MSME SuperPower:

Making Millets Fashionable Again

Samir Padhan

Co-Founder, Danodia Foods, Solan, Himachal Pradesh

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Fashion has always fascinated me. After graduating from NIFT in 2017, I wanted to pursue my passion in the world of style and design. I explored opportunities in the apparel and textile industries but grappled to find the perfect fit for my entrepreneurial goals. Though I had the training, I lacked experience and practical knowledge about building a business.

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Discovering a Higher Calling

During a soul-searching trip to South India in 2019, I had a revelation – I discovered the incredible health benefits of millets, once a superfood that had fallen out of favor.

These hardy, gluten-free grains had sustained generations of farmers in India’s arid regions. Although a staple food at one point, millets were overlooked as urbanization spread.

In that moment, a new dream was born – to bring millets back into the mainstream and improve lives through my business. I realized that my true calling was not high fashion but making age-old superfoods fashionable again and uplifting smallholder farmers.

Launching Danodia Foods

In 2022, my co-founder and I established Danodia Foods in Solan, Himachal Pradesh. We collaborated with local millet farmers to source top-quality grains. Our mission was two-fold: provide customers with delicious, yet nutritious millet products while boosting farmers’ incomes. We started selling online and in Tier 1 cities, however growth was slow; we lacked business strategy and distribution networks. Passion alone was not enough to succeed in this competitive market.

A Transformational Partnership with Walmart Vriddhi

In January 2023, I joined the Walmart Vriddhi’s program, a turning point in my entrepreneurial journey. Their structured curriculum and seasoned mentors provided the foundation that was needed to scale up Danodia Foods.

Vriddhi helped us optimize our operations for maximum efficiency. Based on the Vriddhi learnings, my business partner and I decided to move from a centralized warehouse to regional hubs, enabling swift deliveries across India. Their training enhanced our supply chain agility.

Expanding Our Reach Through eCommerce

With Vriddhi’s guidance, our company partnered with Flipkart to increase the online visibility. This proved instrumental – we now sell pan-India, with sales rising to above 35%.

Vriddhi equipped us with digital marketing tactics to engage customers. Their suggestion to use Hindi branding allowed us to expand beyond metro cities into Tier 2 and 3 cities. We also implemented impactful offline campaigns in supermarkets based on Vriddhi’s advice. Product sampling boosted trials and created awareness about the health benefits of millets. This, in turn, led to an increase in sales.

Vriddhi also instilled the importance of regularly tracking operational and social impact metrics. We assess factors like farmers’ income growth, women’s empowerment through our all-women team, and nutritional awareness spread across India.

The Road Ahead

Today, Danodia Foods is bringing millets back into the Indian mainstream, one bite at a time. My co-founder and I are keenly focused on building an ethical, inclusive brand that connects consumers directly with small holder farmers to uplift rural communities.

With perseverance and guidance from Walmart Vriddhi, my once-overlooked passion has become a promising business model. Our journey is just beginning, but the progress so far convinces me that we can make millets fashionable again while making a real difference in the lives of customers and farmers.

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