Many brands have embarked on the quest of bridging the gap between farmers and urban consumers, but few have Taru’s credentials of community-building and service. After stints with Government and Non-Profit Organisations, founder Ruchi Jain started Taru Naturals in 2015 as a grassroots movement of 10,000 tribal and small-scale farmers across India.
Taru’s mission, says Jain, is two-fold: Provide farmers with the knowledge, training and market access they need, while offering organic, wholesome food to consumers. After successful experiments like supplying organic jaggery sachets to upmarket restaurants in Mumbai, Taru has decided to go the D2C route. Their current portfolio ranges from stone-milled specialty flours to indigenous grains and a ready-to-eat range of breakfast foods, pancake pre-mixes and snacks. The anchoring thought for the products is to “never sell anything that we would not give to our own families.”
To compete in the D2C foods space, the team at Taru knew they would need to stand out both online and on retail store shelves. Their new packaging has been developed by Saurav Roy, founder of the Goa-based Roy Studio. Roy agrees that the Taru project required a completely different approach to a mainstream brand. Not only did the packs need to communicate the specific products, they also needed to tell Taru’s story.
Telling the Taru Story
Roy turned to Gond art, an illustrative art form, which has been practiced by the Gond tribes in India for centuries. Because it is rooted in folk tales and culture, Gond art is the perfect medium for storytelling.
Be it a Khandsari sugar that is naturally extracted from sugarcane, or a wild red rice, the new Taru packs depict the lives of small scale farmers from whom products are sourced.
How difficult was it to work with Gond artists? Many attempts to integrate craft into commercial projects have run into hurdles of delayed timelines and deviations from briefs. Roy tells us that the process was much easier than he had anticipated. Organisations like Tribes India, Gondwana Art Project and Creative Dignity helped to put the studio in touch with tribal artists. After that, says Roy, “the entire exchange happened over Whatsapp. We gave the artist an overview of the product and discussed ideas with them, but they finally produced the scene that was most relevant for the pack.”
The plan is to use indigenous art forms across India, as the product and packaging range expands.
The packaging design serves a dual purpose: By using traditional art from the community, it creates a conversation about the interconnectivity between food and culture. Secondly, by connecting artisans and customers, it becomes a new platform for the artists to generate revenue.
To further strengthen the interaction between customers and farmers, each Taru pack carries a QR code that allows customers to see where the product was sourced from. Each pack also features the name of the artisan and the platform for getting in touch with them.
Beyond the Brand
Taru is currently upgrading to an all-new WordPress-based e-commerce site with pan India doorstep delivery. In addition to its own site, it also sells on Amazon and Jain says that sales are brisk.
The D2C products are only one piece of the virtuous cycle that Taru is focused on. Jain hopes that the revenue earned by farmers will be used for forest regeneration, organic certification and more robust processing systems. She continues to work on the entire value chain with the community. For instance, Taru recently helped a farmer export turmeric, after working with him to improve the taste and concentration of curcumin in the crop to address specific customer requirements.
“We must start thinking of farmers like the entrepreneurs they are, says Jain,“only then can we scale their incomes and create sustainable rural livelihoods.”