Driven by the urge to do something more meaningful, two development professionals Gautami Srivastava and Sidhharth Lakhanpal of Shimla left jobs in prestigious institutes in Delhi last year to start-up afresh.
And the two old friends, aged 27, are at it, indeed after much thought and leg work in the tough hill state with social angle in mind.
They have taken up self-funded social enterprise with task of giving wider market to the natural food products and craft items, which are made in abundance by hill villagers, but were seen for sale only in fairs or exhibitions in the state and were undocumented. The two professionals are identifying rare products like Himalayan Yew Tea (made of leaves of Rakhaal with Banaksha in it) raw wild flower honey, hand made natural Soaps and Himalayan Apricot Kernel Oil, craft items from pine needles and many more, are buying them in bulk from the locals in different parts of state, and then packaging them for better promotion and presentation in market.
Shortly, 11 of these natural products from Himachal Pradesh, packaged under the brand ‘Buraansh’ (Rhododendron flower), would be put up in stall at Surajkund International Crafts Mela- 2020 in February month. (Himachal is a ‘’theme state’ in the mela).
“We met Director, Tourism and Civil Aviation, Himachal Pradesh to share the concept. He supported us by allotting us a stall in the mela for these village products,” said Gautami.
She said they started the enterprise as a self created and self-funded model five months back and are getting good response from people, who want natural products. “We are packaging the products by mentioning their source and have taken the necessary license under Food Safety provisions,” she added.
Gautami has done post graduation in Social Development from Sussex University, UK and Siddharth has done his master degree in Development Studies from Ambedkar University Delhi.
“We wanted more from life. For that we worked out a self-sustainable start-up model and are at it, with contribution to the hill economy as well,” Gautami said. She left the job at NITI Aaayog and Sidhharth at Institute of Human Development, Delhi.
Gautami said she had noticed that Himachal is rich in nature, culture and craft, but unrepresented outside the state. “We saw some women from interiors of Kullu would sell some natural tea wrapped in packets casually in local fairs. Similarly, the Yellow Rajmash were available in local market, or the people in Chamba were making handmade natural soaps. They have been selling them in ones and twos locally. We thought of packaging them, branding them and giving them a bigger market,” she said. “We buy them in bulk and price them at competitive rates.”
The social entrepreneurs Gautami and Siddharth are also working on website and the concept of social media marketing- wherein they would give the source and the stories of the hill folks, who make these products.
Both of them have also met Chief Minister, Jai Ram Thakur with their idea, who appreciated them. The CM congratulated the young professionals for the first of its kind start-up in Himachal and said there was need to convert the ‘brain drain’ into ‘brain gain’.