It is really difficult to imagine when and how successful ideas emerge.
For Aastha Lalit Bajaj, a 34-year-old former corporate executive and now an entrepreneur with a growing footprint across the world, her dinner table conversations with a foodie businessman husband sparked off her entrepreneurial journey.
Some eight years ago, she and her husband were concerned over what they were eating, the quality of vegetables, fruits, food grains and all the ingredients that go into cooking. Also, a foodie herself, Aastha began researching to learn about organic farming.
Since many in her circle were equally concerned over this aspect of their lives, the entrepreneur in Aastha spotted an opportunity.
“We all were concerned as to what we were eating, and especially now the pandemic has made it even more pronounced,” she told Tricity Scoop. In fact, food became the obsession in her life. And now, a profitable business for her.
“Basically, the idea was to create a sustainable ecosystem which can provide clean, sustainable, organic, and carbon-neutral produce to the consumers,” Aastha said.
“My objective was clear: to build an Indian firm to address global concerns over food grown with excessive pesticides and toxic chemicals,” she said.
And thus, was born, Ancient India as a proprietary firm in 2013 to export organic products to Europe, and the USA. She is the founder and director of the company.
Her first client, a small American retailer, is still with her as she grew bigger and bigger to touch a turnover of a few crores today – in just eight years. Her original investment of Rs 20 lakh, is well worth it.
Today she has many committed clients and has offices in Switzerland and China, where she does contract farming. At present, she deals in Ginger, Turmeric and coconut products, but has plans to include more products.
But the beginning was very tough. She had to prove her credentials and abilities in a male-dominated field. She got out of her comfort zone and got her hands dirty in the fields too.
“Yes, mistakes were made, I burnt my hands a few times. But I never gave up,” she said.
Her secret of success: persistence, determination, planning and strategizing.
She trained the farmers herself. She caters to a varied client base in different countries and each has its own unique standards and quality parameters. “100 % of our facilities worldwide are audited and or certified by third parties using globally recognized food safety criteria. Safety is a priority focus area for us. It is part of our culture,” Aastha said.
“Till date, not one of my consignments has been returned from any country,” she declared proudly.
Today, the COVID situation has made the people think more about what they are eating. And for entrepreneurs like her, it is business more than usual.
Aastha is now thinking big, taking up 150 acres on contract farming for ginger in a village near Vishakhapatnam. “The farmers will work as per our instructions,” she said and added, “farmers get instant returns and are happy to work with us.”
This jet-setting business honcho feels completely at home whether it is Zurich, New York, Dubai, or a remote village of Andhra Pradesh and Orissa. Aastha works with some 900 farmers in India and with 500 in China.
She learned organic farming from a course she did at the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM – Organics International). She works closely with the Indian Institute of Species Research for specialist advice and has several scientists and agronomists on her speed dial, as consultants.
Recalling her early days, she said she had to grow the business from scratch – from out of the agricultural fields in and around Vishakapatnam.
Aastha’s 11 years in the corporate sector prepared her for this phase of her life. And once she decided what she wanted to do; things began falling in place.
Of course, it demanded hard work, determination, and most important, shutting out all the negativity and despairing comments coming her way.
While she took charge and drove the company and business hard, her identical twin sister settled into a life of a lecturer in a college in the idyllic Netherlands. This Punjabi duo originally hails from Ambala.