From accountant to farmer, the journey of Andhra's Millet man
Renadu and Mibbles, two brands, one for whole grains and another for readymade food products from agrocompany, Sattva Millets and Food products, have now become talk of the town
Like every superhero has a flashback filled with twists and turns, this millet man of Andhra Pradesh has a tale of his own filled with struggles to tell. A cost accountant based in Delhi, KV Rama Subba Reddy returned back to his native district, Nandyal and cultivated millets on the land inherited from his parents along with his two brothers. In a short time, he became an entrepreneur and came out with millet products. In fact, his agro firm started supplying millet to Apollo Hospitals to provide a nutritional diet to patients.
Renadu and Mibbles, two brands, one for whole grains and another for ready-made food products from agro-company -- Sattva Millets and Food products, have now become the talk of the town and prominently feature in any food expo organised across the country, more so in the view of 2023 being declared Year of Millets by the UN.
Sharing his journey from a cost accountant to a successful agri-entrepreneur with TNIE, Rama Subba Reddy, who has MBA and FCMA degrees to his name and 27 years of experience in capital-intensive infrastructure businesses in the corporate sector, said that after serving in the corporate sector as Chief Finance Officer and Executive Director (Finance) of New Delhi based Sravanthi Group of Industries and Lanco Group before that, his thoughts turned to his native place in Kurnool, now Nandyal district.
“For years, the pull towards my village roots was increasing and in 2014, after a bout of introspection, I purchased 20 acres of land in Anupuru village of Panyam Mandal, now located in Nandyal district. Though I was still working with my boss DV Rao, founder and chairman of Sravanthi Group, my heart was in Anupuru. For the next three years, I was a part-time cultivator involved in growing horticulture crops like pomegranate, guava, and banana in natural farming mode. However, in 2017, I completely shifted from corporate to grassroots,” he said.
After shifting from Delhi to Anupuru, inspired by Khader Valli (Millet Man of India), who is famous for the promotion of minor millets, Rama Subba Reddy decided to focus his attention on millets and minor millets.
“I took up the cultivation of different millets on 70 acres along with my two brothers. It was completely natural farming and we cultivated browntop millet, foxtail millet, little millet, kodo millet besides ragi, jowar and bajra. We have supplied seed to 4000 acres through RARS - Nandyal,” he explained.
Besides cultivating millets and encouraging other farmers to take it up on a large scale, he also strived to negate the role of middlemen. To stabilise and make millet cultivation profitable, he decided to launch his own agro-industrial unit.
“When I took up the idea to my boss DV Rao, he encouraged me and even came forward to invest. Initially the idea was to start the project with Rs 10-15 lakh however, finally DPR was for Rs 1.5 crore. After much effort, the production commenced in March 2020, but shortly it has to be closed due to Covid restrictions for nearly 6 months,” he said.
However, he bounced back in 2021-22 by adopting best practices like signing contracts with FPOs from raw material supply, maintaining quality standards and increasing the customer base. “Besides whole grains, millet rice, upma rava, idli rava made of millets were introduced. The product lineup under Mibbles brand include foxtail biscuits, browntop biscuits, jowar biscuits, ragi biscuits, muruku, chidwa, ragi malt, multi-millet laddu, health mix, multi-millet kichidi mix.
Most of them are gluten free and packed with proteins. Rama Subba Reddy received ‘Best Progressive Farmer’ award from ANGRAU- RARS Nandyal and ‘best startupfarmers connect’ award from ICAR-II MR of Hyderabad, for large scale millet production and supply across country. “My products are designed by my daughter, Swetha and recipes are homemade by my wife, Prabhavati. My ultimate aim is to popularise millets and millet products, so they are beneficial to both farmers and consumers,” he said.