Australia Awards Women Trading Globally Participant's Export Growth Despite COVID-19
In 2019, Chayaa Nanjappa, Founder of Nectar Fresh, was selected to participate in the Australia Awards Women Trading Globally Program held in Melbourne and Sydney for two weeks. Supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the program included a range of engaging sessions on export readiness, discussions with female business leaders, and site visits with Australian exporters.
Nectar Fresh is a brand under which Chayaa sells natural honey, jams, fruit preserves, sauces, vinegar, chia seeds, and coffee. Her company supports nearly 300 tribal families, who she has trained for over 12 years, and this has helped increase tribal and rural employment.
Chayaa was one of the first people in India to introduce modern honey processing in 2007. The honey is sourced from pollution-free valleys and forests from every region of India using eco-friendly methods that protect the bees and preserve the natural pollen and nutrients. As a first-generation entrepreneur, Chayaa’s system of learning by trial and error led her to “unifloral honey” - honey collected from bee boxes across fields dominated by a single flower.
Chayaa did a course at the Central Bee and Research Training Institute (CBTRI) in Pune to learn the skills necessary to process and preserve the honey. “It was my dream to do something helpful for rural India,” says Chayaa. “Observing the vast network of busy bees in hilly regions inspired me.”
Chayaa has kindly shared her story with us through the following Q&A.
Founder and Managing Partner, Nectar Fresh
What led to you to establish your company, and what drove you to commence international expansion?At the very lowest phase in my life to support myself and take forward my dream of empowering the tribal community, the rural folk and the small farmers made me set up the brand "NECTAR FRESH", a farmgate processing unit. I could relate to their distress since I myself came from rural India and am an agriculturist.
My second venture "VEERAVRATAM" that has been set up post-COVID-19 last month, is also with the same intention but beyond food products and promote sustainable and eco-friendly products of tribal and rural artisans that shall be supporting more than two thousand tribal and rural artisans.
As a farm gate processing unit, our intention at Nectar Fresh was to commence international expansion so that we can create more employment and support many more small farmers, tribal, and rural folk.
With our exports, we could contribute furthermore in stopping the migration of rural folk to cities. We could play a vital role in transforming lives and improving the social living of the rural folk since Nectar Fresh's strength as the rural enterprise is with the procurement of huge volumes tribal honey and the quality we maintain is considered as one among the best, export was a natural step to be taken. The tribal community have been trained by us for traceability to perfection.
Nectar Fresh has also been audited for the process audit and social ethical audit as per international standards.
What did you learn from participating in the Australia Awards Women Trading Globally program in 2019?
For me as a rural social entrepreneur, the Australia Awards Women Trading Globally program in 2019 was a life-changing opportunity. I have always felt women entrepreneurs from rural areas are always sidelined and we don't get to capitalise on schemes or subsidies or grants. We work extremely hard and with our “never give up” attitude have made a success of our enterprise without mentors or guidance. I have paid 14.5% interest rate and cleared the loan. For me, this opportunity from AAWTG was a dream come true. I learnt the minutest aspect of exports to quality conscious markets. Until I attended the program, my products were always exported and sold through agents and margins were enjoyed by them. But the program transformed things. After I returned, I decided that no agent shall get Nectar Fresh products from this new financial year and it shall be directly exported by us. I am immensely grateful and thankful to the Export Council of Australia for the knowledge and confidence I gained. Indebted to the Organisation.
My products and my work got noticed by many during the program. When asked whether we are ready to export to Australia, I was more than confident with my newly gained knowledge at the program and hence replied positively. Right now, we have initiated for exports to Sydney, Adelaide, and Melbourne and the process has already started. After I got back from the program I have now exported to Muscat, Singapore, and a few new deals are in the making – and all this is happening during the economic slowdown The most heart-warming experience was when we got an enquiry and the order was clinched during the worst COVID-19 lockdown phase.
The introductions and the guidance and inspirational stories of success with those from the industry with vast experience helped me a lot. The site visits made me aware of the standards required to be met in the facility which I implemented as soon as I got back to Nectar Fresh. Two importers whom I had met during my visit to Melbourne and Sydney are all set to import 'Nectar Fresh' as well as 'Veeravratam' products.
The brand Nectar Fresh has grown through word of mouth, quality, and business ethics. The country’s leading B school professors presented the case study of Nectar Fresh for an Ivy league competition and won the prize too. I learnt during the program in Australia the importance of social media, in creating awareness of our brand in the domestic and international market. Hence, I have done the same across our social media accounts.
As a result of participating in the program, what are some successes that you have experienced?
Two importers whom I had met during my visit to Melbourne and Sydney are all set to import 'Nectar Fresh' as well as 'Veeravratam' products.
After getting back from Australia, I had the confidence to convey to all my agents that henceforth Nectar Fresh shall directly export from the new financial year. Already products are exported to 3 countries - Singapore, Muscat and Dubai.
After my inspirational program in Australia, I decided to get back to start a new venture 'VeeraVratam' to support more than 2000 tribal and rural artisans. Feel privileged and honoured to say that Nectar Fresh's Sister concern VeeraVratam was started post-COVID and could be one among the very few new ventures to have commenced during the post lockdown phase in the month of May. Construction is briskly underway for one of the largest outlets for tribal and rural artisan products in India.
How have you been impacted by COVID-19 and how have you responded?
We have a very positive story to share during COVID-19. We personally feel our consistent high quality and the brand Nectar Fresh being synonymous with superior quality products and our ethics in business helped us to sustain during this worst phase. I would want to share a heart-warming experience of enquiry that came from Muscat during the second week of May. When the entire country was under lockdown the buyer deposited the complete payment and said it is worth a wait to pick up quality products like Nectar Fresh and back the brand. Many enquiries are coming by. That makes us at Nectar Fresh believe that hard work, ethics, and high quality shall tide us through the worst phases.
We were also one of the largest suppliers of portion packs in the country. When the hospitality industry came to a standstill to cope with the situation, we immediately thought of adding a few more health and wellness related products that all Nectar Fresh existing products are known for. To the basket of Nectar Fresh honey, natural jams, chia seeds, natural coffee, flax seeds, apple cider mother vinegar we have added Nectar Fresh wheat grass, seed cocktail and palm sugar.
Is there anything you would like to share with entrepreneurs who are working in the COVID-19 environment?
I could convey with my personal experience that never lose heart and tough phases in life makes us think differently and we shall come with innovative ideas that shall eventually help our business. I also feel we should have our presence in different verticals exports as well as domestic markets, retail as well as institutional supplies. That shall help us sustain things during hard times.