“It started off with living in nature. Mom grew trees and organic food in our backyard. Growing up, the biggest joy was to be with trees and the forest,” says Ruchi Jain, founder of Taru Naturals. The newest Women on Wings’ business partner was always inclined towards the environment. Her mother brought up Ruchi with the values of co-living with nature.
Mom is Dr. Punam Jain, a practicing naturopath, writer, social worker, environment activist, and co-founder of the company. She also develops her own herbal formulas. Taru Naturals was conceptualized to share knowledge of Mom’s naturopathy knowledge and to empower millions of small-scale farmers across India.
Taru means ‘Tree’ in Sanskrit, and small-scale farmers’ communities are in the network of Mother Nature Tree.
Creating small business entrepreneurs
Taru Naturals’ vision is to enable small-scale farmers to graduate to small business entrepreneurs. It works with small-scale farmers by encouraging climate resilient agriculture and providing organic farming training. It also sets up supply chains with market intelligence, provides clean tech value addition processing units, and ensures fair-trade market ready products for end consumers, sourced directly from small-scale farmers.
Ruchi Jain is an ardent environmentalist who studied MSc Environment Change & Management from Oxford University, United Kingdom. Earlier in her career, after working with several NGOs, Ruchi worked with the Ministry of Renewable Energy in India for a rural electrification project funded by the World Bank between 2012 and 2014.
During these stints, she realized there was a disconnect between the farmers and the market. This compelled Ruchi to quit her job in 2014 and start Taru Naturals in 2016. Ruchi says: “My biggest learning from the development sector was that farmers need to be nurtured and mentored to run the agro-business ecosystem smoothly.”
Taru Naturals, which started in 2016 selling only jaggery or cane sugar, today manufactures and sells a host of products like turmeric, pulses, spices, nuts, seeds, oils, wheat flours, black rice, etc. These products are manufactured in the company’s own unit in Mumbai, in the Indian state of Maharashtra.
Supporting natural farming and creating jobs for women farmers
Natural farming is another focus area for the company and ensuring that quality products come through. “It is very important for our farmers to go through natural farming training programs because then we know that the quality of the product is aligned to what we are expecting.” The training sessions educate the farmers on everything – from which seeds to use to the processes that need to be deployed for growing different crops.
Taru Naturals today supports over 10,000 tribal and small-scale farmers across India, with large participation of women farmers. The social entrepreneur from Mumbai has a strong focus on women empowerment and creating employment opportunities for women farmers.
Including art from communities
Even Taru Naturals’ packaging identity reflects the ethos of the brand and the impact that it has in farming communities. While working on its branding strategy, the focus was on how to link the farming community it works with to its consumers. Thus rose a desire to communicate the art and visual language of the community that grows the produce.
Ruchi: “We wanted to steer away from the standard norms of food packaging and wanted local artisans to illustrate various aspects of their community. We connected with Tribes India and Craft & Community Development’s Gondwana Art Project to find the right artists. We found some amazing talented artisans who worked with us from initial sketches to the final artworks. It was a bonus working with these artisans and seeing their perspective and creative ways of looking at packaging. We are very proud to see their designs on our packaging.”
In June 2023, Women on Wings and Taru Naturals entered a partnership which aims to co-create more employment opportunities for rural women farmers.
Image: Ruchi (center) with 4 women farmers