Want to walk with me as I share with you the story behind Zizira? As promised in my earlier post, there could be value in sharing our experiences. A budding entrepreneur from this region may gain an insight. Or well-wishers of Zizira may send us valuable advice that we could use.
Here is one of the first posts of mine – about pioneering a natural food company, when I first shared the idea of Zizira. Most of the content is this post is on what our plans were. A little more than one year has gone by from the time the Zizira operations went live. Time to take stock. I can now share with you what was so. It was Mid 2015 when Chillibreeze, the mother company of Zizira decided to diversify, after 10 years of providing professional design services to global customers.
Zizira started with a vision to start a new business that would ultimately help farmers. Because most farmers were growing only enough to subsist and because there is so much under-realized potential in the area of agricultural produce, Zizira was launched.
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That may sound strange to you, is it not? What is the connection between farmers and a company providing professional design services? Why diversify into something so remote? Let me explain.
Well Placed to Diversify
Chillibreeze was built bottom up, using the bootstrapping model. You can read about it here. By the time it completed ten years of operations, CB was a healthy company that was well established, profitable and well-reputed in Meghalaya. Hence, it was perfectly positioned to launch a new unrelated initiative.
Couple of things. I had grown up with a love for gardening and had developed a soft spot for people who work the soil, the farmers. Ever since we started Chillibreeze in Shillong, the city became my second home. Living up to its name of ‘Scotland of the East’, the area in and around Shillong offers great opportunities for trekking. Every weekend I and my family would find a new trekking trail to explore.
Invariably we would pass a number of fields, go past houses with a large vegetable patch, observe that there were a number of fresh springs that were irrigating this God-given land and enjoy the sights and sounds of waterfalls that abound. And, to top it all, we would be fascinated by the variety of produce that were available in the market. The potential of the land was there for all to see.
During my walks and explorations, I always took some time to stop and talk to people working their fields – farmers and home owners – to understand their lives.
"Farmers sell the crops in local markets or to middlemen. Life is tough for many farmers. They do not have access to good markets. Given that for 80% of the population of the State of Meghalaya agriculture is their livelihood – there was an opportunity to make a difference to the region by releasing the potential of the land” was a thought I had stored away in my head, while I stayed focused on making Chillibreeze profitable.
The more I learnt about the State of Meghalaya more sure I was about the potential of its land.
Nature in Abundance in the State
The state of Meghalaya India is hilly, rainy, rural and natural. The region is sparsely populated with villages and small family farms. There are several micro climates including cool temperate zones, tropical jungles, foggy hilltops, subtropical bamboo forests and rolling pine forests. These diverse zones are created by changes is altitude ranging from 500 ft to 5500 ft. Within these zones are many places largely untouched, containing an unusual variety of plants including many that are medicinal.
Most land is not farmed. The cultivated land is usually in valleys and near villages. There are pristine springs, streams and rivers providing opportunities for gravity irrigation systems. This combined with seasonal heavy rains means the region has plenty of water compared to other parts of India.
Don’t you agree that an initiative in agricultural products was a possible area to look at? By the end of a decade, Chillibreeze had 60 plus staff, all from this region, the Northeast of India. Many have relatives who are farmers.
They know the struggles of farmers and can relate to the vision of Zizira. Since they work in Chillibreeze they know what it takes to be a successful company. They know the importance of hard work, discipline and good leadership and management. This plus the financial resources make launching a pioneering new initiative go much faster, is it not? That is what we did. Thus, Zizira was born. Story will continue…