it in flight. Plant protein is a future opportunity. Fermented food is another area of opportunity. There are about 400 brands in South India. There is also an opportunity in the fabrication industry as of now only about 5 fabricators are there in India. You can also go for bio-ethanol from sorghum stalk. and making alcohol by blending like whiskey, Brandy, and Beer.

A journey of 24 Mantra in India and Abroad:

Dr.Rajashekar Reddy, Founder & MD, 24 Mantra presented on “24 Mantra – Perspective of leading organic exports company”. We have started the 24 Mantra 16 years back and there was no much awareness on organic and that too in a small market.
There were mainly two challenges one was the building of a supply chain where maintaining traceability was difficult. The other problems were in processing, packaging, and storage. There was no suitable technology and convincing farmers for doing organics and educating consumers to eat organics.
We systematically tackled the supply chain and it took 7-8 years without using preservatives or chemicals. In terms of minor millets, there is a challenge of getting the right seeds but in the case of major millet, there was no issue. For demand creation Government should run a program as ”One Millet a Day Mission”.
Initially, we have started with our own store and doing investment in taking supermarket shelf space. Similar things we have to do for millets by putting a shelf and a person educating consumers about millets. If you are self-funded the ability to invest becomes very difficult. So, early in our life, we realized that with our own funding we will be never able to move in retail. So we convinced some of the institutional investors to invest and they are looking for the size of the market opportunity and our ability to convert that opportunity into a reality. So we were able to secure a large number of findings.
So in millet entrepreneurs have to go the people and convince them to invest and this is possible. If we were able to convince 10% people to have one millet in a day so we are talking about 30-40 million dollar opportunity. The grocery market is about 600 million dollars. So, there is a huge opportunity.
When we started our journey in 2004 the export was the only market but when we looked down the export market and realized that if you want to tap the export market you need to have very good systems and processing infrastructure to tap the opportunity. So, we hopefully started the domestic market although it was very tough and in a few years, we were able to set up some basic processes, infrastructure, and looking for export opportunities.
Unless you conquer the domestic market, the exports will not be a viable kind of approach. ”You have to win at home to win outside”. 40 years back rice was luxury for most of the south Indian people but today eating millets have become luxury. Millets are more expensive than rice and wheat. So, changing food habits is not going to be easy.

Some points to note before starting Millet Startups:

1. Keep developing products with a good taste profile.
2. Investing in educating consumers.
3. Price competitiveness closer to conventional products.
4. Develop a domestic market.
5. Gluten-free trends as it is adopted in the USA at an 8-10% rate.
6. Government help in educating the consumer.
Dr. Sangappa, Scientist, IIMR
Dr. Sangappa, Scientist, IIMR presented on ”Millet value-added technology licensing” ICAR-IIMR. The value-added technologies of Millets developed by ICAR-IIMR are:
1. Milling:
  • Sorghum Atta
  • Multigrain atta
  • Semolina, Khichdi, Idli and Upma rawa for all millets
  • Millets Rice
2. Shelf-life enhancement technologies:
  • Pretreatments
  • Packaging
  • Application of TBHQ
  • Millet primary processing
3. Beverages:
  • Malts
  • Lassi
4.Instant Mix:
  • Sorghum upma mix
  • Sorghum Pongal mix
  • Millet Laddu mix
  • Millet Idli mix
  • Khichdi Mix
  • Dosa Mix
5. Flaking:
  • All millet flakes
  • Muesli
6. Puffing:
  • All millet puffs
  • All Millets/Multi Millet
  • Cookies
  • cakes
  • Bread/Bun
  • Pizza Base
8. Extrusion:
  • All Millets/Multi Millet
  • Vermicelli
  • Pasta
  • Noodles
  • Extruded Snacks
  • Extruded Flakes
MOU is signed with more than 100 entrepreneurs.

Millets Technology Transfer :

1. Potential Technology Identification
2. Disclosure of ITMU/PME
3. Expression of Interest
4. Technology Pricing & ITMU Approval.
5. Technology Licensing/MOU
6. Training & handholding for three years.
Once the MOU is signed training for 2 days be done on the particular technology and provide all the documents. The training will be conducted as per the convenience. Karnataka Government has come with a scheme for new entrepreneurs, FPOs, and SHG members where the Government is bearing the technology prices.
Ms. Sri Devi Nune, Chief Business Manager, Nutrihub presented on ”Millet Startups – Incubation at Nutihub- Programs. Nutrihub will be going to help in:
1. Infrastructure facilities
2. Domain/R&D Consultancy
3.Technology Consultancy
4. Business Consultancy
5. Mentoring and Networking
6. Access to Funding
7. Awareness
Capacity Building Programs:
1. NEST: Training participants from idea to prototype, with up to 5 lakhs grants-in-aid after two months of training.
2. N-GRAIN: Training for those startups which are having their MVP in place, with up to 25 lakhs grants-in-aid.
If you are interested to be Millet Entrepreneur and want to do Millet Startups you can apply in this NGRAIN Programs. Be Hurry as the closing date for this program is 30th May 2020.
Really, the Millet Startups Webinar was a very mind-opening event and it has enriched my knowledge. I must thank Director, IIMR, & the panelists of this webinar for providing such enriching technologies, and experiences. Hope Millets will go a long way when everyone is putting the best effort and will be witnessing more Millet Startups in India. In the end, I must thank all the team members of IIMR for conducting such a nice webinar successfully.

Finally, I must thank Dr.Vilas Tonapi, Director, ICAR-IIMR, and Dr.B.Dayakar Rao, CEO, Nutrihub for providing the e-Certificate for attending this webinar.

Business Opportunities in Millets
e-Certificate for attending the Millet Startups Webinar


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4 thoughts on “Millet Startups and Business Opportunities in 2020”

  1. I am very keen in starting a Millet value added products business in Hyderabad and later on also start an export of the same in the foreign countries. I am in search of female entrepreneurs who have experience and are Keen about the same idea and can join hands to start the business


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