Due to its sheer size and population, the amount of food production needed to fulfill the demands in the country is humongous. Although the government has taken several steps to fight this problem and ensure food security in the country, the efforts haven’t given the desired results. With an aim to plug in these gaps between the supply and demand, Anurag Awasthi established the ‘Save Indian Grain', “a social enterprise, dedicated to the design, development and delivery of modern grain storage solutions, aggregate food hubs/ Grameen kalyan Kendra, and agri stakeholder and cluster maps for small and marginal farmers in India.”
The transformation of Anurag Awasthi from an executive working in the US with a lucrative salary to the founder of Save Indian Grain is an interesting story altogether. Awasthi explains, “In 2011, I returned home after living in the States for over a decade. My initial observation of people cooking food on pavements at night led me to search for answers. I was informed that people from rural areas migrate to urban areas in search of work to earn their livelihoods.
At the same time, I came across reports of food losses at various government-run grain storage warehouses, in print and digital media. A Google search revealed that a national grain storage agency had nearly 80 million metric tons (MT) of food grains in its warehouses and yet India had dismal social indicators; 15.2 % malnutrition rate among masses, 1.2 million deaths among children, under-five years’ age, and an average 11,000 farmer suicides annually.
This conundrum did not make sense and prodded me to file a Right-to-Information (RTI) application with a national grain storage agency in India. Over the next 6 months,
I received responses from various state offices in the country with information of food losses, which was collated and tabulated. Between 1998–2012, India incurred food-losses1 to the extent of 6,38,000 [638,000] MT of food grains at its state warehouses.”
With India on its way to becoming the most populous country in the world, it is high time that it solves its food security problems. Awasthi is looking to make sure that the country arrives at the solution sooner rather than later. With that said, he had no background in agriculture to work out the solution. All he had was a desire to solve this burning issue. He tells us, “I am an Accountant turned Social entrepreneur, CEO and Founder of Save Indian Grain. Org (SIGO). Since 2012, I have worked on developing cost-effective solutions to stem post-harvest losses. My work seeks to stem food losses through flat-bottom farm bins and aggregate food hubs, and essentially reorganizes fragmented agricultural information about commodities, vendors and stakeholders, and connects millions of producers and end-consumers from Base-of-Pyramid segments. I have a Masters in Accounting from the University of Rhode Island, and have previously worked with global Not-for-Profits in Washington, D.C. Washington D.C is the World’s capital for not-for-profit organizations, think-tanks and public policy institutions.
People from US and rest of the World, converge to make their contribution in addressing global challenges. I worked for a wonderful employer and lived in a great city that offered stunning avenues to appreciate arts, culture and food. But, life behind the desk was getting routine and I decided to take a break to explore new opportunities in India.”
One of the major problems faced by new NGOs in India is how to spread their message to the masses. The same problem was faced by SIGO when it was looking to educate the farmers about this procedure. When asked how they did it, Awasthi told us, “I mentioned about food losses and food supply chain in an earlier question. Since Food Supply Chains are a series of linkages involving multiple stakeholders in the movement of food in one direction and money in the reverse direction, the entire chain is affected when one link in the entire chain is subject to stress.
In the past three years, my work on food-losses has taken me to various cities in India and I visit the F & V Market yard/ mandi in the city. I interact with various farmers, wholesale merchants, forwarding agents and transporters to understand and appreciate their line of work. These interactions have helped me to study the flow of commodities and services along the food supply chain, the challenges and infrastructure gaps.”
Awasthi is all praise for the government’s Startup India initiative which helped SIGO in more ways than one. “The StartUp ecosystem is very fortunate to have a government initiate programs such as StartUp India, Digital India and Skill India. Top policy-makers take out time to listen to our ideas and share their experience in the field.
Often times, they connect us with their colleagues and co-workers who are in a better position to guide and assist us, with our work. SIGO was shortlisted from 1,000+ start-ups in the country for Prime Minister’s “Startup India” initiative, launched by Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), Ministry of Commerce, Government of India on 16th Jan. 2016,” explains Awasthi.
With SIGO trying to expand its reach, the founders are now in the process of pitching to the investors in order to raise the capital.
The budget speech given by the Finance Minister had something for every sector, including the Agriculture and SIGO seems to be happy with that. Awasthi shares his views, “The recent budget speech and the thrust for development in the Agriculture and Food Processing Sector is palpable through a slew of incentives and allocation of funds. In his epic essay “Competitive Advantage of Nations”, Michael Porter says that nations strive to produce and sustain improved and prosperous standard of living for their citizens, and this is driven by the level of productivity with which labour and capital are utilized.
Finally, nations thrive in select industries when domestic environments are innovative, dynamic and challenging”. A sector that contributes nearly 17 percent of the nation’s GDP, employs half of her workforce and feeds approximately 130 crore population base, demands innovation, dynamism and challenges.”
Before signing off, Anurag shared his vision about Brainbuxa, “Brainbuxa is a great portal for education needs and Team Brainbuxa is plugging a great gap in this sector with its world-class portal and service.”