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Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Meet the couple that built multi-crore agri biz that empowers tribal families

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Rajesh and his wife Pooja Oza have a vision to assist tribal villages in Rajasthan in getting a better price for their goods. Today, the couple’s businesses, Jovaki and Tribalveda, teach women how to prepare jamun fruit.

Bera is a tiny hamlet in the Pali district, where the borders of Rajasthan and Udaipur meet. It is marked by two characteristics: the trees are never naked, and the tribal groups are constantly active.

Rajesh Oza, a resident of this hamlet, recalls how these communities would assemble every morning to collect avlas, sitaphals (custard apples), and other fruits from the fruit-laden trees and carry the heavy tokris to the marketplace.

But he noticed how they were always under pressure to sell their food quickly before it spoiled. The young  man eventually went to Mumbai, where he finished his studies through the 12th grade.

“It was a difficult phase,” he recalls, adding that in 2016, he decided he’d had enough of city life and returned to his hometown to start again.

As he returned to village life, he saw that, while much had changed in terms of living standards, one thing remained constant: the tribals were obliged to sell their fruits at a loss.

“Kam daam mein bikna unki majboori thi (They were obliged to sell at a cheap price),” he recalls, adding that this inspired him to establish his own business. I wanted to establish a brand that could assist these tribal people earn more without putting them under pressure to sell their goods in a short period of time,” he continues.

This concept would eventually become the foundation for ‘Jovaki,’ his agro-food enterprise. However, everything changed when he married in 2017. He met not just a life companion, but also a business partner in his wife Pooja Oza, who shared his desire to aid tribal people. The pair decided to combine their resources and energy.  Today, Jovaki has given aid to tribal families in Rajasthan.

As you read this, 1,000 indigenous women are living happier lives because to the ardour of the couple who started this company. However, due to the lack of a streamlined method, most of the fine fruit was squandered. “According to Rajesh, “processing of these fruits will enable the tribal people acquire higher rates for their produce.”

In order to persuade them, he believes that the proverb “actions speak louder than words” applies to most things in life. “We also wanted to minimize the strain on the women who would otherwise have to trek for kilometers and sell their produce at poor rates,” Rajesh explains, to assist tribal women earn more. As a result, in addition to the B2B enterprise, Rajesh launched a B2C arm dubbed ‘Tribalveda’ in October 2021.

Jovaki’s company enables tribal groups to obtain a better bargain on their harvest and master the subtleties of fruit processing.

The simple jamun fruit was the focus of the enterprise. As part of the enterprise, villages in Rajasthan produce jamun-based items like as seed powder, green tea, vinegar, and so on.

Diabetic patients are frequently educated on the fruit’s qualities and how they benefit the condition. Not only that, but Ayurveda describes this fruit as a nutritional storehouse that aids with weight management and heart health.

The main drawback is that the fruit is only accessible for around 20 days out of the year. The fruit may be eaten all year round because to Tribalveda.

He emphasizes the central concept of Tribalveda by saying, ‘nothing should be wasted.’ “We prepare vermicompost from the rind and sow a part of the seeds.”

According to Rajesh, Jovaki Agro Foods India Private Limited now provides a living for over 1,000 tribal households. He continues, “There are around 70 tribal women per unit active in fruit processing, with another 150 women per unit participating in fruit gathering.

The rural processing unit concept from Southern Rajasthan has been duplicated in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh.” Teejibai, another native lady, believes Tribalveda’s instruction has been quite beneficial.

“Jovaki not only collaborates with these ladies, but she also trains them in the many stages involved in fruit preparation. We assist and advise the ladies in identifying, harvesting, collecting, storing, grading, sorting, washing, processing, and packaging,” explains Pooja.

Furthermore, the duo has devised a strategy for processing seasonal fruits that are abundant at different times of the year. This implies that indigenous groups are involved for the most of the year.

According to Rajesh, this has tripled their revenue. He continues, “Previously, ladies would earn between Rs 15,000 and Rs 20,000 per year. They now receive an extra Rs 15,000 every month during the season.

Previously, the tribals would chop down trees for firewood. They may appreciate the trees for allowing them to see the possibilities of the fruit processing industry “he claims

“They are now determined to keep them.” Jovaki is already a thriving business, with items being transported all throughout India and even reaching the shores of the United Kingdom.

Last month, a firm that began with a Rs 2 lakh investment made a Rs 8 lakh profit exclusively from B2C jamun sales.

Furthermore, Rajesh claims that they made Rs 1.67 crore in revenue the previous fiscal year. Pooja adds that women receive 60% of the income made.

And, despite the fact that Rajesh’s choice to leave Mumbai and go to the forest areas was widely criticized, he believes it was all worthwhile. “The early days were full of skepticism and obstacles, but life is ultimately kind.”

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