Talking to Dr. Rajaram Tripathi can transport one to the rich world of ayurveda, and the more attention one paid, the bigger the world appears. His accomplishments, culminated with consistent struggles, have made his anecdotal experiences rather mesmerizing. His struggles and achievements are distinct as they manifest the success story scripted by a hardened man in a troubled land in India. And the land is the verdant, Naxal-ridden district of Bastar in Chhattisgarh.
Dr. Tripathi, a banker-turned-agri entrepreneur born and bred in Bastar, has scripted his story with herbal plants cultivation and processing them to various products. Remarkably, he has transformed a cottage industry with one farm into a 10 acre, Rs 40-crore-a-year herbal empire named Maa Danteshwari Herbal Products (MDHP). Maa Danteshwari is the tribal nature goddess worshipped in the area.
It was during his tenure as a banker, he was introduced to the miserable side of the Indian agriculture. “When I was working in a bank, then a lot of young people would come to the bank seeking clerical jobs. But upon investigation, I discovered that they all were people from farming families. So the plight of the farmers motivated me to start a fruitful way of doing agriculture,” Dr. Tripathi explains.
Through extensive research and market surveys MDHP was able to identify tens of medicinal and aromatic plants. But safed musli, stevia, ashwagandha, satavari, annatto-bixa and bramhi remain some of the prominent plants which are used in manufacturing organic herbal supplements such as Power-On and Memory-On, herbal tea and Musli Amrit.
“We have products that have medicinal uses, lifestyle usage as well as for general well-being. There are 22 natural and organic health products in the market and they are nutraceuticals, feed supplements, anti diabetic and anti obesity products,” the CEO elaborates. He also claims that the company has developed variety of plants such as MDB 13 and 14 for Safed Musli chlorophytum borivilianum, the former is ‘high yielding, lives longer disease-resistant and requires little water’, and MDS 14 (Stevia), ‘popular for high percentage of stevioside and rebaudioside’.
For an agro enterprise operating from a remote and disturbed part of the country, MDPH has considered all the vital aspects required in an active operation. For storage, the company has six warehouses with 8,000 tons capacity, two processing units for raw herbs in Kondagon, Bastar, Chhattisgarh. “The period of freshness for green herbs is 90 days and the dry herbs last up to 24 months,” he says. Apart from cultivation and processing, the company also offers multiple services from training to marketing, conversion of farmers to organic farming certification, documentation, export and technology transfer.
In 2002, to promote the products, MDHP has established Organic Herbal Farmers National organization as a marketing platform for their products as well as for the farmers. It has also been participating in international organic trade fairs to promote its products. Today, MDHP employs 300 tribal families and works with around 22,000 farmers. However, despite its recognition and consistent efforts to reach out to more markets, the herbal entrepreneur claims that the company still faces lack of funds, banks’ reluctance to finance, commercially viable agro technology, market and middle men dominating the market, to mention a few.
A modest Dr. Tripathi remarks that his journey is in ‘early stage’, but he is quite content with the fact that the awareness about the value of organic herbal farming is on the rise. “Thousands of farmers of Bastar have opted organic farming and their lives have changed. We believe that more youths will be drawn to this, and with the creation of more employment they will shun terrorism in Chhattisgarh’s red corridor,” he opines.