I am really angry today. However, before I launch into my tirade, here’s something positive – the potential of turning simple Indian farm produce into huge global brands. Here are ten specific Indian farm items that are potential billion dollar brands.
Mangoes – this is possibly an easy one. Indian mangoes are absolutely delicious, come in a huge variety and have unmatched flavour. Only alphonso has made a mini-brand and even that can be made much bigger, not to mention other varieties. Carrots – Indian carrots are a beautiful red in colour. They are crispy, juicy and delicious. Carrots abroad are orange, genetically modified and taste like plastic. From carrot cake to salads – Indian carrots can rule.
Spices – cumin, cloves, cardamom – the list goes on and on when it comes to Indian spices. India’s association with spices is already deep-set, we just haven’t fully exploited it. Dairy – India has a huge dairy industry. We don’t know yet if we can make good electric cars, but we can surely make the world’s best cheese, butter, yoghurt, paneer and ghee. If Greek yoghurt can be a multi-billion brand, why can’t it be the same for Indian yoghurt?
Jamun – fruits like jamun are less known abroad but have multiple health benefits. Introducing the world to Indian exotic fruits is a brand waiting to be made. Rajgira, amaranth and other high-protein grains – quinoa is a rage world-wide, because of high protein content. This rage didn’t just happen. Peru, where quinoa comes from, made a concerted effort to market it and grow production. India has better alternatives to quinoa.
Rice – Indian basmati rice is long, beautiful and fragrant. Nothing in the world comes remotely close. Thai jasmine rice is sold as a brand. Basmati beats it hands down. Chillies – India’s Northeast has some amazing chillies, with a unique flavour. We haven’t even marketed these within India. We can make Indian chillies global, like Peri-Peri and Sriracha which have become household names in the West.
Apples – Indians know about Kashmiri apples. The world doesn’t. Oranges – Nagpur oranges for instance beat Spanish ones in taste and most importantly ease of peeling them. The list can be longer. The point is there are several multi-billion dollar businesses waiting to be created from Indian farms. If these are created, who will get richer? Yes, the business owners for sure but also the farmers. However, if these businesses are never created, the farmers will remain poor.
So, how will these businesses happen? Well, they cannot happen without private sector participation. And for that participation, we need long overdue farm reforms. Now, when those are on the table, many educated, globally informed people are not letting them go through.
The recent social media noise against the farm bills makes me terribly upset. People with half-baked information and half-doubtful intentions are bombarding social media against laws they don’t fully understand. It’s heartbreaking to see people try to derail Indian agriculture’s progress. Global pop stars and other influencers coordinated, if not downright colluded to post against the new farm laws.
Like cult leaders, almost all these people attain influence by showing greater morality, virtue signalling and justice credentials. Since they are successful and aspirational as well, their crusade wins them a lot of fans, likes and followers. There’s nothing wrong with the strategy. It’s easy and makes for good marketing. What these influencers regularly want is to post continuous proof of their social justice crusades and their bleeding hearts to retain their engagement.
The visuals they use matter for their engagement. A picture of old farmers at a protest being chased away by cops – works very well. A bleeding Sikh man’s photo, hair out, after a clash with police – absolutely superb content. Old women sitting by a fire in the cold – fantastic. However, an actual document on the farm laws or an analysis showing the potential positive and negative effects – yawn! It just sounds too dull and boring to post or read.
Here’s the thing though. True change has a lot of dull and boring work behind it. These farm laws are not just internet memes. These are national transformational documents. They run into hundreds of pages, made after years of discussion and months of drafting by hard-working government officials, bureaucrats and politicians.
Yes, the real work of making and implementing laws isn’t meme worthy, exciting or emotional. It’s dull and boring. However, ultimately it’s the only thing that’s effective. To get carried away, to dislike the laws because they came from the Modi government (so everything must be opposed), or just getting carried away by visuals, isn’t right.
Think about the potential multi-billion dollar Indian agricultural brands mentioned above. It’s not a guarantee they will happen just because these laws are passed. However, I can guarantee you these brands will never be made if we don’t pass any farm reform laws.
So be careful while you protest. Do you understand what’s going on? Do you know what would really make our farmers rich? Sure, private sector exploitation is an issue to be addressed. It will be addressed. In any case, over time, farmers will circulate reputations of private firms amongst themselves. The good guys will get more contracts. The bad guys will be weeded out. That’s how the market system works.
For heaven’s sake, don’t just talk about making Indian farmers rich. Enable actions that will make them rich. And please listen to the people who actually do the work, not just twerk.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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