MilletBank's hamper makes for an innovative & healthy gift

Vishala Reddy Vuyyala, Founder, MilletBank

Vishala Reddy Vuyyala, Founder, MilletBank


Hyderabad-based startup Minkan Agro Industries Pvt Ltd through its brand, MilletBank has curated about 15,000 millet hampers by involving more than 500 artists and micro entrepreneurs

Nature is rich with sources of inspiration for new ideas. One such story is about a woman coming from a farmer's family. Her drive to support the farming community drew inspiration from the giant traditional storage systems used in the ancient times. These huge earthen pots utilised for preservation of food grains, also symbolise preserving a food culture, and Indian traditional crops.

Hyderabad-based entrepreneur Vishala Reddy Vuyyala founded MilletBank in 2020 with a vision to bring in food diversity through her millet products which in turn creates a bank of millets in every home and also in the farms by educating all the farmers out there. In 2021, she brought her initiative MilletBank as a brand under registered entity, Minkan Agro Industries Pvt Ltd, a Hyderabad-based startup dealing with millet-based value-added products. In conversation with The Hans India, Vishala talks all about millet, farming and the market available for its value-added products.

The reason behind conceptualising MilletBank…

I was born and brought up in Chittoor district, a part of Rayalaseema region which is prone to droughts. Millet production and consumption was part of our integral culture as we used them for both food and fodder. Post my tryst with urban life, the Covid lockdown in 2020 brought me back to my village. That is when I realised that my sister was selling foxtail millet for Rs 15 per kilo, against the market price of Rs 50, which I felt was injustice to her hard work. At this moment I felt the time is right to give back to my community. Moreover, I had seen many of our relatives quit millet farming besides not consuming it too. Here the journey of MilletBank began, wherein I did foundational work of setting up a millet museum, reviving millets in our own farms etc, for almost eight months. In 2021, I met my co-founder Priyanka Barathwaj and we started our business operations under the legal entity Minkan Agro Industries Pvt Ltd.

What are your plans for MilletBank going ahead?

Our current focus has been on the post-harvest part of the value chain which is formulation, manufacturing, branding and marketing of millet value added products and also consumer education initiatives. In less than 19 months, we have launched more than 20 SKU's under our brand, MilletBank and also many more are in pipeline. We are currently having presence in over 300 stores and shipping sites across India. We have also launched our gifting and experiences division to create a positive impression of millets. We have curated about 15,000 plus millet hampers by involving 500 plus artists and micro entrepreneurs. We catered to many prestigious clients and made almost 60,000 people experience the goodness of millets.

How do farmers benefit through your collaboration?

We are a socially conscious company. Our aim is to build an integrated, fair and inclusive value chain in millet space. Instead of just building a market place, we want to introduce several agro-ecological and creative interventions that help farmers, micro-entrepreneurs, rural artisans and consumers. One of the initiatives is to enable a grass-root level infra for millet farmers. We have worked on a prototype in collaboration with few architects currently studying in Harvard and MIT, wherein our design won the MIT best social design impact award. We are looking for likeminded partners to activate it. Once this infra is activated, each centre will cater to a minimum of 1,000 farmers in doubling their income, establishing market linkage and provide the primary and secondary processing infra. Farmers can make use of these facilities for a minimum rental and can sell their produce and value added products through our channels.

What is the support you are looking forward from the State governments?

2023 is an international year of millets and both Central and State Governments are introducing several initiatives. However, such larger campaigns must positively strengthen three areas in addition to the awareness - Grassroot level infrastructure for farmers, revenue growth for all stakeholders including farmers, processors, manufacturers and marketers, thirdly, policy to support the ecosystem. The State governments should also encourage local food consumption. This is more sustainable in a long run as it strengthens the local food systems.

Can you provide information about the value-added millet products available on your platform?

We have introduced about 20 value-added products which are available in most of the organic and retail brands. Our product range includes ready to eat and ready to cook products including noodles, cookies, breakfast mixes and dessert section. Consumers can purchase from our website We also do home delivery across India. Our products are reasonably priced ranging from Rs 70 to Rs 199. We will be lining up more products in future.

For people who say millet is not a profitable business, what would you say?

As millet is tiny so are the profits. Currently this is a market where consumer awareness needs to be created. Which means you have to create your own industry. If someone can do Rs 10 crore turnover in this space then you can call them a unicorn. However, with changing consumer habits we can expect good days ahead.

Why are millets and its value-added products available in the market tagged as organic expensive?

Millets are mostly grown in arid, semi-arid and hilly regions. In most cases, they are grown on harsh, unirrigated land with limited water resources. The data shows that only nine to 15 per cent of the total area under millets is irrigated. Further, millets can survive on poor soils, without requiring fertilisers. It is expensive not because of they are organic but because of a very weak supply chain, cost of production and productivity level issues. We need to increase the production and make millets accessible to all.

Why was there a gap during a period, in the consumption or cultivation of millets?

Millets were grown for domestic purposes by small and marginal farmers. There was also an intercropping method were the millets, pulses and oil seeds were grown together which was giving food to farmer families throughout the year. It was not grown for commercial purposes. Due to lack of their commercial importance and the limited scope for developing new hybrids, millets were not favoured by private players as a profitable source of income in terms of mass generation. In addition, irrigation-based farming pushed preferences towards the cultivation of rice, wheat, pulses and oil seeds over millets. The drudgery of post-harvest treatment of millet – cleaning and processing, was labour-intensive. Another reason was that when the world moved towards market-oriented agriculture, the variety of crops grown, or the 'food basket', shrunk – not just in India, but around the world. This decline was partly due to the change in food habits, when millet began to be perceived as the poor man's diet. Today the Government is bringing millets back as a potential 'new' tool for fighting socio-economic issues like malnutrition and rural poverty.

How is the future of millets in an export market?

India is the world leader in the production of millets with share of around 41 per cent of total world production in 2020. India produces around 12 million MT of millets annually, according to Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare data. With the demand for nutria-cereals rising steadily globally, Indian millets have the demand and we are currently among the top five exporters of millets in the world. World export of millet has increased from $400 million in 2020 to $470 million in 2021 (ITC trade map) India exported millets worth $64.28 million in the year 2021-22, against $59.75 million in 2020-21. The government organisations such as APEDA are working towards increasing millet export by removing bottlenecks in the supply chain of nutria-cereals. These efforts will further strengthen both domestic and international demand.

Your take on foreign foods making inroads into our kitchens…

What I can say is every grain has its day. Quinoa is thriving due to its popularity. Presently imported quinoa is sold between Rs 1000 to Rs 1500 which is very expensive compared to our millets. We need to encourage our own super foods. And millets compete with every nutrient element of quinoa. In fact, Jowar is globally known as the "new quinoa" for its gluten-free and whole-grain goodness. The organically cultivated Amaranth Millet from the Himalayan region of India is considered to be rich in fibre and protein. We need to create market demand for our homegrown millets.

In the journey of promoting millets, what is the misinformation you have heard?

Millets are high in fibre and consuming in wrongly cooked manner can bring digestion problems for anyone. That is why experts suggest to soak millets before cooking. What I suggest is if you are new to millets, start slow. Maybe you can start with snacking and then slowly start with main course.

(This is the 8th interview of WTC Shamshabad-WE Hub Startup Series, a collaborative effort of World Trade Center – Shamshabad and WE Hub, the incubator for women-led startups, to showcase startups founded by women entrepreneurs)

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